Each One for His Own Survival
Thranduil narrowed his eyes as the wind rushed past his hair. The forest path whipped past him, a green blur. Hoof beats of surrounding steeds pounded against his ears.
It was so sudden.
The havens were shielded, but all around them was the great black swamp, blocking all paths – until today. Today, everything drained away. So clean. As if nothing had ever happened.
Did the old wizard have anything to do with it?
Promising himself to think more deeply about it later, Thranduil let his mind empty and focus on galloping forth. He was nearing the western path. Today, he promised silently. I will find you today. Let the whole population of Dol Guldur come. This time, he would not go home without his Greenleaf.
And soon, he was at the clearing. Steeling his resolve, he led the warriors down to the southwestern path. Toward the human settlement.
Legolas rubbed his eyes and yawned, still drowsy from the previous night. He wanted to go to bed early today. He was tired from posing for Roloth all day.
The warm voice of the man broke into his clouded mind. Legolas nodded, and yawned again. Roloth laughed as he put down his canvas.
"I apologize for overworking you," he said gently, and poured a cup of water into a wooden bowl. "Here, this will relax you."
The elfling watched through heavy eyelids as the man stirred the content of the bowl, mixing a small amount of what looked like tea powder. He murmured his thanks as the man handed the bowl to him, and sleepily began to drink.
Roloth watched as the elfling put the bowl down. Yawning, the child crawled into the big bed, and curled up facing the wall. In a matter of seconds, even breathing began to hum in the quiet cabin.
The sun was beginning to tilt toward the western sky.
Dama ran outside, color draining from his tanned face as the villagers shouted across the settlement. Most of the townspeople were already gathered at the entrance of the village, hushed into silence. Dama sucked in his breath.
Merging with the green of the trees stood a cavalry of elves. Finely sculpted faces stared impassively at the villagers, long hair billowing softly in the forest breeze behind delicately pointed ears. With glittering eyes and erect stances, the elves were wrapped in an aura of age-old experience, a confident serenity about them. And they were all dressed in green and brown, armed with swords and arrows and bows.
Breaking the stoned silence, a brown-haired elf to the side opened his mouth.
"We come in the name of Mirkwood. We come in peace."
The villagers still seemed too frozen to know how to respond. The elves looked at one another. A brief exchange of dialogue ensued, but the villagers could understand none of what they spoke.
The brown-haired elf spoke again. "Do you realize that you reside in the realm of King Thranduil of Mirkwood?"
A frail woman quickly bowed her head. "Forgive us," she pleaded softly, clutching the hem of her dress. "We were not aware."
Another man hastily followed suit. "We are refugees from afar," he said humbly, bowing his head. "We have nothing to offer you, save our humble greetings. We beg you to allow us to stay."
The elves glanced at one another again, and another rapid exchange of words followed. They seemed to be discussing something among themselves. A sandy-haired elf at the right looked at them, eyes narrowed haughtily, as he growled a chain of words. The villagers stood still, taut with fear. A dark-haired elf at the back corner replied softly, a worried expression etched upon her face. The sandy-haired elf stared at the villagers venomously, eyes flashing with anger, as more incomprehensible words slid from his tongue.
Finally, the pale-haired elf at the center front held up his hand, silencing the rest of the band. He lightly dismounted his horse, and others followed suit. This one seemed to be the leader. Dama bowed to him, holding his gaze. This elf was the one who had come looking for the elf-child earlier. So he did return to question them. Their lives now stood on the edge of a blade.
The elf did not seem to notice Dama at all. His eyes scanned the villagers, and then scoured the humble cabins scattered about. He finally opened his lips, releasing a tranquil tenor that wrapped around Dama's heart like ice.
"We have no intention of denying you sanctuary, should you need one." His eyes remained impassive. "We come to ask you for cooperation."
The villagers swallowed.
Something was strange.
Legolas groggily shook himself back to consciousness. The sun was still shining, crimson in the western sky. It was still daylight. And that strange feeling was snaking all around his body.
Heavy breathing caught his ears. He turned his head, wondering why his vision was still so hazy. His limbs did not move. His body felt unbearably stiff and heavy. His eyes widened in panic.
The man was straddling him, his hands hungrily devouring his skin in frenzied movements. Head bowed, he seemed absorbed in touching him, admiring his body; Legolas realized that his tunic was open and pushed behind his shoulders, effectively trapping his arms behind his back. He could not feel his arms, however; they were numb.
He tried to call the man's name, and found, to his surprise, that he could not.
Struggling to move, the child strained his muscles, but the body refused to obey his commands. It was as if he was caught in a dream, where he was helpless to do anything but watch himself. And it was disconcerting, incomprehensible. What was happening?
"Ro...loth..." he managed to gasp, eyes watering with the effort. The man finally looked up. His eyes gleamed brightly against the setting sun.
"Ah, you're awake...perhaps that is for the better..."
Legolas sucked in his breath when hands assaulted him again, this time more viciously. His whole body was under the man's control, under his touch. And he could feel them, he could feel the hands; unlike the arms, his body was still awake to the touch, though it did not move.
Frustrated, the elfling wriggled more tenaciously. "Roloth..." he whispered, brows creasing. "What...are you..."
"You are beautiful..." was the only moan he received as a reply, as the man moved his head lower.
Discomfort was gradually replaced by an instinctive sense of dread. Legolas struggled, his body writhing feebly beneath the man's excited gaze. "Stop..." His eyes locked with the man's eyes. He gritted his teeth, trying desperately to move.
But even as he struggled, he was dimly aware of a thicker fog slipping in between his mind and body. His movements became more sluggish. And Roloth's mouth curled into a delighted smile as he watched the child's feeble resistance.
"But I love you so, Legolas..." he purred against the skin of his neck as he slid his teeth against the flesh.
Legolas's feet slid weakly against the sheets as he made futile attempts to raise his knees. "Stop...no...Ada..." his voice became slurred. His eyes were fighting to stay focused.
The man grinned as he grasped the child's knees, and gently began to rub his hands against them. "Ah, I know, dear Legolas. I know." He ran his cheek along the flesh of the child's thigh, sighing dreamily. Then he raised his eyes, meeting the unfocused gaze of the child, and smiled. "I am not your father...I will be your teacher, and show you pleasure...and how much I love you..."
The last thing Legolas saw was the man's bowed head, his hungry lips sucking on his smooth belly. And as the elfling fought against the onslaught of delirium, the fog slid into his mind and senses, finally enveloping him in a numb embrace of unconsciousness.
Dama swallowed. "So, when we were all told that we had to pack up and move...to another land…we...er..." He glanced toward the lone cabin in the corner of the settlement, swallowing again nervously. He turned his attention back to the band of elves, who were watching him with unreadable expressions. "We all had to leave our homeland...and everything we owned burned to the ground...we didn't know that you owned this place...and..." His hands were becoming slick with sweat.
One of the villagers from the flock had slipped quietly away, approaching Roloth's cabin from the window side, which faced away from the company of elves. Dama prayed that he would be able to alert Roloth soon, and that the man had not touched the child. Seeing the company of elves dissipated any thought of battle that had previously entered the minds of the villagers; they were the masters of the forest, their weapons only partly contributing to the aura of power they exuded. However, the humans did not dare to openly guide the elves to the child, even if their conscience was clearer than that of Roloths', for they had failed to protect the child from the man even after discovering his presence. And if the elves were to find out -
Clearing his throat, Dama quickly reorganized his thoughts. The villagers and elves were all watching him. The air was tense, frigid to the point of breaking. He wringed his hands behind his back. The sky was streaked a brilliant shade of red.
"We have been living hard…started with nothing, built ourselves a village…more like a war camp, really...and..."
Suddenly, the elf at the lead raised his eyes. The pale blue orbs of his eyes flashed against the sunset as he looked around. Then his eyes slowly came back to rest on Dama's. For the first time, the Dama could read an expression from those eyes. And he felt a deadly chill run up his spine as cold blue eyes sliced into his.
"He is here."
Without waiting for a reply, the elf suddenly moved forward; he was a blur of gold and green as he leaped past Dama. Stunned, the villagers stared, but panic began to spread among them as the blond elf darted toward Roloth's cabin. Dama's pupils dilated with terror.
Before the blond elf could reach the cabin, however, one of the villagers moved. With a desperate cry, he threw himself on top of the elf, swinging at him. In his hands rested a scythe.
The elf dodged nimbly, and turned around to face his attacker. His eyes were sharp, his features stern and hard – like a parent who had caught his children in a lie. Dama gritted his teeth.
In the next blink of an eye, half of the men were upon the elves, shouting and screaming, tackling – they ran around the town in an effort to distract, to fetch weapons, to attack and kill. And the settlement instantly became a war site, as the animalistic urge to survive overwhelmed and tainted the crimson sky.
Amid the shouts, a clear tenor frayed with anger and desperation pierced the sounds of battle. The blond elf swiftly reached the cabin, and was about the open the door, when the door burst open. He stepped back, startled. Round blue eyes stared up at him.
A dumbfounded expression. The father stared, an instinctive alarm spreading in his veins.
Legolas stood before him, hair disheveled and tunic loose. Strangely enough, however, his bow and arrow were strapped clumsily onto his back. His eyes were hollow as they stared up into his.
Mechanically, with distant eyes, the child held out his arms; a father's instinct overwhelmed Thranduil as he swooped down to snatch the child into his arms, holding him tightly against his chest. His eyes scanned the cabin's interior beyond the elfling's motionless form.
A man stood staring, eyes fixed onto the back of the elfling. His clothes were disarrayed, as if he had just risen from bed. Thranduil's heightened senses caught a whiff of an oddly familiar scent; but what it was, he could not be sure. He quickly turned away from the man, and hurried back outside the village. His warriors were swiftly subduing the desperate humans, but the humans seemed to be beyond fear. They were charging madly, as if they had lost all reason. And fighting against those humans was another band of humans led by Dama, choosing another path to survival – by staying on the side of the powerful. They were slaying their own kind.
"Wait here," he whispered as he put his child down upon the soft grass in the clearing outside the village. "I will return shortly."
The child nodded mutely as his father disappeared into the foliage, heading back to the village. He could hear shouts and screams plaguing the air. They rang distant from his ears, a dim echo.
He was tired.
Legolas turned his head at a soft tapping of cloth. Blank eyes stared up at the white-clad sage as the old man came to stand by him, a hand protectively resting on the child's shoulder.
Soft green grass danced around the old man and child, sheltered in the comforting whispers of green leaves in the fading blue of the light, silent and listening, as screams died out in the blood-red sky.