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Story of Legolas and Enóreth, The: 8. Bondage and Escape
When Legolas awoke, the first thing he knew was that his head ached horribly. Then he became aware of being cold and uncomfortable, kneeling on a very hard floor in a dark room, tied upright against a stone pillar with his hands and feet bound behind him. And when he discovered that whoever had tied him up had also found it necessary to undo his collar and loosen his hair, he slumped in his bonds and moaned. Alas, Legolas had fallen into the clutches of a Hero In Bondage Scene.
Had he known how narrowly he had escaped a Gratuitous Humiliation And Torture Scene, he may have looked upon his current plight more favourably. As it was, he felt the Story had fallen to irredeemable depths. Dismally he examined the confines of his prison. By the damp walls and the artfully-placed skulls on the floor, this seemed to be the dungeon of a fortress. And huddled in a corner, unbound, hugging herself and weeping miserably, was Enóreth.
Several questions sprang to his mind as he saw her – how long had they been here, and was she hurt, and why for pity's sake had she not untied him – but he gave no voice to them. If the Forces wished him to know such things they would tell him; and if they did not, asking questions was a pointless exercise. In any case, Enóreth was so hysterical that Legolas doubted she would be of much help. As far as he could guess, this was the fortress of Finrond the Purple. The orcs, then, had been his army. The wizard must have ordered his victims taken alive to suffer by his own hands. Briefly Legolas wondered if this had anything to do with his tunic being unbuttoned, and then he decided that it was best not to think of such things.
There was precious little time to think at all, as it turned out. The scrabble of orc feet sounded in the outer passage. The heavy door swung open, and two of the creatures slunk into the room. They stood aside at exaggerated attention, and in walked a man who could have only been Finrond himself.
He was tall and gaunt, clothed in ragged purple robes and carrying a cruelly pointed ebony staff. His grey hair and beard were a mass of dirty tangles, and his black eyes glowered from beneath the perpetual scowl of his forehead. As he walked into the dank chamber his footsteps pounded against the floor, for he wore heavy boots and stomped about to give himself an imposing entrance. Altogether, Finrond the Purple wore a look of such obvious and hackneyed malevolence that the idea of him deceiving anybody with his treachery became more incredible with each passing moment. Enóreth whimpered and trembled at the sight of him.
Now he turned that horrid gaze upon her, and conceited delight filled every fibre of his twisted frame. "Ha!" he gloated. "So we meet again, witch! Think you can escape my clutches, do you? Try to thwart the horrible horrible fate that has been laid upon you by my evil genius, will you? Well this should teach you a lesson, you stupid girl! No creature of Middle-earth can defeat me! Ah, and what have we here!" he exclaimed as he espied Legolas. "A Silvan prince from the halls of Mirkwood bound to his doom within my dungeon! Never again shall you see the trees and starlight of which you Elves are so enamoured! How wonderfully despicable! I laugh at you in your misery!" And laugh he did, flinging back his head and producing a veritable "BWAH-HAHHH-HAHAHAHAAAA!" if ever there was one.
"Ilúvatar deliver us!" cried Enóreth.
"I do not believe this," groaned the Silvan prince.
The wizard rubbed his hands together. "Now shall you know torment!" he cackled. "Enóreth, my slave, you will serve me well! Guards! Bring her forth to my lair! The time has come for my curse to be fulfilled! Then soon the Fellowship will be destroyed!! The Ring is as good as mine!!!" With this decree, and clawing the air at each exclamation mark, Finrond strode from the room. Again did Enóreth beseech heavenly aid, but the Valar seemed to turn deaf ears to her plea. The orcs came forward and caught her by the arms, and the maiden – the same maiden who only in the previous Chapter had slain thirty orcs in two minutes with one hand – began to sob and flail about like a little girl.
Legolas raised his head, and mustering all his power he strove to call to her, "Fight them, you idiot, fight them off!" But to his dismay, the only thing he could force past his lips was "Enóreth! Enóreth!" in a bleating fashion. And Enóreth responded in kind with "Legolas! Legolas!" so that in the end the spectacle was quite embarrassing. Struggling pathetically she was dragged away, the door slammed to behind her, and she was gone.
If things had been dreary for Legolas before, they were simply insufferable now. Early on he tried to free himself, but his struggles dwindled and ceased as the hours slipped away. Calling for help was useless; escape was impossible. He was trapped, utterly powerless, and the Story was quite capable of dragging on for weeks before he was released. The thought weighed on his spirit until it seemed he would go mad with frustration.
By nightfall a storm raged about the fortress, giving the proper sense of doom to the Scene. Lightning flashed beyond the tiny window; the answering thunder mingled with the howl of the wind; water dripped from the ceiling in a far corner; rats scurried along the walls. On the whole it was quite as gloomy and ominous a setting as you could wish for, and such a stifling mood would overcome the strongest character. Legolas hung limply against the ropes that bound him. His head was bowed to his breast and his eyes were closed.
But the stillness had not long to remain. Soon one of the rats quit her scurrying and crept with curiosity toward the Elf. After peering into his face from a few feet away she seemed satisfied. "That's him, all right," she said to herself. "What a dish! My, but I love my job. Helloooo! You up there! This is your Guide speaking!"
Legolas did not move. The rat waited for a moment and cocked her head. "Hrm," she said. She scampered up to him and pawed at his knee. "Yoohoo! Legolas! Rise and shine, Cutie Pie!"
Still there was no answer. The Guide was rather perplexed. She began to mull things over aloud. "How odd! They didn't send me to one of those Angst Stories by mistake, did they? Say, I wonder if he's ticklish...."
"All right! All right. I am awake," said Legolas wearily. "Now what do you want?"
"Goodness, it took you long enough!" she replied. "What, do you want to hang around here all evening? We're just getting to the exciting part! It's time for you to escape!"
Of what "excitement" was in store for him, Legolas was reluctant to think. But escaping from the dungeon was something at least. He did his best to be attentive, if not overjoyed, at the news. "I am ready," he said. "Tell me what I am to do."
"Okay then," said the rat briskly. "Do you have Enóreth's necklace handy?"
Legolas was startled. In all the turmoil of his capture and imprisonment he had forgotten the necklace completely. Now he crouched down, and stretching his fingers he managed to reach into his boot and catch hold of the diamond chain. The pendant slid free and dangled from his hands.
"It is a magical amulet, you see," said the Guide. "The Wood Elf King gave it to Enóreth when she came of age. It has great power, full of Heavenly Fire and Dazzling Holy Light and all that sort of stuff. It's strong enough to break any spell in the right hands, which is why Enóreth gave it to you for safekeeping."
"Wait – wait. If...." Legolas had to pause a moment. His head was starting to swim. "You mean to say that Enóreth had it all this time and knew of its power, but she never thought to use it against Finrond in the first place?"
It was a valid and honest criticism, but like many that surround such Stories it was shrugged aside in this astounding fashion: "Well, aren't we picky. If she'd done that there wouldn't be a Story, now would there?" Then the rat added cheerfully, "Anyway, it's yours now, so you get to do the magic thing! Fun, huh?"
"I ... the ... magic thing?" he stammered.
"That's right! Within that jewel lies the power to defeat Finrond, break Enóreth's curse, and live happily ever after. All you have to do is unlock it."
"What do you mean? Unlock it with what?"
"Why, True Love, of course. What else would you unlock it with?"
Legolas was aghast. "True Love!" he cried. "For Enóreth!"
The rat frolicked happily. "I know! Isn't it just delicious?"
But Legolas could not reply. To the last of his strength he had been patient, but this...! It was too much; he could bear it no longer. Every absurdity, every insult to sense and dignity that he had been forced to endure over the passing Chapters rose up before him until his thoughts reeled. Overwhelmed, he dropped his head back against the pillar and closed his eyes.
Then, to his own astonishment, he started to laugh.
This was not the reaction the Guide had been expecting. She sat back on her haunches. "What are you laughing for?" she said. "This is a desperate situation! Your darling Enóreth is under the spell of the Great and Powerful Finrond the Purple!"
Well, that only made it worse. Such peals of merriment had not been heard in this dark place for many years. (Or at least since Finrond had left the room, though one could argue that his laughter was less merriment and more diabolical glee.)
"This isn't funny!" exclaimed the rat, getting agitated. "She needs you!"
"Yes, yes, of course she does!" said Legolas gaily. "Oh, my..." and at that point he was no longer able to speak.
After a good while of this, the Guide's patience ran thin. She stamped her paw on the floor. "So help me, I will leave you tied up here for another hour if you don't stop it," she said.
"I beg your pardon!" he gasped. It took a moment, but he steadied his breathing and blinked the tears from his eyes. "Go on. Please. I am listening."
"Hmph," said the rat. "That's better. Anyway, as I said: the necklace is the key. The Author wasn't too specific on exactly how it works, but you can probably assume it'll involve some starry-eyed pure-hearted warm-fuzzy-feeling type of spiritual outpouring. Do you think you can do that?"
Legolas smiled. His giddiness had faded, but it was replaced with a wry amusement that could not be subdued. Suddenly the Story and all its pretensions seemed as harmless as a spoiled child. "Indeed, with such inspiration as Enóreth how could I not!" he said. "And what would the Forces have me do with this power? Shall I tear down the fortress stone by stone with naught but the strength of my love?"
"No, no," the rat replied sceptically, "nothing that elaborate. All you have to do to reach the next Chapter is use the necklace to escape the dungeon."
Perhaps Legolas' reviving humour gave him insight, or perhaps a Maia passing near at that moment took pity on him and blessed him with clarity. In any event the spark of an idea came to life in his mind. He straightened and looked at the Guide with sudden interest. "It says nothing else?" he demanded. "Those are the exact words?"
"I'm pretty sure," she said, and pulled the manuscript of the Story from her pocket. (The rat had a pocket, you see.) "Yes, yes, that's just what it says. 'Legolas used the necklace to escape.' Well okay, to be perfectly honest it says 'ecscape,' but spelling errors aside it's obvious you—"
She got no further. Legolas swung the pendant on its chain and slammed it against the pillar with all his might. The jewel shattered into several pieces.
"What are you doing!" the rat shrieked. "You have to use the necklace! The Story says so!"
Legolas did not answer. He drew up the chain and closed his hand around the broken pendant. The edges of the fragment were knife sharp. Working quickly, he turned it over in his fingers and began cutting the cords binding his wrists.
The rat stared at him with her mouth hanging open. Then she glowered in supreme annoyance. "Oh, now that's cheating!"
In a moment or two Legolas' hands were free, and after that he made short work of the ropes binding his shoulders and legs. He sprang to his feet and ran for the door.
"Stop it!" said the rat indignantly. "I'm filing a complaint! No fair!"
Legolas grinned over his shoulder as he left. "I thank you for your assistance," he said.
The rat huffed, then hollered after him: "And don't think you're not paying for that either!"
Coming Up: Enóreth gets her evil on. Legolas is forced to take desperate measures.
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