Caeriel was scared stiff. She had been placed alone in a crude, ugly cell with stone walls, so dark that it took a while for her eyes to focus.
A shudder broke through her thin frame, and she pulled her legs up tight against her chest, hugging them for.
Sudden footsteps caused her to stop and look up. What did the Dwarves want with her? Were they planning to kill her, having realised that unlike Legolas, she had no bargaining value?
The footsteps grew nearer, and she shrank back against the wall. They were coming for her! They paused outside the door, and the jangling of keys followed. A key was placed into the door, and it was flung open, causing her to flinch and bury her face in her knees. Low chuckles rumbled through the rocky walls.
"It serves you right, filthy little creatures! We'll cut you down to what you really are, that's what we'll do!" Barin spat.
Something was thrust into the cell, and the door slammed shut. It was a while before Caeriel dared to move. When she summoned up enough courage to take a look, the sight that greeted her caused her to rush over.
Rage filled her as she stared down at Legolas, his limbs bound with chains, and a cloth was twisted around his head, gagging his mouth. Huge, ugly welts peered up at her, souvenirs from a sound beating. His eyes were shut, and his breathing was ragged. The black ink stains from the earlier adventure a lifetime ago in Felnor's study were still showing in his hair and hands, but were smeared by furious, panicky tears shed earlier.
The tears that ran down her cheeks were not of fear, but of hatred. Something did not feel right, for she knew Dwarves were not a cruel race. While Legolas had made a fool of them, the treatment he had been subjected to did not fit with what she knew of Dwarves.
She tried to undo his bonds, but only succeeded at ridding him of the cloth around his mouth. She then removed her light coat and covered him.
Leaving Legolas in a corner, Caeriel then curled up into a ball, and let an uneasy sleep take hold of her.
She was awoken by Legolas starting to stir, and was by his side. His face was pinched from pain and disorientation, and it was a while before everything came into focus. She watched on in horror as he began to squirm, panic starting to overcome him.
Fear started to take over her too, as panicked noises started to escape his lips, and she saw that he was trying to fight his fear, but losing the battle. She took a step back as his struggles became worse. It was not long before the soft noises increased into loud shouts, as he pleaded and threatened, attempting anything to secure his release.
"Let me go! Let me go!" Legolas screamed, and it was not long before he started throwing himself against the door, hot tears running down his face.
Caeriel tried her best to hold him still, but failed, as he was surrounded with the thick haze of fear and pain.
After what seemed like hours, Legolas passed out, and she pressed a corner of her dress to his head wounds to stem the bleeding. Taking a few, steadying breaths to ensure that she did not go into hysterics, she dragged Legolas away from the door to the farthest end of the cell.
Just as she feared, heavy footsteps sounded in the hallway. The key in the door turned, and she stood up in front of Legolas, ready to fight.
The Dwarf that stood framed in the doorway, was not Barin but the leader, Galdin, holding a torch in his hand. Caeriel stared at him, frozen to the spot.
"Where is he?" Galdin said.
"You shall harm him no further!" she said in their tongue, causing him to frown.
"I am not out to harm him!"
"Liar." The word was spat out with such emotion that he stepped into the cell and pushed her aside.
The sight of Legolas was enough to stun him speechless.
"Who did that to him?" he said.
"Did you not command this?"
"Never in a thousand years would I dream of inflicting such hurt on any living creature, even an Elf!"
"Then release him, and take me instead!" she cried. "Can you not see that he will perish if you keep him here? Legolas is so afraid of this place, he will not survive long if you do not let him go!"
A flicker of pity crossed Galdin's face.
"No. He is a useful piece of leverage in my dealings with Thranduil."
"He needs medicine and to be taken out of the caves, my Lord!"
A nod indicated his assent. Already, Legolas's breathing was getting increasingly shallow and irregular as they spoke. Galdin scooped up the limp body in his arms, and indicated that Caeriel follow him.
Taking a series of long, winding tunnels that had branches off in every direction, he soon surfaced, into a strange enclosure. He laid Legolas upon the ground before turning to the worried Caeriel behind him.
"This is a sacred place for my people, and is more well-guarded than you think. Attempt to escape and you will be killed. I shall send a healer up."
"What if Barin comes?"
"You need not fear him. He has overstepped the boundaries. While my people have no great love for your kind, we do not tolerate such cruelty more worthy of goblins than Dwarves! We have honour in our dealings with our captives. I will ensure that Barin shall never set foot in this place again while I live."
Caeriel answered with a brief, bewildered nod of the head, and Galdin left the girl behind, alone to study the place. She saw that she was in a ravine, not more than twenty steps wide, surrounded by steep, smooth rock walls, fifty feet high that opened up into the stars above. Stone statues of the Dwarven Lords of old looked down at her with stern, solemn expressions.
She was about try climbing the walls when a new Dwarf came in.
"I have come to tend to the wounds of the son of Thranduil," the Dwarf said, causing Caeriel to turn at the higher tone of voice. Sudden realisation dawned upon her: This Dwarf was female, although she had a beard!
She nodded, still distrustful, and it was a while before allowed the Dwarf to draw near..
"What is your name?"
"Pleased to meet you, Caeriel. I am a healer, and Norain is my name."
"He was beaten!" she said, before proceeding to work quickly and skilfully on Legolas. "I cannot imagine that one of us did this to him."
"Will he survive?"
"Yes. Even for as weak a race as you, these are but physical wounds that will heal."
Caeriel sat down a distance away, and watched as Norain worked.
"It is strange for an Elf, let alone one so young as you, to be able to speak our language,"
"My father, whom I have never known, was King Thranduil's emissary to your people. My mother took it upon herself to teach me some Dwarven."
"Lord Haradan, the only Elf our people respected, for he lacked the arrogance of your kind!"
"You knew my father?"
"Indeed. A good person, brave, and thoughtful, full of respect for us."
A flush appeared on Caeriel's face as she thought over this latest piece of information about her father.
"Lord Haradan disappeared close to twenty-five years ago, but you do not look a day older than twelve!"
"You do not understand. We do not grow and age like mortals. My uncle tells me that we grow twice as slowly as human children."
"You would take your time growing if you were to live forever!"
Caeriel thought long and hard, struggling to come to a decision whether to speak. She gave into her impulse in the end, and asked, "I do not understand why Legolas was treated thusly. My mother told me that Dwarves were good creatures."
Norain let out a long breath. How could she explain the complexities of the world to such a young girl? However, was the Elf as young as she seemed? For there was a kind of wisdom that emanated from her solemn eyes, ones that spoke of knowledge beyond her ears. Was this what they meant by the burdens carried by the first-born?
"You might not understand it, but there are good and bad in all races - "
"Surely not Elves!" Caeriel cried.
A wry smile greeted her words. "I will not argue with you over that, but things are never so simple. Who knows how one will react under extreme pressure? There are many Dwarves out there who hate Elves, some with good cause, others without - "
"What do you mean good cause? How can they be right in beating Legolas?"
"I'm not saying what Barin did is right! You have to understand too, that our laws and customs hold Honour before everything else. While Barin's actions were despicable, he hates your kind, for he believes Elves to be responsible for the evils of the world."
"How can that be so?"
"Surely you know how your kind are not invulnerable to temptation and trickery? A strange evil has been making its presence felt around us, and word has it that it is drawn here by a power held by the Elves. A power that is strong and dangerous, which only made its presence felt over ten years ago. An emerging force that your father was aware of and researching when he went missing. Many of our kinsmen have died in mysterious ways, and Barin believes it to be your fault."
"I do not understand."
"I don't expect you to! Even one as learned as your father was stumped and confused. I have overheard whispered conversations about how dreadful it is, and how one of the first-born will bring about a darkness to cover these lands. An idea like that terrifies Barin, and he believes you should all be banished to the West, or killed."
Legolas awoke then, and he sat up, body tense, a scream piercing the air. He reached out and grabbed Norain's sleeve, eyes wild and cornered, breathing hard.
"Hush now," Norain said, trying to calm him.
Her words did not seem to have any effect on Legolas, and his breathing grew heavier, as it took in the appearance of yet another Dwarf.
"Legolas! The stars shine upon you from above!" Caeriel's soft voice seemed to jolt him into the present, and he looked to the side. He saw then that her words rang true, and the doubt and panic seemed to ebb from him.
The pair were almost relieved to hear his breathing deepen, and to see his eyes glaze over, as he let go of Norain's sleeve, and sank back to the ground into a more peaceful sleep.
"Evil or not, there is no excuse for how Legolas has been treated!"
"No, I ask that you do not judge all our kind to be like Barin, and to understand that there is more to it than meets the eye."
Caeriel took time to think over her words.
"All done," said Norain. "He is starting to heal with remarkable speed, and should be as good as new in a week! I shall see what I can do to get those chains off him so that I can tend to those wounds. Look after him well, and do not attempt to escape, for Lord Galdin's patience and benevolence is limited!"
And so Caeriel watched over Legolas, a calming presence as he awoke with some nightmare, watching as he soon fell back into the healing abyss of sleep.
It was close to midday when he awoke, struggling to sit up.
"Legolas, please do not move about, your wounds are still yet unhealed!"
Her request fell on deaf ears, as Legolas ignored her. "I am fine!'
Caeriel rolled her eyes at him, before sticking out a hand and pushing him on the shoulder, causing him to stumble backward and fall down hard.
"Why did you do that?" he said as he tried not to wince from the pain.
"Because you are clearly not ready to move about! How are you to take on a party of Dwarves if you do not recover completely?"
The light in his eyes caused her to groan.
"Please, Legolas, lie still; the Dwarves are not out to harm you."
She knew she had hit the wrong note, because he tensed up, disbelief on his face.
"Not out to harm me? What we are doing here if they had any good intentions?"
"Had they wanted to kill you, they would have left you to rot in the caves, for all the good your courage was in there!" Caeriel said, taking out her anger and frustration at their situation on Legolas.
Legolas turned almost purple with rage at the mention of his previous humiliation. His pride had been stung by his earlier displays of fear in front of Dwarves. He hated and feared caves, for they were so devoid of life, and he always felt like he was choking and drowning at even the thought of being trapped within one.
"Had you not been such a fool and an idiot to have gotten yourself captured by the stinky creatures, we would not be in such a mess!" he shouted.
He stormed over and collapsed in a seething pile at the furthest end of the ravine, as far away from Caeriel as possible, exhausted by his display of emotion and shame, and refused to turn around to face her. Stabs of pain ate at him from his injuries, but he bit his lips and refused to show any signs of discomfort and weathered them, sticking his chin out and continued to stare at the rocks in front of him.
The soft sobs that floated up to him caught him by surprise, and he turned to find that Caeriel had curled herself up into a small ball, and was rocking herself. Legolas blanched at the sight, knowing that he was responsible for her misery.
Approaching Caeriel, Legolas put his arms around her, ignoring the sharp protests of his wounds, as well as the crying out of his brain at getting this close to a girl.
"Please, do not cry, Caeriel, I take back my words!"
She continued crying, the strain of previous days catching up. And so Legolas held her, and stroked her hair in the way his mother did whenever he was upset, singing to her in his soft, melodious voice.
It was a while before the sobs abated. Huddled together, the two Elflings soon fell into an uneasy sleep, both their dreams full of darkness and fear.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.