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Water and Stone: 10. Adanwath
Celinn, eyes closed, could feel something trickling across his lips and down his chin, something warm and salty. He coughed, choked on whatever was leaking out of his mouth. Then something struck him, hard across the face. His eyes snapped open as his neck was jerked back by the blow.
In his half conscious state, Celinn could not prevent the tremors of fear that passed through him. This was the man he had hoped never to meet again, his face inches from Celinn's, his foul breath on his cheek. Celinn shook his head, trying to clear it of the fog of dizziness that filled it. He was sitting against a tree, his hands bound behind him. He tried to form a thought but before it was half made, Adanwath's hand seized his jaw with a grip like iron.
His corrupt black eyes blazed with triumph as he glared into Celinn's face.
'So you've decided to wake up, have you, filthy elf? Good, good. What's the point of hurting you if you're not here to enjoy it?'
Adanwath laughed, a horrifying, mad sound. Celinn gasped with pain as the strong fingers gripped his face. Adanwath held him so tightly that he could not move his head, but by swivelling his eyes he could just glimpse others nearby, some men and some elves. His mind began to clear, and he was able to think again.
'It is still night. How long have we been here?'
Suddenly Adanwath released his grip on Celinn and threw the elf to the ground. Celinn lay there, his breath coming in difficult gasps. He began to be aware of pain in his body, and of the blood that was still trickling from his lips. His hair swung down across his shoulders, hiding his face. He saw something on it, a shadow… no, it was a stain, a stain of blood.
Celinn lay as still as he could. He needed time to think, to get things clear in his mind. Maybe if he did not move, Adanwath would leave him alone, at least for a while. The fear had receded a little, and he was not shivering so much. But Adanwath had not finished with him. He seized Celinn's shoulders and dragged him to his feet. Celinn instinctively made to take a step away from Adanwath, but as he moved his leg he felt a bolt of agony so powerful that for a second his vision darkened and spun sickeningly. He stumbled to the ground, only to be wrenched backwards and to his feet again by Adanwath.
'It's not bedtime yet, elf,' said Adanwath, 'although I don't think you'll be doing much sleeping tonight.' His voice had thickened lasciviously, and the other men who stood around watching laughed crudely at the implication in his words. Adanwath's coarse fingers touched Celinn's cheek, then travelled up towards the braided blond hair that framed his face. He took the end of one braid and rolled the silken hair between his thumb and fingers, a strange look of hunger on his face. 'So soft,' he said, as if to himself. 'It's almost as if you were a woman.' His fingers travelled higher until all at once he seized a handful of Celinn's hair and yanked it hard. 'Are you elf…Or she-elf?' He leered at Celinn, ignoring his gasp of pain.
Celinn forced down the dread that clutched at his gut and concentrated on remaining as still as possible to avoid jarring his injured leg. Adanwath pushed him back against the tree and in a parody of tenderness, rubbed his thumb against Celinn's lips.
'I wonder what an elf tastes like,' he said, almost to himself, his dark eyes narrowing as he brought his mouth close to Celinn's. The elf felt a thread of nausea begin to twist deep inside him. He forced himself to breathe calmly, trying to take his mind away to somewhere clean and beautiful. He let himself dwell on the dreaming woods of Lorien, with the moonlight shining down on the new leaves in the spring. The image was so powerful that he felt as if he were really there and that the place in which he stood were simply a nightmare from which he would soon wake. The power of the beauty of his home washed over him, and blessed him with a few moments of oblivion. And so it was only when he found he could not breathe that he became aware of Adanwath's mouth pressed hard against his as the man tried to force his tongue into the elf's mouth.
Celinn struggled against him, keeping his lips tightly closed together, but whatever injuries he had taken had drained him of strength and he found himself sagging against the tree. Adanwath was groaning, his hands pressing against the elf's throat, cutting off his air. Celinn could hear the other men laughing and cheering on their leader, stamping their feet and shouting their support. His sight began to blur as his lungs strained for air, and he knew he would have to open his mouth if he wanted to remain conscious. With a desperate sigh, his lips parted and Adanwath gave a groan of pleasure as he felt Celinn yield to him. The man scoured Celinn's mouth with his tongue, his fingers continuing to squeeze the elf's neck.
Celinn's mind fled and he was again in Lorien, listening to the whisper of the wind in the leaves, and seeing the glimmer of the Lady as she walked in the woods ahead of him. Somewhere far away he could hear voices singing, and quiet laughter. There was something familiar about the voices, or at any rate about one of them. He thought he could hear that one voice calling his name, quietly at first, then over and over again, more urgently. He looked around at the moonlit trees, but he couldn't see where the voice was coming from. Then the voice was here, close to him, calling desperately and fearfully. He tried to listen, to respond to it. Celinn's eyes flew open and he knew again where he was. It was Gwirith's voice he could hear, from the far side of the clearing. Celinn twisted his head and saw him, hands bound, calling to him.
'Celinn! Celinn! Toltha bellas, nin mellon! Toltha bellas!'
For a moment their eyes met, and Celinn felt a palpable touch from his mind. He could do nothing to respond, and his heart shook as he saw one of the other men strike Gwirith so hard with his fist that he fell to his knees.
Adanwath's hands had left Celinn's neck and were beginning to search for the laces of his tunic when Celinn felt a tightening in his chest. All at once he began to cough convulsively, and a rush of blood came up into his mouth. Adanwath lurched backwards, a look of disgust on his face, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. He regarded the elf venomously.
'So an elf tastes of blood,' he said, scowling. He took a step back towards Celinn. 'Well, maybe later tonight he will taste different.' Adanwath reached out and put his hand between Celinn's legs, squeezing him painfully. Celinn held his breath, tears of pain leaking from his eyes. Adanwath leaned down until his lips were touching Celinn's ear.
'You think this is just a nightmare, don't you, Celinn. In a minute you'll wake up, and you'll be back in whatever god-forsaken elf hole you come from. Well, for me, this is a dream!' His voice rose with excitement. 'Do you know how many times I've wanted to have you back in my hands, to pay you back for what you did to me?'
'Madoc, I did nothing…' stammered Celinn.
'I am sure you know that is no longer my name,' said Adanwath in a low, menacing voice. 'And you did something to her, Celinn. She still weeps for you. She is probably weeping now, she and that child of hers. You are going to suffer for it, Celinn. You are mine, whenever I want you,' he whispered. 'Don't forget that. Whenever I want you, I will take you as I please.'
He looked into Celinn's eyes for several seconds, then threw back his head and laughed wildly.
Then Adanwath stepped back, and his face was suddenly relaxed and pleasant. 'Come on, lads,' he called to the other men, 'Time to eat, we've got to keep our strength up for later on!' He looked at the other members of Celinn's company who were gathered around Gwirith. 'Plenty of these to go around,' said Adanwath, and he approached the other elves and fondled them freely, pulling them back to him if they tried to move out of reach.
'What shall I do with this one, sir?' came a man's voice from behind Celinn.
'Oh, put him with the others, Denvor. They might as well enjoy their last hours together. You see,' he said, turning towards Celinn, 'I am not completely without mercy!' He walked off laughing with the other men to where food was being prepared around the camp fire.
The man called Denvor seized Celinn's bound wrists and began to drag him towards the other elves. Celinn hardly knew how he made the short journey across the clearing: the pain from his leg was so severe that it was only the man's hard grip that kept him from falling. At last he found himself flung down on the short grass before a tall beech tree. Gwirith. Caranfir. Aiglin. Where were the others? He wanted to ask questions, to begin to make a plan to escape, but the effort seemed totally beyond him, so he simply lay there, eyes tightly closed in extremely un-elvish exhaustion and tried to draw strength from the earth beneath him.
Denvor took a length of rope from his belt and threaded it through the bonds holding the elves' hands, securing them to each other. Then he left, but not before allowing himself a few lewd comments about what awaited them later that night.
'Don't bother trying to escape,' he sneered at them finally, 'you wouldn't get far with him in that state.' He jerked his head at where Celinn lay motionless beside them.
After Denvor had gone, Aiglin, his face white and streaked with tears, struggled over to where his brother lay. With hands and feet bound there was little he could do to help Celinn, but he stretched out as close to him as he could and rested his head on his brother's shoulder. Caranfir and Gwirith manoeuvred themselves to his side. For a long time the elves remained silent. All of them remembered Adanwath's words about their last hours, and it was difficult not to let their imagination furnish them with appalling visions of what might happen to them at his hands.
Then Caranfir leaned towards Gwirith and whispered, 'How bad is he, do you think?' They both looked at Celinn, who still had not moved.
'I don't know,' said Gwirith. 'The arrow is still in his back. Who knows what damage Adanwath's horse did when he trampled him.'
'Elbereth still looks down upon us,' Caranfir said softly, glancing up through the spreading branches of the beech tree above them. The night sky was a deep velvety blue, pricked with stars as bright as diamonds. Behind them Aiglin spoke. 'He is coming back to himself,' he murmured.
'Celinn, how goes it?' he whispered. 'Shall we help you to sit up?'
Celinn started to reply but was cut off by a bout of coughing. Blood leaked from between his lips and the others watched helplessly as his shoulders sagged until his forehead was resting on the ground. They could hear him muttering to himself incoherently, mixing up words of Westron with Quenya and Sindarin.
'Celinn.' Aiglin's voice was full of pain. He struggled against the bonds at his wrists but the rope was firmly tied. 'Sweet Elbereth, help us!' he breathed.
Celinn spoke, his words muffled and low. 'Peace, Aiglin.' He raised his head and looked at him. 'Help me.' The other elves came near and between them they raised him so that he was leaning against his brother.
'Now,' said Celinn breathlessly, 'Are any of you hurt?'
The other elves shook their heads. 'Nothing serious,' said Aiglin. Celinn took in the blackening bruise around his brother's eye. Gwirith had a strip of torn cloth around his wrist and Caranfir had a gash on his leg.
'Very well, tell me what happened,' Celinn said.
Caranfir began. 'After you were injured Adanwath put you on the horse with him and brought you here. We were still fighting the other men, then Luinil and the others found us and fought with us. Aiglin and Luinil nearly got free but Luinil was hit and Gwirith was caught trying to help him.'
Celinn looked at Gwirith. 'How was he when you left him?'
'I don't know,' said Gwirith, his voice muffled as he looked down at the ground. 'He also took an arrow. They pulled me away from him and I did not see what happened to him.'
Celinn watched him for a moment and then said, 'What about Aragorn?'
Caranfir said, 'Over there.' Celinn looked behind Caranfir and saw Aragorn slumped unconscious on the ground, his hands and feet bound again and tied to a stake. Gwirith said,
'They have tried to get him to talk, but so far he has said nothing.'
'We must get him out,' said Celinn. 'Whatever the cost.'
'Celinn, what are you saying?' said Aiglin, shocked. 'We don't even know if we can get ourselves out!'
Celinn stared at him, his eyes blurring. 'Trust me, Aiglin,' he said, breathless again. He must live…even if we do not.'
'What do they want from us?' said Caranfir. 'They could have killed us whenever they wanted. So why haven't they?'
No one answered him. The silence that followed was oppressive. Aiglin shifted uncomfortably. 'So what are we going to do?' he said urgently.
'How long have we been here?' asked Celinn, looking up at the sky. 'An hour?'
Aiglin shook his head. 'Much longer.'
'It's near the middle of the night,' said Caranfir.
'But it was dark when I …' he stopped suddenly, confused. Then he looked at Gwirith. 'That horse must have kicked me in the head.'
'Yes,' said Gwirith shortly.
'So I lost my senses for several hours,' mused Celinn. He looked at the other elves. 'Time enough for someone to get to the guard post and a good way back, especially with Dunedain horses. Haldir could be here with reinforcements at any time.'
The others said nothing, and he saw his own doubt reflected in their eyes. His mind began to drift.
'Didn't I… send Sirion with Luinil? Where is Luinil? I can't seem to remember. Amin anta kaim, Aiglin.' He closed his eyes a moment and leaned more heavily against Aiglin.
'You did send him,' said Caranfir, watching him anxiously.
Celinn opened his eyes. 'Something must have delayed them,' he said, slurring his words a little. His eyes closed again and Aiglin said his name urgently, pushing him with his shoulder.
Celinn roused himself. 'I'm sorry,' he said, 'It's just that I'm so tired.'
'It's because you're hurt,' said Aiglin. 'We need to get you back home.' His voice was suddenly shaking.
Immediately Celinn's mind cleared and he smiled at him and said quietly, 'Aiglin, avo gosta, my dear, we will get home. I promise you.'
Gwirith looked at Celinn's face, fair even now when smeared with blood and dirt. He heard the gentleness in his voice and saw the tender look Celinn gave his brother, and in that moment seemed to see into the core of him, the source of his being which flowed out sweetly from him, even as he endured pain and bore the responsibility for the safety of his company. Something in Gwirith's heart changed within him then, and he looked away, his sight blurring unaccountably.
When he was able to listen again he heard Celinn say, 'Do you know how many of them are left?' Caranfir glanced at the group of men by the fire, his red hair swinging round him as he turned.
'We think ten of them were killed in our attempt to rescue Aragorn, so about thirty. They can fight but they don't think. Adanwath and Devron and Galdorn, who are his seconds, tell them what to do. They are the worst of men.' His voice was bitter with contempt.
'So what is our plan?' Celinn said. The others looked at him, their eyes kindling. 'What would Haldir say if he were here?'
'Assess the enemy's weakness, and your own strengths.'
'Good. So: their weaknesses.'
'They are men,' said Gwirith contemptuously, and they all laughed. The sound made their captors turn sharply from their place by the fire. The elves became completely still. Celinn squinted out of the corner of his eye at Adanwath, in whose hand was a piece of meat which had paused on its way to his mouth. In defiance of the danger he was in, Celinn's stomach gurgled with hunger. The breathless silence continued for a few more heartbeats, then Adanwath rose from his place by the fire and came to stand looking down on the elves. Gwirith looked up at his cruel face with its merciless eyes and hard mouth.
'So something amuses you, does it?' he said sardonically, and kicked Celinn hard in the chest. The elf's groan of pain was drowned by the shouts of the others but Adanwath snatched a knife from his boot and held it to Caranfir's throat.
'We can afford to be merciful to one of you, if you would like to die now,' he said with terrifying softness, his thumb pressed to Caranfir's neck.
Celinn tried to speak but he choked, spitting out blood. At last he said,
'I am their captain. Do what you want with me, but leave them alone.'
Adanwath swung round, dropping Caranfir like a hot coal and sinking down on one knee in front of Celinn.
'I don't think you're in any position to give the orders at the moment, are you?' he said, bringing his face very close to Celinn's. 'But you are right about one thing.' He seized Celinn's hair and dragged his head round to face him. 'I will be doing exactly what I want with you, when I'm ready.' He yanked Celinn's head hard, then flung him away from him and stood up.
He gave his chilling laugh and then he was walking away again, giving orders. The men round the small camp fire got up quickly, obviously fearful of him, and began to clear up the meal. Others were fetching their weapons and saddling horses, preparing to take the next night watch.
The other elves gathered close to Celinn. Aiglin was weeping at the sight of his brother's face contorted with pain. Just then there was a stir of movement behind them, and they turned to see that Aragorn had recovered consciousness. He raised his head slowly, and they saw that one of his eyes was swollen shut after the beating he had received.
'Celinn?' he whispered. 'Is that you?'
It was a long time before Celinn could answer him, but he struggled to his knees and turned painfully towards Aragorn.
'Aragorn, listen to me…'
'Celinn, I'm sorry,' interrupted Aragorn, tightly. 'I didn't mean…'
'Aragorn!' Aragorn fell silent at the tone of command in Celinn's voice. 'Whatever happens to us, do not put yourself in danger on our account. He will taunt you and do his best to provoke you. Do not respond, or you will be doing exactly what he wants. Do you understand me?'
'Celinn, I asked…for your help. It is you and your company who have…suffered because of me. And besides…I am in charge of…'
'Aragorn!' Celinn interrupted him. 'Please, trust me. This is not the time for arguments about rank. Promise me, protect yourself. I ask you…as your friend. No thalian, Estel.'
Aragorn's head sank down between his shoulders. 'Agreed,' he whispered.
'Listen to me, all of you,' Celinn whispered, speaking with difficulty. 'This is our plan. Aragorn, you say Adanwath likes to take his time with his captives. That will work in our favour. So we will delay him as much as possible.'
'Take his time? With what?' said Aiglin. But Celinn went on as if his brother had not spoken.
'The longer we delay, the more chance there is for help to arrive.' He broke off, coughing. A trickle of blood ran down his chin and he tried to rub it away on his shoulder.
The sounds of the camp were getting louder and more raucous, and Celinn went on urgently,
'He remembers something from the past and he hates me for it, so he'll probably be most interested in me. I'll do what I can to keep him interested for as long as possible. It looks like it will be soon,' he glanced round at the men behind them. Gwirith tried to speak but Celinn said, 'No, I must finish. One more thing only. Whatever happens, whatever he does, keep your heads. No heroics, no suicidal rescue attempts. There's no point more of us being hurt than is necessary. We must endure what he will do until Haldir comes to take us home. Swear to me, in the name of Elbereth, who is with us now.'
The others stared at him with tormented faces, but each swore by the Starkindler as he required of them.
'By the Valar, what has Aragorn told you?' demanded Aiglin suddenly. 'I am your brother. Tell me!'
Celinn looked at him, and Aiglin saw him struggle with the desire to share what he knew and the need to keep up their courage. Finally he said,
'Do you remember what we were taught when we were elflings learning the craft of the warrior? When an enemy has you in his hands, do everything you can to protect yourself. Keep him talking, even if it means taking intolerable insults to everything you hold dear. If that fails, do all you can to defend your body, but if necessary let him hurt you, in fact encourage him to do so, knowing we have ways of healing ourselves, if it will keep him away from what may be for us beyond healing.'
Aiglin stared at his brother, mute with misery.
'Aiglin, there is no time for lamenting what is before us,' said Celinn urgently. 'You must find your courage.'
'It is not for myself I fear,' whispered Aiglin. 'I have more courage for my own pain than for yours.'
Celinn frowned fiercely at him, then all at once his composure failed him and he turned away. Aiglin murmured something that the others could not hear, and Celinn turned and buried his face in his brother's shoulder. Bound as they were, they clung together for a long time, speaking low-voiced to each other.
Then they heard Adanwath call out something, and he and Denvor approached. They spoke quietly for several moments, all the while throwing glances at Aragorn and at the four elves crouched beneath the beech tree. Then Denvor and two others who came at his summons took up their weapons and disappeared into the trees.
Adanwath crossed swiftly to Aragorn and pulling the stake out of the ground, dragged him to his feet.
'Now you've had a little rest, I expect you're ready for some civilised conversation,' he said.
Aragorn gasped but said nothing, trying and failing to struggle away as Adanwath bound him to a tree.
'You will find I am much better informed than you think, boy,' he said. 'I have known for some time that you are a traitor. I wanted to see how far you would go. These creatures…' He nodded at the elves. 'They are an unexpected bonus. And of course, how would I know you would bring Celinn to me, after all the years I've waited to see him again?'
Adanwath turned and smiled poisonously at Celinn, whose gut twisted with hatred and disgust.
'So who are you?' demanded Adanwath, facing Aragorn again. 'Never mind that story you gave me about having no father and wanting to make your own way. Who is he?'
'It is true,' said Aragorn, steadily. 'I have no father. I am making my own way.'
'Not with me,' said Adanwath harshly, seizing him by the throat. 'What about your allies? How do you explain them? Coincidence? They just happened to be passing, and saw you stretched out, your face covered in blood, and they couldn't resist helping you?'
Aragorn was struggling against Adanwath's hand, gasping for breath. Adanwath released him suddenly.
'Tell me, then,' he said softly. 'I am longing to hear.'
'They have nothing to do with me,' said Aragorn. 'I have never seen them before. Let them go.'
Adanwath laughed softly. 'You have never seen them before? And you want me to let them go? Of course, how could I refuse a pretty one like you? And I suppose you want me to apologise to whichever foolish girl is awaiting your return, and who will be very upset at the damage I have done to your face, as well? Do you have any more demands, before I cut through their bonds and let them go free?'
'Let them go!' said Aragorn defiantly, through gritted teeth. 'They have done nothing to you.'
'They have killed ten of my men,' snarled Adanwath, with a terrifying change of mood. 'And I may make you the eleventh to die if you do not start talking. Why were you spying on me and my men? Who are your allies? How many are they? What were you planning to do?' Adanwath punctuated each question with a blow, and Aragorn's face was bloody when finally Adanwath fell silent.
Aragorn was breathing hard, his face contorted with pain, but he said with absolute clarity,
'I will never tell you anything.'
Adanwath gave a deep sigh and gazed at him sadly. 'Do you realise what a traitor you are? Whichever you look at it, you have betrayed someone. If you let them suffer to save your own neck, then you're a traitor to your so-called allies. But worse, you're a traitor to your own kind. What is a man doing throwing in his lot with elves?' He spoke the work like an obscenity. 'So don't waste your time thinking about loyalty, traitor. You think you're so noble, don't you? So devoted to your friends. Well, believe me, they'll betray you, like everyone else. Touched a nerve, have I?' he said, as Aragorn looked away suddenly.
'No,' shouted Aragorn. 'What would someone like you know about loyalty?'
Adanwath looked slowly round the camp. 'I don't see any of my men rushing to leave,' he said.
'They're here because of what they can get out of you,' said Aragorn, bitterly. 'If you stopped giving them what they wanted, they'd drop you as fast as a burning coal and find someone else to parasite off. Why, you didn't think they stayed out of love, did you?'
Adanwath's eyes flashed with anger, but all he said was, 'I'm getting rather bored of you, boy. I'm sure I can find easier pleasure somewhere else.'
He walked away from Aragorn and stopped in front of the elves, arms crossed and hips thrown out in an arrogant pose. 'Of course, since you've never seen them before,' he said to Aragorn, 'it won't make any difference to you if I hurt them, will it?' Aragorn went pale, but he said nothing.
'Now this is what you have all been waiting for,' he said tauntingly to the elves. 'Which one of you wants to go first?'
If the elves felt any fear at his words, it did not show in their faces. Away from the glow of the fire, the four of them sat close to each other, their beauty illumined by the starlight and by the still lines of their bodies.
Adanwath seemed offended by their stillness. He strode over and stood louring over them, so close that they could smell the drink on his breath and the acrid smell of his body. 'No takers, eh? I'll have to choose for myself, then,' he said, removing a knife from his belt. For a moment he looked from one to the other as if trying to make up his mind. Then he leaned down and with a fast stroke, sliced through the rope securing Celinn to the others and made to take him.
'Wait,' Aiglin cried out. 'Take me! He is injured. It will be difficult for you to move him.'
Celinn shook his head and Gwirith saw his eyes flash with anger at his brother's words.
Adanwath's eyes glinted with a fierce light. 'On the contrary,' he said, his lip curling, 'his pain will increase my pleasure,' and his hand tightened on Celinn's shoulder as he dragged him to his feet.
Celinn wanted to tell Aiglin to keep quiet, to avoid drawing Adanwath's attention to himself, but the pain as his leg took his weight after being bent under him for so long was so bad it took his breath away. He needed all his concentration to stay upright as Adanwath dragged him back to the tree before which he had been held earlier and shoved him against it. Adanwath pressed one large hand against his chest and held him still, calling out, 'Galdorn!'
A man stepped away from the crowd near the fire, and together they secured Celinn to the tree with a rope attached to his wrists and ankles and around his waist. Then Galdorn strode across to stand near the other elves.
Adanwath stepped back and looked at Celinn, his body arched against the tree, his face pale and calm. The man's eyes narrowed and gleamed with desire. Celinn could almost see the energy of arousal travelling through his body.
Suddenly Gwirith cried out, 'Celinn, Belain na le! Elbereth sees you, hold fast to her!'
Adanwath's head swung round, his face twisted with anger. In a moment, Galdorn was by Gwirith's side and had crashed his fist into his face. 'Shut your mouth, filthy elf,' he snarled, pulling back his arm for a further blow.
'Galdorn!' Adanwath said sharply. The other man turned, surprised.
'Don't hit him too hard, we don't want him to miss anything,' he said, his mouth twisted in an unpleasant smile. Galdorn's lip curled in an echo of his chief's. He struck Gwirith again, and the elf's head was flung back, and when he straightened up his face was smeared with blood. Galdorn stepped back, satisfied.
Celinn's face was even paler than before. His heart beat painfully in his chest as he looked on his friend.
'Gwirith, dina, nin mellon!' he called out quietly. 'I am well.'
Adanwath turned back to him, that same terrible smile on his lips. 'For now,' he said softly, 'For now.' He glanced over at Aragorn.
'And that other one, the one who thought we didn't know he was a spy, I hope he can see properly too,' said Adanwath lazily, 'because we're going to put on a pretty show for him, aren't we?' He stretched out his hand and ran one finger down Celinn's cheek. 'Maybe after that he'll be more willing to tell us what he was really up to.'
Celinn saw his eyes darken as he focussed his entire attention on him. 'Now, how shall we begin?' he said. His hand moved to his belt and he loosened the big hunting knife from its sheath. It glinted in the firelight as he brought it to Celinn's face.
'Maybe I should mark you first,' he said, 'so that everyone knows you're mine,' he said. 'Where would be the best place?'
He ran the point of the blade along Celinn's cheek, just hard enough for a thin red line to bloom on his skin. Celinn carefully edged away from the knife, pressing his back against the rough bark of the tree. The knife continued its journey along his jaw and down the line of his throat. Adanwath paused an instant just at the place where he could see the blood pulsing powerfully beneath Celinn's pale skin.
'Maybe your heart beats a little faster just now, elf? Could it be because you desire me? Or is there some other cause?'
Celinn regarded him calmly and forced himself to be still.
Adanwath pushed the point of the knife so that it pricked into Celinn's skin and a trickle of bright blood ran down his neck. Behind them one of the elves gasped and Adanwath smiled at the sound.
'Your friends are worried about you,' he said. 'But if you do as I ask, I will not hurt you.' He bared his teeth in what was meant to be a smile. 'Or rather I will not hurt you much,' he amended. 'I don't think it will be possible for me not to hurt you at all.' He turned his head to look at Galdorn and they broke into lascivious laughter. Celinn said nothing, but continued to look into Adanwath's eyes.
'Do you remember that time we met in Mirkwood, Celinn, when I was young, just a boy, really?' said Adanwath, suddenly.
Celinn did not reply, and Adanwath went on, 'Even then I hated you, even more than I hated all the other elves, although you were so noble in taking me in, a mere man.' His voice was full of bitterness.
'I remember, said Celinn, quietly, 'but you had a different name then.'
'Adanwath is my name now!' he snarled, furious, and his hand came round Celinn's throat, choking the air out of him so that he could not speak. For several moments the only sound was that of Celinn's laboured gasping as he struggled for air. Then Adanwath seemed to come back to himself and released him. Celinn's head fell forward and his chest heaved as took in great difficult lungfuls of air. Adanwath walked round the tree slowly, seemingly absorbed in his own thoughts. Then he was facing Celinn again and, putting his face so close that no one else could hear him, he said,
'Do you remember her name, Celinn? I know it's a long time ago for me, but for you elves,' he spat out the word contemptuously, 'it must seem like yesterday.'
Celinn watched him, stretched out against the tree but giving no sign of fear.
'She was mine, the little vixen, you knew that, but of course you were the one she wanted. Whatever I did was no use. She couldn't even see me when I was standing right in front of her, because she was so dazzled by your beauty and your skills as a warrior.' He spat out the words, and little drops of saliva burst from his lips onto Celinn's face. 'Even when we left, she never stopped moping around dreaming about you. Do you really expect me to believe you never bedded her, when she offered herself so shamelessly to you?'
'I did not,' said Celinn. 'Nor did she offer herself to me.' Against his will, Celinn felt a moment's pity for Adanwath. 'I did not intend to come between you,' he said, 'I would have wished you happiness with her.'
'And that is the sad part of the story, isn't it,' said Adanwath, his voice full of poison. 'That you will have to suffer for something that you believe isn't really your fault. Actually that's very amusing,' he said, his mood switching suddenly, and he turned towards Galdorn and laughed uproariously. 'He made a joke!' he shouted, and Galdorn laughed too.
Then he swung round to Celinn again, the mirth wiped off his face as if it had never been there. His hand flew out and he struck Celinn hard across the face.
'Do you think I believe a single word you say, filthy elf?' he cried. 'You took her from me, and you enjoyed it, don't think I don't know that. That's what they say about the elves, isn't it? They'll bed you as soon as look at you?'
'I didn't want happiness anyway,' he said scornfully. 'Even when I was young and green, I knew there was nothing I wanted a woman for except this,' and with his large hand he grabbed his own groin and fondled it lasciviously. He thrust his face into Celinn's. 'But if there are no women around, or if they're busy with their children, I have to take my pleasures where I can, haven't I?' he whispered. 'In fact I've heard it said that elves are just as keen as men to find pleasure with each other.' His eyes narrowed and he moistened his lips with his tongue. 'And there's something else I remember. Something else I wanted which I couldn't have.' For a fraction of a second, his face was full of a genuine distress, but then it was gone, replaced by a terrible anger. 'I wanted you,' he whispered, so that no one but Celinn could hear. 'But how could I ever be good enough for an elf?' he spat at him. 'So wise, so beautiful, so much better than a mere man. But if I couldn't have you then, well, I can have you now, can't I?' His lips tightened in a grimace. 'And there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop me.' His eyes widened, challenging Celinn to deny his words.
Celinn forced himself to remain impassive although he felt a coil of fear begin to churn in his gut as Adanwath turned his attention back to the knife.
'Did you think all this up by yourself, Adanwath, or does someone else give the orders?' said Celinn casually.
'Oh, I'm sure you'd love to know the answer to that question,' said Adanwath. 'I suppose I could tell you if I wanted to, because none of you are going to live to make use of the information. Unless you're very nice to me, of course.' His voice had become thick and lascivious. 'Let's just say I know a good ally when I see one, and this one is very good indeed.'
Staring into Celinn's face, he placed a kiss on the blade before feeling its edge with his thumb. Suddenly he lunged at Celinn, pressing the knife hard against his neck, then slowly began to trace a line down Celinn's throat and into the hollow at the base of his neck, just above the lacing of his tunic.
'I wonder what is under here?' mused Adanwath, and slipped the point of the knife under the laces. With a quick movement they were sliced through and Celinn's tunic fell open. Adanwath's other hand came up and caressed his chest.
'No elvish hair!' he said, feigning amazement. 'Maybe you are a girl after all,' he said, rubbing Celinn's smooth chin with his large rough hand. Unable to stop himself, Celinn flinched away, disgusted.
'Ah!' exclaimed Adanwath, 'So you can be moved, elf, you are not made of stone!' Celinn said nothing, but deep in his eyes a spark of anger flared. Adanwath saw it. 'I have touched you, you are angry with me now. But I like your anger. There is more pleasure in subduing someone with a little spirit,' he said, his voice deepening.
The knife was moving again until it was directly over Celinn's heart. Adanwath put his hand flat over the blade so that he could feel its beat.
'How many more heartbeats are left to you, elf?' Celinn's lips tightened but still he remained silent.
The two stared at each other, the man's eyes bright with power and desire, the elf's a deep fathomless turquoise blue. Adanwath's breathing began to quicken. Celinn's stillness irked and disturbed him.
'Chief,' Galdorn called out, 'Can't I start on the others while you're doing him?'
'No!' Adanwath snarled at him. 'He goes first. Then the others get their turn.' His knife had come back up to Celinn's throat. His breath was fast and ragged now with a mixture of anger and desire.
'Perhaps he's right,' he said softly to Celinn, 'This is taking too long.'
He spun round and shouted, 'You, spy! Are you ready to talk yet?'
Behind Adanwath Celinn sent a warning glance to Aragorn.
'I have nothing to say to you,' said Aragorn, after only a slight hesitation.
Celinn sighed with relief, but a moment later Adanwath stood before him again, and stepping closer he thrust his knee between Celinn's legs, forcing them apart. The knife travelled down Celinn's chest and torso until it was on the tie of his breeches. Adanwath wrenched the blade into the cloth and ripped it apart, then plunged his hand inside. Celinn lurched away from him, his eyes blazing with outrage. Helpless and violated, he cried out and spat in Adanwath's face.
'Amin feuya ten' lle!' he shouted, his voice thick with loathing. Adanwath reacted at once: the knife flashed once, and Celinn gasped as it opened his cheek. Then all his breath left him as Adanwath's fist pounded into his gut. Celinn's head sank down onto his chest, blood running from the wound.
'So now I have marked you, elf,' the man's voice taunted him.
'Sweet Elbereth, tua amin,' whispered Celinn, gritting his teeth against the pain.
Adanwath's fingers were pressing into his jaw, forcing his head back up.
'You'd better not do that again, elf, if you want to see the sun rise,' he said. His eyes were nearly black with anger. Straight away he crushed his mouth to Celinn's, pressing his body against him. Celinn could feel Adanwath's hardness, could feel his hand snaking again into his breeches, into his most private flesh. For many seconds Celinn remained still, frozen with the horror of what was happening to him. He knew that his life and the life of his friends might depend on what he did next, so he tried to take his mind away from what his senses were screaming at him: the stench of this man, the feel of his lewd hands, his groans and the sickening taste of him.
Again he imagined himself walking in the woods of Lorien, safe and free. The moonlight fell gently on the mallorn trees, and he could hear them whisper their song, dreaming in endless beauty. The song was soft and sweet and he sighed with relief. But the sensations of his body intruded, the man's hand rubbing and stroking him, searching for the secret opening. Although his mind told him to stay calm, to think rather than react, Celinn began to struggle against Adanwath, to cry out and to resist the invasion of his body. Jerking his head back, he tore his mouth away from the man's.
'Amin delotha lle, nadorluan!' he shouted, and summoning up all the strength in his body he arched his back and jerked his knees upward into Adanwath's groin. The man gasped and doubled over, his hand slipping from Celinn's body. The effort of moving his injured leg had sent a bolt of blazing white pain through Celinn and he sank back against the tree, breathing hard.
For a moment the only sound in the clearing was Adanwath's deep groaning. Then both men and elves began to shout. Celinn heard Caranfir's clear voice.
'Cormlle naa Tanya tel' raa!'
Celinn's mouth curved into a smile and a surge of triumph ran through him. Then he felt something hit him at the base of his ribs. Looking down, he felt himself frown, unable to believe what his eyes were telling him. He could see the handle of Adanwath's knife, but the blade itself was hidden. It was hidden because it was inside him, in his own flesh. Celinn shook his head in disbelief. He heard himself say softly, 'But why does it not hurt?' But then it did hurt, very much. Celinn shuddered and cried out. He heard Aiglin call his name but he could not answer him: the pain took all his attention.
Adanwath's hand moved between them and Celinn felt the knife slide out of his body. A rush of blood followed it, soaking his clothes. Celinn's head sank down and he closed his eyes, sagging against the tree, his legs suddenly too weak to hold him.
Adanwath turned slowly and looked straight at Aragorn. His eyes were almost deliriously wild, as though some madness he could not control possessed him.
'Still sure you don't want to talk?'
Aragorn stared at him, his face blank with horror. Adanwath lifted Celinn's head and stared into his face, then dropped it again.
'I should think I could keep him going for quite a while, this one,' he said, as if he was discussing the weather. 'Quite a spirit, difficult to break. I've got several ideas about what I could do to him. But it's up to you, though. If you felt like talking, I could cut him down straight away, do something about that nasty wound, maybe.'
Aragorn's lips parted but no words came out.
'No? Well, never mind, you don't know him anyway, do you? What do you care what happens to him?' And he turned back to Celinn.
'Wait!' cried Aragorn hoarsely. Adanwath turned back to him slowly, a terrible smile of triumph on his face. 'Don't hurt him any more, please, I…'
The words died on his lips. From behind Adanwath's shoulder Celinn had lifted his head with a great effort and was looking straight at him. He said nothing at all, but his eyes pierced Aragorn, trying to steel him to keep silent, and Aragorn knew that he was caught between the impossible choices of either betraying his honour or letting Celinn suffer torment or even death.
Adanwath saw the indecision on his face. 'Changed your mind, have you? Difficult having such a noble ally, I suppose,' he said, conversationally. 'Not something I've ever had to deal with, someone willingly suffering to save my skin. Maybe there's something about your skin that makes it more valuable than mine. Well, let's see if there's any way I can persuade you to tell me what it is.'
Turning, Adanwath saw Celinn's lips move noiselessly and stepped close to him.
'He's not going to talk, is he,' he said very softly, his mouth by Celinn's ear, hot breath on his skin. 'So if you want to save yourself, you'll have to do what I want. Oh, you can try to resist, but then I'll have to force you. But I don't want that.' He moistened his lips. 'Why do you not answer my desire, elf? I could show you pleasure like you have never imagined.'
Celinn made a noise of disgust in his throat. 'Gwanno erb nin,' he muttered.
'You don't believe me,' said Adanwath, his bloodsoaked hand coming up into Celinn's hair and pushing it gently back from his face. 'If you would only cease to fight me, you would see that I am telling you the truth.'
His hand snaked down Celinn's body and covered his bare shaft, stroking him from root to tip, his rough thumb circling the sensitive head. Celinn felt himself trembling with shock. His mind struggled to find a way out of this nightmare but no help came to him.
'All you need to do is stop fighting me,' came Adanwath's voice low and fervent in his ear. His hand went further back, cupping the balls in the soft sac, curling his fingers into the rough hairs.
'I want to see your pleasure, elf,' Adanwath's voice was breathless now, and Celinn could feel the man's hardness pushing against him. There was a metallic sound as Adanwath let the knife drop to the ground and began to stroke the elf with both hands. Celinn groaned helplessly, feeling his strength ebbing away as he lost more and more blood.
'Tua amin,' he whispered,
'Celinn!' Gwirith called out, 'Astaldar, toltha bellas!' Celinn heard the tears in his voice, heard his words: Valiant one! Through the haze of pain and fear, Celinn felt Gwirith's touch on his mind, strengthening and holding him. Slowly he felt power return to him and his mind began to clear. He would not give in to this man. He began to struggle against Adanwath, and the man could not use him as he wished.
Then all at once Adanwath lost patience and jerked his head at his men, and three or four of them came and held Celinn. In the minutes that followed the other elves' view of Celinn was obscured by the men surrounding him, but at last they heard him shout 'Lau!' and then give a single sharp cry and arch his back against the tree. Adanwath's body jerked and shook and then he gave a groan of release. Then the men moved away from the tree and Adanwath slumped against Celinn. In that moment Gwirith caught a glimpse of Celinn's face, and saw that it was mad with horror.
For a long time nobody moved at all, the elves hoping against hope that the worst had not happened. Adanwath lay against Celinn for a long while, before at last stepping back and carefully securing his clothes and Celinn's. In a parody of tenderness, Adanwath's hand went up and caressed Celinn's wounded cheek. It was then that they saw Celinn begin to stir and, suddenly energised, he thrust against Adanwath and flung him to the ground. All sense of caution left him, and the fire of anger and madness blazed through him.
'Feuyaer!' he cried, and the man, still dazed from the pleasure of his body, flinched away from the flashing fury in his eyes. 'Lasta lalaithamin!' Celinn shouted, and true to his word, threw back his head and laughed in the man's face. He clenched his fists and struggled against the bonds that tied him to the tree, and then cried out in berserker wildness against the ignominy he had suffered.
Celinn screamed until his voice was hoarse and his throat raw. His eyes were wild with rage and pain and his body shook uncontrollably. When finally he fell silent, he heard the sound of someone sobbing softly. Turning painfully, he saw that it was Aiglin, his forehead pressed to the ground. Caranfir was talking to him, trying to soothe him. Celinn looked at his cousin, and the compassion in his eyes pierced him like an arrow.
'So, elf,' Adanwath's voice sounded right in his ear. 'You found that amusing, did you?' His voice was quiet, but something in it sparked fear in the elf's gut. Adanwath stooped down and picked up his knife from the ground. Looking at Celinn, he brushed his thumb against the edge of the blade, where it was still slick with Celinn's blood.
'I thought I had already warned you that it was better for you to do as I asked.' Without warning he crashed his fist into Celinn's wounded side. The elf cried out and tears leaked from his eyes, but the wildness in them remained.
'You think you can laugh at me, whilst I hold your life in my hands?' His eyes widened and he shook his head sadly. 'You are not wise. I thought elves were wise as well as beautiful.' The last word he spat out contemptuously.
Suddenly Celinn felt the knife pressed against his neck.
'I have marked you,' Adanwath said, his voice full of poison, 'but although you are truly mine, I cannot keep you. I gave you the chance to surrender to me, to return my desire, but you refused. You chose to humiliate me, to reject me.'
But by now Celinn's consciousness was beginning to fragment as his fea tried to flee from his wounded and violated body. He heard Adanwath speaking beside him, and he felt death close by, but all he could see was the eyes of his friends and his brother.
'Cormamin niuve tenna' tae lea lle an', he whispered to them. 'Aiglin, amin hiraetha, muindor. Navaer, Aiglin.'
Gwirith's eyes were as deep and dark as the sky at midnight, and the space that separated him from Celinn seemed suddenly to be as nothing. As he felt his fea begin to loosen itself from his hroa, he heard Gwirith's voice in his mind, calling him back home. But he was no longer sure what was real and what was imagined, and he did not know what to do to save himself.
Then he felt the knife against his neck, and closed his eyes. Words came to his breaking mind. 'Aaye, Elbereth, cormamin lindua ele lle!' he called to the Starkindler, turning his face up to the sky. His body felt weak and full of pain but somewhere there was peace. Very softly, as though he were outside himself, he heard his voice begin to sing, a song of farewell and of sweet reunion. The music filled his ears and his mind, and he was home again in Lorien. His lips curved into a smile and he sighed, waiting for the blow to fall.
Adanwath's hand was in his hair, twisting back his neck, and he felt the wind as the knife moved swiftly past. There was a swishing sound, and something had happened to him, to his head. This was not what he had expected death to feel like, so painless and swift. Then another breath of wind, another stroke … and again no pain. Something touched his face, something soft and sweet smelling.
Celinn's eyes snapped open. Adanwath's hand was before his eyes, brandishing something, something light, gold and soft. A breath of wind passed across his shoulder and touched the side of his neck. His head felt strange, lighter. Then Adanwath's hand was in his hair again, at the back, and the sound, the stroke came again. His head was yanked back, then released suddenly. Deep in his shattered consciousness Celinn understood then what was happening, but his mind shied away from it. He felt a breath of wind on the back of his neck, closed his eyes again. Not this, sweet Elbereth, not this also!
'Open your eyes!' snarled Adanwath. 'See what it is you fear, because it has come true.' And he thrust a handful of long golden hair into Celinn's face. Speaking so softly that only Celinn could hear, Adanwath whispered,
'Do not think you can humiliate me, elf. Be glad that you have only a few more moments of life in which to endure your mutilation.'
He flung the hair down on to the grass and, spitting on it, ground it under his boot. His hand came up onto the elf's face, then his fingers followed the planes of his cheek and jaw before curving round to take hold of the long neck. His mouth went down and he bit into his flesh, sucking at the blood that oozed from the wound he had made.
But Celinn's eyes were wide with shock and he neither flinched nor made any sound.
Adanwath straightened up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
'Now I have marked you a second time, elf,' he growled, his eyes merciless and cold. 'You know that you are mine. Maybe this time you will surrender to me.'
He seized Celinn's face and with his other hand felt the shape of his shorn head.
'What do you say, sweeting? Shall I spare your life? Will you yield to me?'
Celinn murmured something, but in a voice so unlike his own that Adanwath did not understand him.
'Speak up, catamite,' he spat out the word, but the dazed eyes did not register the deadly insult. 'Let everyone hear your surrender.'
There was a long silence. Then Celinn said in a voice of the utmost weariness,
'Amin lava. I yield.' His head sank down onto his chest and he closed his eyes.
The other elves cried out in disbelief and wretchedness, but Galdorn silenced them with his fists. Aiglin called his brother's name in despair, but Celinn did not seem to hear him. Aragorn had become completely motionless, his eyes fixed on Celinn.
Adanwath turned to the group of men who had approached and watched the scene and held up his arms over his head, hands clasped together. The men began to shout and cheer their admiration of his conquest.
'In a moment it will be your turn, my brave lads!' he promised them, and the approbation intensified. Then he raised his hunting knife into the air and felt its edge with his thumb.
'Well, boy, what do you think of my handiwork?' he called out to Aragorn, his hand on Celinn's shoulder. 'But of course you've never met a single one of them before in your life, have you? So of course what I choose to do to them doesn't bother you at all.'
Aragorn stared at him in silent anguish, but Adanwath had already turned back to his men.
'Shall I spare the elf's life? Or shall I cut his scrawny throat?' he shouted. Naturally enough, the men, already aroused by what they had seen, began to call out, 'Kill him!' 'Cut him down!'
'He doesn't deserve to live,' said Galdorn, in his deep, gravelly voice.
Adanwath turned to him slowly.
'You're right, Galdorn. He doesn't deserve to live.' His eyes raked over Aragorn and the other elves. 'None of them do. And when we've finished with them, we'll leave them for the crows.'
The men cheered even louder at that. But then there came the sound of running feet, and Denvor and two other men came charging into the clearing, their eyes wide with terror.
'It's the elves!' Denvor shouted, his voice high and shrill with fear. 'I've seen them! Get everybody out, now!'
Adanwath took charge immediately.
'Get your weapons,' he commanded. 'Find the horses. You three stay behind and delay them. You!' he called to Galdorn. He jerked his head at the captives.
Galdorn nodded and moved towards them.
Adanwath himself was standing before Celinn. A man had brought Adanwath's horse, but he was sawing at Celinn's ropes.
'Aren't you going to kill him, then?' Denvor asked.
'No.' Adanwath's grin was feral. 'He's mine. I'm taking him with me.'
Adanwath could not resist seizing the elf's jaw with his hand and forcing up the lolling head for one last look. Celinn's turquoise-blue eyes were open, but he gave no sign of awareness of Adanwath or of anything else that was going on around him.
Adanwath gave a poisonous smile and crushed his mouth to Celinn's, and he offered no resistance when Adanwath forced his lips apart with his tongue. At last Adanwath stepped away from him, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
'Daddy, what's the matter with the angel?' said Linnet's shocked voice, and he looked down to see her staring in horror at Celinn's limp form hanging from its bonds.
There was a sound behind him, and turning, he found himself surrounded by a host of elves, bows at the ready. Behind them he could see other elves rounding up his men.
'Daddy, there are lots of angels now,' said Linnet. 'Don't be afraid, they're very kind. Will you help this angel now?' She reached out and tentatively touched Celinn's hand. 'He's very cold, Daddy. He needs to be nearer to the fire.'
Adanwath made a guttural sound in his throat and snatched up his daughter into his arms, holding her against his chest.
'Sweetheart, we're going to play a game,' he said softly into her ear. 'But you must promise me to be completely quiet.' And he fumbled for his knife and held the point up against her neck. Linnet fell silent as he had asked, staring wide-eyed at the elves.
'My daughter and I are playing a game,' he shouted in a ragged, breathless voice. 'I'm sure none of you wants to spoil it, so I'm going to walk over to my horse…' He began to back away.
'I'm sure you know you cannot win the game,' said Haldir coldly. 'There are too many players on our side. Surrender to us and let us end this.'
'Games like this can go wrong,' said Adanwath, who had reached his horse and was struggling to mount while keeping his daughter before him like a shield. 'It's best if we carry on until we've finished.'
'Let me take a shot, Haldir,' hissed Rumil in his ear, but Haldir waved his hand dismissively, not taking his eyes off Adanwath's face.
Adanwath was mounted now, holding his daughter on his hip. He glanced down from the saddle at Celinn.
'I'm sorry I can't take him with me,' he sneered, his face twisted with obscene pleasure. 'I'm afraid he's not fit to ride at the moment.' Then he kicked his heels to his horse's side and rode off, hoisting his daughter behind him.
'Haldir!' cried Rumil.
Haldir nodded. 'Dago han, Rumil,' he said curtly, and an instant later an arrow flew from his brother's bow. It went wide of its mark, and so did the next, but the third struck Adanwath in the thigh. He cried out but did not slow down.
'Go after him,' said Haldir, his voice trembling with rage. 'Degil is mounted. Tell him to pursue him.' Rumil signed to his company to follow him and they ran into the trees.
This chapter contains a lot of elvish, partly because in these circumstances I think the characters would use a language their captors would not understand whenever they could.
Toltha bellas, nin mellon = summon your strength, my friend
Amin anta kaim = I need to sleep
Avo gosta = don't be afraid
No thalion = be strong
Belain na le = May the Valar be with you
Dina, nin mellon = be silent, my friend
Amin feuya ten 'lle = you disgust me
Tua amin = help me
Amin delotha lle, nadorluan = I hate you, cowardly dog
Cormlle naa Tanya Tel' raa = you have the heart of a lion
Gwanno erb nin = leave me alone
Astaldar = valiant one
Lau = no
Feuyaer = disgusting one
Lasta lalaithamin = listen to the sound of my laughter (an insult)
Cormamin niuve tenna' tae lea lle an = my heart shall weep until it sees you again
Amin hiraetha, muindor = I'm sorry, brother
Aaye, Elbereth, cormamin lindua ele lle = my heart sings to see thee
Amin lava = I yield
Dago han = bring him down
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