The Elven prisoner almost groaned in pain as he felt the dream overtake him in his sleep. He fought it, refused to allow himself to get swept up by the magic held within his mind. What were they doing to him this time? What had they invented to torture his battle weary mind? Was there anything that they hadn’t tried? His body groaned at the effort it took to move, and he hadn’t eaten in a week. His mind screamed in agony at the thought of more to come. ENOUGH!
Golradir had lost tract of how many centuries he had spent in captivity, lying in the filth that surrounded him. He was so used to the smells that he no longer noticed them, and had forgotten any other way of life. That, however, was not the way it was in his dreams. In his dreams, there was light, there was music, and the smell of spring. In his dreams, there was life and the promise of sunshine.
It would have been easy for Golradir to allow his mind to get lost in those dreams. He would have found peace there. Maybe. Then there was the thought lurking in the back of his mind that the enemy would have forced him to go exactly where they wanted. They were trying to break him, crush the spirit that made him what he was, for he was the hero of his people, their Warrior Prince and General of the Elven forces in their Kingdom. If the enemy could gain a toehold in his mind, he knew they would win. This was no longer a battle for supremacy on a field of honor and he recognized the battlefield for what it was. This was a fight to own what was left of his mind, and indeed, of his very soul.
How had his enemies managed to implant these thoughts and images into this mind? He remembered sensing the vibrations of steel striking steel above him, in places where light weakly filtered through the darkness that surrounded him. He remembered how the enemy warriors had laughed when they captured him. They had made him look at the bodies of his men lying on the ground. Some had died quickly during the battle; they had been the lucky ones. Those who had not succumbed to their wounds were slowly butchered as he was forced to watch. When all the Elven Warriors who had accompanied him were dead, the Demons had dragged him deep into a cave system of the mountain. They mocked him as they travelled and told him what they were going to do to him. When they reached their destination, they tied his hands with a long rope and lowered him into a deep pit and when the rope ran out he was left to hang suspended from that rope in mid-air until he almost screamed from the pain. He wouldn’t though. He wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction of knowing they were hurting him.
After almost a week of hanging suspended in the air, the Demons cut the rope that held Golradir and he dropped the rest of the way to the bottom of the pit. Eventually he lost track of time. There was no way to mark the passing of the days or years. When they fed him, he ate. It was never enough, and never a matter of routine. It was, however, enough to keep him alive.
Golradir fought his captors in every manner he could. Once, he was lucky enough to get his hands on one of his jailors and he had killed him. They chained him to the wall of the pit after that. They shackled his feet to the floor and made sure he couldn’t move more than a half a step at a time. They beat him and subjected him to all forms of torture, although they were careful not to kill him. That was the one thing he was never able to understand. Why did they insist that he continue living? Why didn’t they kill him and get it over with?
Golradir found out the reason for keeping him alive by accident as he listened to two Demons arguing about him, one wanted him dead, the other insisted he would be more use to them alive. Neither of the Demons seemed to realize that he was aware of what they were saying. He learned a lot from listening to that conversation. There was someone high in the Demon ranks who wanted him alive and willing to help his enemy. That, he promised, they would never force him to do, no matter what they did to him. He would never betray his people.
The Demon’s plan was ingenious in its simplicity. They would break him, and then they would force him to work for them from within the inside of the Elven forces. Someone had been planning hard to come up with that idea, and on an Elf with less strength of will it might have worked. He was not about to allow them to use him like that. He would show them the difference between an Elf and a Demon. They would tire of the constant fight and they would either let him go, or they would kill him. He wasn’t afraid to die, death came to everyone sooner or later.
The Demons did neither. When he was able to fight the Demons he did so both mentally and physically. They retaliated by applying more pressure on him. Golradir found out more and more that some Demons had an intelligence he could almost admire. It was a shame it was used in such an evil manner. He was determined to hide what grudging respect he felt for his enemy, because he was sure they would find a way to use that against him if they knew his thoughts. Everything he said, everything he did, needed to be guarded. Each time he pitted wits and wills against those who held him captive he learned more.
Golradir learned about the deaths of his brothers, all except for the one and eventually they told him that he had succumbed to battle as well. Inside he was torn, but he refused to let them see how their words affected him. Time after time they came to him with stories of his friends and family falling into the hands of the enemy until they said that every member of his family were dead. His brothers, nephews, everyone had been killed. He was the last of his line and barely considered alive. He refused to allow them to break him in that fashion. What if they lied? They had shown him no proof that what they said was the truth. He refused to believe, but inside his soul he bled.
The Demons were frustrated by the Elf who commanded the Elven forces. He was cunning, powerful and had the respect of his people. He prospered, though he appeared to be losing ground. His family grew as he fathered sons; brilliant, strong, powerful talents who grew stronger as time went on. Their father guarded them, taught them well, and guided them into manhood. They needed to find a way to break their prisoner so he could be used against them. They would use one brother to defeat the other.
Golradir heard the whispers from his prison and preened as he heard the names the guards carelessly tossed about in their conversations. Garoldth, his youngest brother was alive, and he had sons to follow his path. He was secretly proud of his brother, and that feeling followed through to the men who were his nephews. He wished he could know them, wished he could be with them to help his brother train them and love them. He spent centuries dreaming about how wonderful it would be to live above amongst his family. He knew, however, that was impossible, and he had his own fight to wage against the machinations of the Demons. One battle was just as important as the other in the back of his mind. The price of his failure was high for it could cost him his soul.
It had been a week or more since Golradir had been fed and he was beginning to wonder if they had decided to end the eternal strife he went through on a daily basis. He hoped so. He was tired of fighting and the idea of a peaceful death was looking more and more attractive. About the time he began to believe it was over he sensed the sounds of battle overhead. He no longer cared. It had nothing to do with him, how could it? No one knew he was here, and if they did, how would they know who he was? Was there anyone alive who remembered him?
Golradir had a faint memory of sensing the presence of someone coming down to him from above, then another joined the first. They took the cuffs from his wrists and ankles. They removed the collar from his neck and waist. They placed him on a platform and covered his face with a mask, then he felt them raise him from the pit. Even through the darkness of the bandage they covered his eyes with he could sense the impression of subdued light, and it hurt.
Was there supposed to be pain after death? It was a question that crossed Golradir’s mind mere moments before the darkness took him again. ‘Death’, he thought, and his spirit reached to embrace it.
“Will he live? Aredhel asked as she hovered nearby.
Aredhel was reluctant to get closer as the stench coming from the prisoner was overwhelmingly nauseating. On the average, she had never considered herself faint of heart when it came to things like this, but this was beyond anything she had ever encountered before. She threw a cleansing spell at the Elf they had rescued and noted only a slight improvement.
Liessen worked with Eöl to stabilize the Elf’s life force; it wasn’t easy. The Elf’s will was strong and he fought the healing spell. Why? It wasn’t like an Elf to want to die, then again, he could only guess what horrors the Elf must have lived through. Did he realize his ordeal was over? Did he even care? Eventually Liessen’s spell took hold and the battle came to an end as the Elf lost consciousness. He followed the healing spell with a stronger form of cleansing spell then turned to Eöl.
“Do you have any idea who he is?”
“I have a suspicion he is Golradir. The ring on his hand supports that idea, but the only one who might know for sure is my father. If he is who I think, he has been a prisoner for over fifteen hundred years.” Eöl replied.
Liessen was astounded. The thought of anyone being a prisoner of Demons for that amount of time went beyond his imagination. He exchanged a look with Eöl and ordered.
“Take him to Daroth’s lands. They have the strongest healers. I have a feeling he is going to need all the help he can get.”
Eöl nodded his agreement. He had suspicions this man was his Uncle Golradir, he had found his insignia ring identifying him, but it wasn’t conclusive. When they arrived where his father awaited, then he would know for sure. If this was the case, a lot could change, because Garoldth had been the youngest in his family. That would make this man their King. He wondered what direction he would take his people when he sat on the throne, or whether he would ever be strong enough to lead again. He grinned at his thought. Of course he would be strong enough to take his place in the Kingdom. He had fought the Demon Horde for over fifteen hundred years alone, and still lived, no one could say the same thing. He would be interested to see what such a man could do during a peacetime such as the one they were expecting.
With a curt order, Eöl told his men to help him carry the stretcher that would transport Golradir to Daroth’s lands. With luck, they would meet up with Garoldth and his father would confirm whether this Elf was his brother or not.