Estel stood just past the campsite watching as the midnight sky loomed overhead. He watched while wonderful smells reached his senses. His stomach growled in protest of his hunger. As he watched the travelers begin what was sure to be a feast of kings, he thought back to his earlier punishment. He remembered how Rain had taken him up to the top rocks and hung him over the side where his dogs sat hungrily waiting for their meager dinner. Estel stared wide eyed at the creatures who drooled in hopes of a fresh kill of their own.
He was hung just past their reach, but close enough that when one jumped it almost bit off his ankles. He could feel the hot breath on his bear feet, the saliva that spatters onto his legs and arms. He screamed in fear of the great beasts. He clearly remembered how Rain had lowered the chain a little so the dogs could get a better reach. The big black one almost made it then. He had lunged at the child after rebounding from one of the rock sides; he had come close to snapping his jaws into the boy's stomach. But Rain had seen his pet come and at the last moment yanked the chain up with boy still attached. The dog didn't calculate in the fact his target had moved before slamming his nose into the rock wall that had been at Estel's back.
So sacred was Estel that he hadn't heard Rain's cold laughter as his fear triggered an accident. Later Estel had been embarrassed to find himself stripped down bare and thrust into a nearby stream to wash himself off, while the woman took care of cleaning his clothes. By the time Estel had been flushed from the water she had returned with them. They were wet however, insisting that a child who had been raised by elves should be treated as an elf and since elves don't feel cold then he won't mind wet cloths on a cool night. And that is where his torment had ended, at least for the day.
However now it was night at Estel was feeling the where and tear of the day. He was beginning to loose hope of ever seeing his family again. He kept thinking that they would never find him, that his ada had forgotten him. After all what was a human child to an elf who would find another to take his place when he was gone. He was nothing more then a pet to the elves of Rivendell just like these people who kept him now. At least that was what they kept telling him. But the boy had yet to fully believe it.
Estel's stomach growled angrily again, he was so hungry, having not eaten anything in a long time, by his reckoning, and the cooked dear with greens smelled so good. His mouth watered with just thinking about it. A shiver shuttered through his body as a cool wind blew his damp clothes and hair.
The man named Bear walked to where the young boy was standing a plate of food piled high in his hand. He stopped five feet from little Estel and watched in mild amusement as the boys eyes grew twice their normal size at what must look like a feast in his eyes. 'Ha, big eyes small stomach.' he thought as he watched the hope filled eyes.
He smiled cruelly as a new torture came to mind. "Well little one I see how much you want this food. So I'll make a deal." A spark of hope shown brightly in Estel's eyes, 'What fun it is to dash a child's dreams' "If you want this food so badly all you have to do is come and get it."
'That's all! Surely their must be more to this.' Estel looked at the food, still in the big mans hand, with a careful eye. What was he looking for? I doubt even he knew, it was something he had learned in one of his lessons. Always be cautious when taking offered food from an enemy, it may contain something vile and horrible that could things that would be much worse then death. For food can hide much if properly done. But so far nothing happened in the meal, nothing moved anyway.
Bear set the plate down where he stood and walked away. What could possibly be wrong with it? Estel thought but his stomach was trying desperately to get at the meal before him. So Estel easily complied and reached out for the food.
But alas he could not reach.
He tried again.
Still out of reach, but only just. If he moved a little closer he might be able to get at it.
This time he lay on his stomach and reached out his arm hoping to gain the inches he needed.
But the chain grew tight and his collar constricted around his neck. He tried to hold out as long as he could without hurting himself. He pulled at the leash, he dug his heals into the ground. He pulled and reached, pulled and reached, but it was no use. The young lad was doomed to starve.
But wait there was hope yet. If he could only reach the leaf his plate was sitting on he might be able to drag it over to him. He tried for the leaf this time and to his joy reached a piece of it he gently tugged the leaf and plate to him, being careful all the while trying not break off the little piece he held. The plate was almost in his reach when a shadow fell over him and just as he was about to gain his prize the shadow snatched the plate from him.
Estel looked up to see the rat faced man towering over him, his plate in hand. "Sorry kid, but you took too long now it's up for whoever wants it." he laughed cruelly as tears filled the little boys eyes. He had tried so hard for his meal and now it was lost to him.
"Rat!" yelled Rain coming up behind the oily man. "Give it back to him, NOW!
"What? Why?" Rat stood stunned to the spot at his leader.
"He will not starve, but perhaps you will?"
"What? But he's our captive…"
"And deserves a meal. I will not let him starve, not before I have what I want. Is that clear!" it was a demand not a question.
"Yes." Rat slunk away in defeat as Rain took the plate of food and placed it at Estel's feet.
"Eat it. You will need your strength later. I promise you nothing is wrong with it."
Estel stared at the plate, something about this wasn't right. Why had the man who tortured him so much just offered him is food back? "Why?" he asked in a small voice.
"There are many others that starve in the world against their will; a child should never have to starve when food is plentiful. Now eat and go to sleep. Things will not be easy on you." He tossed a blanket over the boys head and went back to camp.
Estel stared after him for a time before eating his now cold meal and curled into a ball under the thin blanket. He did not want to see what tomorrow would bring.