As a Norwegian I am very interested in the history of my country and some years ago I taught myself how to throw the runes. It is a method of fortune telling a bit similar to using Tarot cards and it can be both rather simple and very intricate depending on how many of the 24 runes you use. Now, one of the runes are called Gyfu, gift. It is shaped like an x and so you have to mark it to be able to tell what way is facing up or down, for that will in turn change the meaning of the rune you throw. If it lands pointing the wrong way the dark sides of the rune are the ones who will decide the meaning of it. Just as if you write a letter of our alphabet upside down, it changes the meaning of it. Now Gyfu is a double edged sword, gifts are nice aren’t they? But they can be dangerous too, in special when they are used as a tool to bind others to you through their gratitude and the feeling that they have to return the favor. Gifts should be received gratefully but be aware, they can be something sinister, they can be dangerous and sometimes not even the one giving the gift are aware of the impact they’ll have. For good or for bad, Gyfu is one of the strongest runes and the one which is the most difficult to interpret for even out of a bad thing something good may appear.
(Prologue) The gift
He was pacing back and forth through his study, the sound of his boots against the floor hard and it revealed his frustration and anger. The counsellor stood with his eyes turned towards the floors, patiently waiting for his king to calm down. “ So, what am I to do with this problem? Can I refuse to accept?”
The counsellor shook his head slowly. “ No my lord, remember this, the merchant will undoubtedly report everything to his master and if you don’t accept his gift it will jeopardize the entire trading deal. You have to accept.”
He sighed and stared out of the window, the forest was yet again green and the problems they had encountered almost gone but there were still things to be worried about. He had started the production of cloth made from spider silk and it had in turn brought them to this, a possible trading deal with one of the kingdoms very far to the south and east. Exotic spices and other goods could be attained this way and it would benefit them greatly but he hadn’t really anticipated that the lord of that land would seal the deal with the exchange of expensive gifts. The merchant who had been sent to seal the treaty had brought many marvelous things, glass so thin and delicate it was almost hard to believe that humans had made it, cloth that had colors the elves never had seen before, jewels and gold and herbs and spices. It was a fortune and one he gladly would accept but not that one last piece of the treasure. He turned to the counsellor once more. “We do not keep slaves, and I do not need one either, and absolutely not that kind of a slave.”
The counsellor sighed. “ The lord will not understand this, for them such slaves are just natural, a part of daily life. It shows that he truly regards you as his equal, sending this gift back will be interpreted as an insult, or worse. She is very valuable too, such slaves are treasured and very expensive. It is a royal gift for sure”
Thranduil groaned and his face was a bit red. “But what do I do with her then? I cannot keep her?”
The counsellor made a grimace. “ Well, once you have accepted the gift and the merchant has left you can of course give her away? Or let her loose? But mind you she is probably unable to survive here in our lands, she doesn’t know the language I am sure and she will probably end up in some brothel dying from disease and abuse.”
The king cringed. “ That doesn’t leave me with much choice now does it?”
His voice was tired and the counsellor nodded. “No, you will have to let her stay but it will only be a few decades before she’ll grow old and die as all mortal do, fear not. And she will have good life here, I am sure she can become a servant or something.”
Thranduil nodded slowly, a pleasure slave, when did he ever have need for something like that? “So, how am I to do this then?”
The counsellor smiled. “ The merchant will present you with the gift, and then you must go forth and claim her, it is tradition. “
The king scoffed. “And how do I do that?”
The counsellor smiled. “By taking the rope leading to her collar. Afterwards you present him with the gift from our realm.”
Thranduil turned around. “ And it is ready?”
The counsellor nodded. “ Yes, all of it. I am sure the lord will be more than satisfied with everything. It is very exotic for someone from those lands so far south. “
Thranduil sighed and made a grimace. “Very well then, let it be. Tell the merchant that he may present me with his gifts at sunset.”
The counsellor did nod. “ Of course my lord.”
Thranduil stared at the counsellor. “ Have you seen this slave yet?”
The elf shook his head. “No, she has been kept in his carriage ever since the arrival yesterday, but I have heard him praise her beauty. She is supposed to the most beautiful of her kind ever to be trained for such a task.”
Thranduil just shrugged. “ The beauty of mortals is as fleeting as the snow of winter, it disappears so fast. She would have been better off back home.”
The counsellor sighed. “ Yes, but she is a slave, she has no saying in this. Her fate is to drift like a ship without a rudder wherever the currents or in this case, her master decides that she’s to go.”
Thranduil couldn’t help but feel a sting of pity. Not being able to determine one owns faith like that had to be a horrible destiny. At least she would be treated with respect here, nobody would take advantage of her. The counsellor smiled. “ I will make sure that there are rooms ready for her, close to yours. Until the merchant leaves it has to look as if though you do make use of her talents.”
Thranduil cringed and just waved his hands. “ Alright, yes, go ahead. You may leave, I need to think.”
Ghiandar of Dhal’ett had never travelled through such a landscape before nor had he been this far north. Every day brought new wonders and things that made him amazed and in awe or frightened. The elves did frighten him, but he was sure that he was protected by the fact that he as an emissary from the court of his master. He had been told to come forth soon and so he prepared carefully. He had put on his best clothes and the gifts were ready too. The king’s servants had come to carry it all and he went to the carriage and opened it. She was sitting in her place, her eyes towards the floor and he took her rope and untied it. “Follow me, it is time for you to meet your new master.”
She nodded and climbed out of the carriage, he was as always in awe of her beauty, such a creature had to be very treasured even by these elves. Ghiandar would never have been allowed to go anywhere near her if he hadn’t been chosen for this mission and he knew that his master would have his head if he did as much as touch her. She followed him with her eyes cast down, the veil covering her head and face was thin and couldn’t conceal her beauty. The king’s butler met them at the great door and he followed the dark haired ellon towards the throne room. The strange layout of this underground palace did make Ghiandar a bit dizzy and he was afraid of heights but he managed to keep his cools.
He hadn’t met the king of the elves yet, only heard the rumors telling of a very dangerous and strong ruler with a cold heart and a cunning mind. He had been told to use his words wisely and to be humble and never challenge the elven king in any way. The slave followed him closely, her feet never made any sound and he had found that both weird and disturbing. The elven servants carried the goods he had brought and he hoped that the gifts would be appreciated. The trading treaty was important, the silk these elves did make was just wonderful, a roll of that cloth was worth more than he could earn in an entire life.
The throne was impressive and it inspired awe and fear. He stared at the huge antlers upon it and then he dared to look at the elf sitting upon it. He started shivering, ice cold blue eyes appeared to pierce his very soul and he fell to his knees, staring at the floors. “Your highness, humbly I do present you with these gifts from my master, Aratha’rar of Dhal’ett.”
The elf got up, by every god Ghiandar knew, he was huge! The tallest person he had ever seen. The merchant was sweating now.
“ I see the gifts of your master merchant, and I do find them to be to my liking”
The voice was a soft deep baritone with an edge to it, it made the human shiver. “My master sends his best regards and hopes that these gifts will seal the treaty, and bind our realms together.”
The elf stopped and Ghiandar dared to look up. Thranduil was smiling, it was a rather cold smile and it didn’t make the human feel any more at ease. “ Indeed they will, and I will send gifts of my own to your master.”
Ghiandar slowly got to his feet. “ My master does send you this gift as a personal one, from one ruler to another, as a brother to another. She is a Sheay’ram and the most exquisite among jewels.”
Thranduil stared at the slave, he was intrigued. She was tall, taller than the merchant and her skin appeared to be very light for someone from the south and her hair was black and thick and silky but it had a tint of red in it. She was unusual and he walked down, he hesitated for a short second before he took the rope and he noticed that the girl seemed to shrink for a second, as if she was afraid of him. “ Tell your master that I am overjoyed by his generosity, indeed she is a gem.”
Ghiandar took a deep breath of relief. “I will make sure that my master receives your words of gratitude.”
He turned to the girl. “ You can remove the veil now”
She nodded, her eyes still to the floor. Long slender hands loosened the clasps and she pulled the veil away and Thranduil did for a second freeze. Her hair did slide away from her ear for a second but that was enough for him to see that she had pointy ears. He stared in shock and amazement at her, she was a peredhel! He managed to keep his expression, tried to keep his voice calm. “ You may look at me child, what is your name?”
She raised her gaze, her eyes were blue and grey like a stormy sea and they had a peculiar light in them which Thranduil hadn’t seen in a very long time. Only the first families among the eldar had had that strange light in their gaze and her colors and features told him one thing for sure. She was of noldorin descent. She trembled ever so slightly, scared by his presence. “ My king, I am known as Duvaine, I am humbly awaiting to serve you.”
She spoke a sort of common but it was heavily accented and it made it hard to understand her.
Thranduil stared at her. That name, it was an attempt at the elven name Duvainiel. She was beautiful, absolutely so, but did she know what she was?
He waved at his butler. “ Galion, take her to the rooms we have prepared for her. Make sure she is comfortable.”
Galion just nodded and she followed him without a word and Thranduil was getting more curious by the minute. A peredhel as a slave? That was atrocious and shocking and he wondered who her parents had been. But he hoped she would tell him sooner or later. Ghiandar had left bowing with his nose almost touching his knees and it almost made Thranduil smirk. The expression on that human’s face when he stood up… Sometimes it was good to be that tall, it created an instinctual sense or respect in those not so fortunate. The gifts were splendid indeed but he found that his mind was being quite overtaken by the peredhel, how in Eru’s name had a creature like that ended up as a pleasure slave? He had to swallow hard when he thought of what she had had to have gone through, she probably wouldn’t have survived if she was a full blooded elf.
He took care of a few more pressing matters, the stable master had asked for his permission to get some new horses and he had to sign the papers, and then there was a problem with a leakage in one of the lower levels of the palace. Apparently someone had managed to make a small hole in a wall and there was an underground creek on the other side…
He finished his shores and took a deep breath, he forced himself to sit down and eat some before he went to the rooms he had decided that she should occupy. He was curious, terribly so but also a bit nervous. She probably had her expectations regarding his wishes and he wanted to make it clear to her that he didn’t want to take advantage of her, not in any way. To her that was probably just unbelievable but he had to make her trust him enough to tell her story. There were two guards posted outside of her room and he nodded to them and entered. She sat on a couch and stared at a small pot containing a flowering plant with a peculiar expression on her face. She immediately got to her feet as he entered and bowed her head humbly and he tried to coax his face into a friendly grin. “I hope you find these rooms to be to your liking”
She nodded, her eyes turned towards the floor and she was shivering, he could see it. “They are more than I deserve my lord”
Her voice was low and soft and he went over and sat down, gestured for her to sit too and she hesitated for a second before she obeyed and sat down with elegant movements. It was rather apparent that she was way out of her comfort zone. Thranduil tilted his head. “Your name is elvish Duvaine, and you are half elven in origin. Do you know your parents?”
She shook her head. “ I can remember my mother, but just barely. She taught me to speak a little like your people, and sing.”
Thranduil smiled. “Then your father must have been an elf, did your mother ever mention him?”
Duvaine nodded shyly. “Yes, a few times. He was kind to her and saved her life. Mother was disfigured from having been burned once, and they wanted to kill her but my father bought her and trained her to be a singer”
Thranduil was getting curious. “So what happened? Why haven’t you met him?”
Duvaine looked as if she found the questions confusing but she didn’t protest. She probably didn’t know that she could protest at all. “He sent mother away, because she could be in danger, and she left before she knew she was with child. He never got to know about me”
Thranduil frowned. “Did she mention his name?”
Duvaine shook her head. “No, she only said that he was very tall, and very beautiful and terribly sad.”
Thranduil found that intriguing. It had to be a noldo, but who? “You are from a land very far south-east, have you lived there for a long time?”
She nodded. “For all my life, I was trained after my mother died, they believed that I could be the best and I am. I do no longer know how old I am my lord, I am sorry.”
Thranduil made a swift gesture, as if to make sure she didn’t think he blamed her for that. “That is alright Duvaine. It must be quite a shock to you, coming here, where things are so different.”
She swallowed. “It is so green my lord, and it smells so…different. There is so much life. “
Her accent made her hard to understand when she was getting eager but he did manage to piece the words together into something understandable. “I am glad you like it, we elves love the nature and we are more connected to it than humans. “
Duvaine looked nervous. “I hope that my mixed blood doesn’t disgust you my lord.”
Thranduil looked a bit shocked for a few seconds. “Absolutely not Duvaine, you look almost completely elven by the way, and you will fit in here quite well.”
She looked relieved. “ I am glad to hear that my lord, I live to serve”
Thranduil took a deep breath. “ I know that is how you have been raised and trained but here you are not a slave, not anymore. You are a free elleth and I will make sure that you learn all you need to make yourself a good life here among your kin”
She looked very confused. “ But, don’t you want me to serve you? Do you have females prettier than me in your harem? Or do you prefer males?”
If he had had wine in his mouth there and then he would have spat it all over the floor, he felt his cheeks burn a bit. “ Duvaine, we elves are not like humans, our customs are different in many ways. First of all, I do not have a harem.”
She looked extremely confused by that information. “But, all rulers have a harem? It shows wealth and power? “
He fought the urge to blush violently. “Not among our kin Duvaine. We have one mate and usually we do stay true to that one. And no, I do not prefer males.”
She almost gaped. “That…is odd”
He shrugged. “Not to us it isn’t, it is just natural.”
She frowned. “So, what…do you never touch anyone except from your mate?”
Thranduil squirmed in his seat. “Well, we can touch others yes, if both agree on it and it is alright with everybody involved but there can be no love involved, just physical pleasure. Our hearts are only for our one”
She looked as if she was thinking hard. “I am yours to order my lord, and I am very well trained, I assure you I know exactly how to bring a man so much pleasure it almost stops his heart. But, maybe elves are different from humans?”
He had to blush, there was no way around it. “No, I think we are pretty much the same there. But I will not push you into something Duvaine, I only wish to show you the way back to the people which you most resemble.”
She bit her lower lip. “ I do other things too, I am very good at calligraphy and I sing like an angel, and I dance very well too. Many have paid great fortunes to watch me dance.”
There was a naïve tone in her voice that was rather endearing and he realized that she didn’t have a lot of experience when it came to life at all. She couldn’t have seen that much. “So you dance and sing, and write. You have been educated I trust?”
She blushed. “ Oh yes, I read very well my lord, and I am very good at embroidery and I do make nice poems too. The ruler of my old land wouldn’t have sent anyone less than perfect”
She had probably only been allowed to read those things the masters wanted her to learn, it was a shame really. But she seemed to be intelligent enough and he was starting to make plans in his head. She ought to be given the opportunity to learn their history and the language and everything she needed to know in order to fit into the elven community.
She wet her lips. “Do you want me to dance for you my lord?”
Thranduil hesitated for a moment, she wore a very thin and flimsy gown that didn’t really hide anything and he had no doubt about the effect the sight of her dancing would have on him. “I would like for you to sing a little, I just want to hear your voice.”
She blushed and got up on her feet, she looked a bit relieved. She probably had no idea of how to behave around him if he didn’t make demands and she lifted her head and smiled. “This is a song my mother taught me, my father had taught it to her. “
Thranduil leaned back and she started singing and he was entranced right away, her voice was nothing short of amazing and it reminded him of the olden days when the great minstrels sang in the courts of the high kings. The song was bittersweet and sad and yet filled with an intense hope and energy, a longing and love that was touching his very heart. She sang for a while and when she stopped he had to discretely wipe away a tear from his eyes, he stared at her in awe. “That song, what is it called?”
She bowed her head, pleased with the fact that he had liked her song. “ It is called the song of tomorrow my lord, and my father made it for mother, so that she would remember that there always is hope.”
Chapter one: gifts given….
They came early one morning, the light of Anor hadn’t yet managed to color the sky and the beach had been very silent. He had laid curled up underneath a bush, trembling in uneasy sleep and too caught by his dreams to notice anything before it was too late. Hands were grasping him and he woke up with a start, gasping. Nobody had touched him for a very long time, so long he had lost track of time. Voices spoke in a language he didn’t know, he tried to fight but a cloth stinking of something strange was being pressed against his mouth and nose and he had to breathe. It made him dizzy right away and the world fell away from him, darkness enveloped him and his last thought was that whatever horrors it was that awaited him, he surely deserved it.
He woke up slowly, feeling nauseous and yet again that cloth was being held over his face, he gasped and struggled but everything disappeared again. It happened several times and he managed to notice that he was being transported. He felt a carriage move underneath him, felt scents and heard sounds he hadn’t heard for ages. Hands touched him, smeared his dry and cracked skin with ointments, washed his hair, oiled it, brushed it. He didn’t try to resist, he didn’t have the strength, he wasn’t able to think, to do anything really except await his destiny. Did they know who he was? Did they know what he had done? Or perhaps it didn’t matter?
They were men these who had captured him, he could smell it and their language was one he never had heard before. Sometimes the cloth smelled of something that was different, it only made him feel disoriented and weak, it was then they fed him. He was forced to eat and drink, and the food wasn’t bad at all, but he didn’t understand why they did this? What did they want?
Then he was taken onboard a boat of some sorts and chained to the floor. The place did stink of death and decay and rotten seawater and it made him nauseous. He could just sit there in the darkness and hope that he would see the sun again soon. There was a small opening in the hull not far from where he was placed and he would stretch himself as far as he could, trying to reach the tiny beam of light. To him it had become a life line, the only hope he had left. He was still being fed and taken care off but he felt sore and stiff since he couldn’t move and it almost drove him mad not knowing what was to happen next. Sometimes rough seas made him fear the boat would sink with him in it, and other times he was so thirsty due to the heat it made him desperate but he survived. He remembered what his brother had been through and surely this was nothing compared with the torment Maedhros had been through in the hands of Morgoth.
The sea journey ended, after what seemed like an eternity even to an elf. He was dragged from the boat in the middle of the night and suddenly it seemed like a safe haven, like a protected place where he had been shielded from everything. But he was yet again pushed into a carriage by rough hands and this time it resembled a cage more than anything else.
The smells changed, the sounds too. He had lost track of time, but he knew that he now was far south, and far east too. The sun was warmer than before and the nights darker. He had gotten stronger, they had put more of the light but strong chains onto him, shackles were around his wrists and ankles and a collar around his neck but they were padded as to protect his skin.
He didn’t understand.
Then one night he woke up and felt hands touching him but the touch was different, these hands were demanding, searching. They touched him in ways he didn’t like, in ways nobody was supposed to touch anyone. He tried to squirm, tried to get out of the way but the hands were still there, still eagerly stroking and caressing and his body did betray him, The hands in the darkness were so skilled, so determined , before long he shuddered and groaned in release and as soon as he had spilled he heard chuckling laughter and the hands disappeared. Someone was talking, they sounded pleased. He hadn’t really been afraid until then, but now fear started to dig its claws into his chest. What did these humans want?
The carriage rolled on, days turned to weeks and then into months and he was being fed and groomed and when he looked at his own limbs they had regained at least some of their strength and his hair was yet again like silk. The fear pulled him out of his apathy, made him more awake, more aware. He tried to listen to the voices, tried to learn the language. He tried to appear as docile as possible, hoped that the chains would come off but they didn’t. When they reached their destination he already knew what faith it was that awaited him, he was to be sold as a slave, as an exotic plaything for the rich. The thought made him shiver to the bone, made his heart hammer in his chest and sweat to break out all over him.
One of the people who had taken care of him came to get him, it was a tall slender man with a face that wasn’t too bad to look at, he did almost look friendly. He sat down and stared him strait in the eye. “ I pity you, don’t think that I am an evil man, I just did what I had to do, we all need to earn our living. And an elf is exotic and valuable here. They will take good care of you, fear not. If you behave well and please your master you will earn privileges, one day you may even get some influence, or your freedom back. Just don’t despair, use what the maker has given you.”
He swallowed, felt how his entire body shivered in fear. The man was right, if he was to survive this he had to play his cards right, use every opportunity. He didn’t want to die, he knew what awaited him on the other side of the veil that separated the world of the living from the halls of the dead, he was surely condemned. He pulled himself together, forced his trembling to stop. He had survived against great odds before, he would prove that he yet again could survive.
He was dragged from the cart and into bright sunlight, so bright it hurt his eyes and made him temporarily blind. He could smell scents so foreign to him and he heard sounds he never had even imagined. It was a city, and it was large. There was hard cobblestone underneath his feet and people everywhere, and the man who held his chain was joined by others who moved around him, guarding him almost. A huge cloak was thrown over him, and the chains were tight, there was nowhere for him to go. The smells became more intense as they approached the city gates, and by now he could see. And what he saw was breathtaking, a huge city build from stones in a soft pink hue, and sand colored bricks and its architecture and style was completely alien to him. There were humans everywhere, crowding the streets and the stench of excrements and sweat mixed with the smells coming from shops selling everything from food to cloth and jewelry. It was a mixture that sent his senses reeling and he gasped for air as he was dragged along. There were black people there, brown people, pale people. People wearing rags and people wearing silk and satin. There were men riding haughty elegant horses of a breed he had never seen before and also people riding some huge animal with a huge lump on its back.
The streets were filled with dogs and pigs and herds of goats, and beggars stood or lay on every corner and for a few moments he just forgot his fear in amazement of all this new that he saw. The buzz of the crowd was ear-piercing and he did notice that quite a few people turned their heads and stared at him. He was taller than anyone else there and even covered with a cloak he stood out in the crowd. The streets were rather narrow and terribly hot and the stench from the open sewer sometimes almost made him retch. Skinny children with eyes too large for their faces were staring from the alleys and he did see that this was a city of both splendor and horror mixed into one. Some buildings had high walls around them, heavily guarded gates and lovely murals painted onto the very walls. Other buildings were crumbling and housed only those without hope for a better future.
He was dragged along for quite a while, then they entered a huge square and he immediately understood that this was a slave marked. There were cages everywhere with people in them and he felt a sickening feeling in his guts. This was terrible, repulsive and just unnatural. He could smell fear, and despair and he saw that the square was sort of split into zones. The expensive slaves were sold at the top of the open area, and he was pulled in that direction. There was a huge tent erected in the shade and he was brought into it. A few men stood within the tent, all dressed in robes made from expensive cloth and they wore heavy jewelry and had their eyes marked with kohl. The man who had to be the leader grinned, a wide pleased grin and the man holding the chains bowed deeply and said something Maglor didn’t understand at all.
The man walked around the tall elf, eying him while letting his fingers play with his goatee, Maglor suddenly felt like a horse at an auction and he forced himself to remain calm. The man chuckled and suddenly he grasped onto the elf’s arm, felt the muscle. Maglor flinched and he felt how his heart was beating in a wild rhythm yet again. He felt rage, and humiliation and more than that he felt fear. Then his ass was pinched and he almost yelped and the man laughed, said something that made the rest of the men laugh as well. He was examined from every angle, his hair pulled and one man even opened his mouth and looked at his teeth. In the end the leader looked pleased and waved his hand and Maglor was lead into a sort of cage.
He felt trapped in more ways than just the physical one, he didn’t understand these humans and he had no way to control his own fate. Before long others started to arrive inside of the cage, all looked like very wealthy men and all stared at him. Some with curiosity, others with obvious lust and some with a sort of antagonism he didn’t understand. He could snatch up a few words here and there, some of the languages resembled that of those who had caught him. One man asked if it could speak. He had never ever been referred to as “it” and felt a burning ball of rage starting to form within his gut. He was not an animal, he was a son of Fëanor, blood of kings.
More came, watched, talked and some touched him, checked him over as if he was some animal they were considering buying.
He did understand the strategy though. The owner of the tent was the man who had ordered his capture, and he had allowed potential buyers to check the goods before they started bidding, to raise the price.
He could do nothing but to stand there, enduring the stares and the strange words while he was being glared at. He tried to hide his fear as best as he could while the humans discussed him. They obviously didn’t know anything about elves at all, and he heard some of them argue about whether or not this creature would be able to mate with a human female. But he did notice that they all found him beautiful and that they all wanted him and he wished he had been some scarred terrible thing, to repulsive to look at.
A slave brought some food, and he was allowed to eat. It was some fruits he never had tasted before, they were sweet and sticky but not too bad, and he was given some thin wine. It was sour and not good at all but he did drink it. He was also given some sort of stew, it tasted stale and the meat had to be that of some old goat for it was tough and dry. He ate slowly, not knowing when he would be allowed to eat next and then he tried to find some rest. There was a sort of a box placed within the cage and he sat down onto it, the humans didn’t protest so he guessed that it was alright. He used his keen eyes to learn as much as he could about his surroundings. The guards all carried scimitars and daggers, some had spears and they were well trained, he could see that clearly. There was one guard in special who apparently had to be a sort of special soldier, closer to the master than the rest. He also carried a whip and Maglor could see that it had been used, he felt the faint scent of old blood and cringed. This man took care of the discipline among the slaves, that was rather obvious.
The master was a rather handsome man who couldn’t be all that old, perhaps in his early thirties, he looked as if he was well aware of his power and there was a hint of ruthlessness in his eyes that made Maglor quite sure he had made a fortune from the sufferings of others without ever doubting himself. The evening fell and the master was being served a huge meal with many dishes, some of his friends were gathering around him and Maglor tried to listen to their conversation. The men drank heavily and laughed a lot, the master drank too but not as much as the others, he was obviously very cunning and aware of the dangers of losing control. There was almost a sort of party taking place and Maglor saw that they ate with their fingers and had small bowls of water placed next to them to clean their fingers in. When it got dark a tall man wearing some sort of uniform entered and three veiled women followed him. The master clapped his hands and the men fell silent, they all looked at the women in anticipation.
A small man wearing rags entered carrying a sort of instrument Maglor hadn’t seen before, and he immediately got interested. It was a string instrument with three strings and a bow and the man sat down on the floor and started playing. It was a very slow tune, with a sort of hypnotic quality to it and the women started to dance.
Maglor had never seen such dance, all of them wore some sort of flimsy and short top made from a very thin fabric and a type of very wide pants that almost resembled skirts. Their skin was decorated with gold dust and the faces veiled so only their eyes showed. The movements were sensual and slow and very elegant and he sort of understood that these females were professional and probably very valuable. The men clapped and cheered and the women danced for quite a while, and he was impressed although shocked by their lack of inhibitions. Some of the moves were so blatantly sexual it had to be done on purpose and he did notice that everybody there had forgotten about him.
The dancers were finished and left and the master shouted an order and the tall man left and returned with a girl who clearly had to be a slave. She looked terrified and she was wearing only a thin robe she tried to pull tight around herself. The master chuckled and said something and the others there were obviously waiting in suspense. He pointed at one of the other men assembled and he got up, looking very sly and pleased. He walked over to the girl who tried to back away from him but the man grasped onto her long braid and pulled her close, kissed her clumsily but with force and the girl screamed and tried to get away from him.
Maglor felt dizzy, nauseous. He couldn’t believe what he just saw, that humans could be that evil, that uncaring. The man forced the girl down onto the floor and ripped the fabric away from her body, she was screaming and crying and the others there were just laughing, as if it was a joke, as if this poor girl was just a funny thing to play with. The man got on top of her and Maglor turned his head away, he couldn’t watch. The man raped that girl and she screamed in agony and fear and Maglor felt hot tears flowing down his own cheeks. If the value of a human was that low there, then what about himself? He would have preferred being captured by Morgoth, at least he had known that enemy, and known what sort of torment he could expect. The man finished with a roar and then the others also took the poor thing, laughing and obviously making jokes about her.
When they were all finished the girl was unconscious and bleeding badly and the tall man came and just dragged her out of the tent, as if she was a slaughtered animal. Maglor felt cold to the core, he had ended up in hell for sure and he didn’t dare to sleep that night. He just sat there as the others in the tent snored and groaned, too caught by the horror of it all to relax even a wee bit.
The daylight brought only more fear, the tent was being cleaned by slaves that didn’t even dare to look at him and he was being fed again. Bread and some sort of bitter tasting cheese and a thin soup that tasted of nothing at all. Then he was dragged out of the cage and chained up in the middle of the tent and the master reappeared, seemingly very fresh and well rested. Huge pillows were brought in and before long the men who had looked at him the day before started arriving. This was an auction and he felt as if he was about to throw back up again all of his breakfast. He stood there with his hands up and the master grinned and ripped off him the dirty loincloth that had protected his modesty at least to some degree.
Maglor tried to control his breathing, tried to remain in control of himself but it was hard, he bit his teeth together so hard his jaw was aching and he kept praying in his mind. Praying for this nightmare to end, for Namo to claim his fëa there and then before he was to suffer the same fate as that poor slavegirl. The void was to prefer if a similar destiny awaited him. The men talked to each other and the atmosphere was cheerful but tense. A huge man entered the tent, he was wearing some robes in glary colors and he carried a sort of very wide scimitar and a ridiculously small hat. He was fat, and the body looked as if he was eating most of the time but there was a sly glimpse within his eyes and he acted as though he was the boss there. Even the master of the tent bowed to him and the man asked something with a voice that was thin and light and not at all suitable for a man of that size. The huge guy was sweating and fanned himself all the time and sat down onto the pillows with a groan. The others didn’t look too happy to see him.
The master of the tent spoke, he pointed at the chained elf and he kept speaking for a while, Maglor wished that he did understand what he was saying but not a word was familiar. Then the master crossed his arms and nodded and a scribe entered carrying a sort of blackboard and he started writing something down, it had to be the names of those present.
The men started shouting, gesturing and pointing and Maglor knew that this was it. He would go to the highest bidder for sure and he felt like weeping. He realized that he, a grown ellon with thousands of years of life behind him, missed his mother. She had protected him when he was an elfling and something had scared him and he swallowed again and again to hide his distress.
The voices were getting more and more agitated and the shouts rather loud. The only one not shouting was the huge fat man, he only raised a finger and the scribe added something to the blackboard and Maglor realized that this man probably was working for somebody else. He was obviously bidding over the others there and soon the other men started falling silent. They couldn’t afford the level the bids had reached and at the end only the fat guy and a small man dressed in what could best be described as a dress did bid.
The master looked very pleased, he was grinning from one ear to the other and bowed very politely to the two. The scribe was writing very fast and Maglor felt his heart beat like a drum. Then at the end the fat man raised two fingers and the other man let out what could only be a curse and shrugged, he sat down and the master of the tent bowed before the fat man and said something that sounded very respectful.
Maglor shivered, what now? He couldn’t fight, there were too many guards there and he was still weak. The fat man got up with a moan and shouted and some tall guards wearing some very nice armor and uniforms entered the tent and grasped onto the chains the master released from the tent post. The fat man handed over a huge sack of what could only be gold coins to the master of the tent who looked almost overwhelmed and Maglor was yet again dragged forth. The guards stared at him with clear curiosity and the fat man frowned and yelled something that made them look the other way. Maglor was grasped and his arms bound behind his back, then he was pushed out of the tent and into a sort of wagon. He was chained to the floor of it and it was dark and the air inside of it was heavy and hot and he felt how fear and despair threatened to overwhelm him. He had to fight his urge to pull and tear at the chains with all of his power, he knew it would be in vain.
The wagon started moving and he heard the city again, felt the smells and heard foreign languages. He was alone, so terribly alone and he had no idea of what to do now. What the man who lead him to the marked had told him reemerged in his mind, he had to use whatever the gods had given him to stay alive. He was so tired, so weak and he was shaking all over with fatigue but he managed to stay awake. After a long drive the sounds changed, there was no more shouting and he heard the sound of gates being opened. The one who had bought him had to be rich, this had to be some sort of mansion or palace and he knew that nothing does corrupt like power. He was sweating by the time the wagon stopped and the door was opened. A servant dressed in a vest and sort of skirt released the chains and pulled him out of the wagon and he saw tall walls everywhere with strange mosaics instead of windows. He was then handled by some guards who dragged him in through a door and then into corridors that seemed to stretch on forever. This was no mansion, this was a palace.
He lost track of where he had gone, there were stairs and corridors and gates and after a while they stopped in front of a very solid door that was heavily guarded. He was then handed over to some other servants and they dragged him along for yet more corridors and huge rooms. The building was not too warm and the scents of flowers were heavy everywhere. He had no idea of what this was supposed to mean. At the end he was shoved into a room that had to be some sort of bedroom. It was not too bad, with a rather large bed, a washstand and a closet but it had no window and only one door and that could be locked. The servants gestured for him to sit down and he did, reluctantly and with a dry throat. The servants removed the chains and washed the red marks where they had rested against his skin. Then they came with a sort of collar made from silver and he almost resisted as they put it onto him and screwed it shut. He felt how his guts sort of turned to lead, he was a slave now. Property, a thing to be used and discarded off when he no longer had a value, or simply at a whim. He felt himself shiver again, remembered that slavegirl and he would rather slash his own throat than to suffer that fate.
The servants then dragged him out of the room and into a huge bath that had several pools. He was ordered into one of them with gestures and a small slender elderly man started washing him as if he was some racehorse hard ridden. His hair was washed too, and oiled and brushed and although it felt good to be rid of all the dust it didn’t lift his mood at all. He was getting more and more afraid and the old man looked at him with a hint of pity in his eyes. When he was dry he was given a sort of cloth to wear draped around his waist and he was taken back to the room. Some food was waiting for him and it was very nice, a huge bowl of stew and rice and fresh juice of some sorts and soft bread. The owner of this place did obviously feed his slaves well, Maglor wasn’t hungry but he forced himself to eat, just so that he could keep his mind occupied for a while.
The servants left and the door was locked behind them, he realized that he was all alone and he slowly laid down onto the bed and tried to relax. He quickly understood that he couldn’t, he was shivering still, and tears were burning in his eyes. He pulled the thin blanket over himself, the bed was soft but a bit too short and it smelled funny. Everything was so strange and he forced himself to breathe steadily. He was alive, that was the only thing he knew for sure right now and if he was to stay that way he had to use all he had learned throughout his life. He stared at his palms, they were still scarred by the silmaril and the scars would never fade completely. He just knew that. He remembered them all, all of his lost brothers and he let his tears run freely now. He sobbed and pulled his knees up towards his chest, let the grief and the fear drain from his body. He missed them all, he missed them so badly it burned within his heart like a never dying flame and his sobs turned into a stuttering lament for his brothers, and for himself. He should have had the courage to follow Maedhros into that fiery chasm, at least that had been a quick clean death. Now he was at the mercy of wicked humans and he did doubt that Eru would listen to his prayers, no, he was forlorn and forgotten and if he was to perish in this land of sand and heat who would ever care? He wept until his fatigue got the better of him and he fell into restless sleep.
He woke up to the sound of the lock being opened and he jerked and sat up, his head hurt and he felt the remains of tears on his face. A young boy entered, he looked harmless and wore a collar too, although it wasn’t made from silver but from what had to be bronze. He carried some water in a bucket and a basket of fruit and he smiled.
Maglor tried to look harmless, he didn’t want to make enemies the first day there and the boy filled a washbowl and then he opened a narrow door Maglor hadn’t even noticed before. It contained a sort of privy and Maglor blushed. He had to go, he hadn’t even thought of it until now but he got up and entered, he felt a bit better with an empty bladder and the boy pointed at the basked. Maglor walked over and picked out a fruit, he had no idea of how to eat it for the skin was oily and thick and the boy giggled and had to find it hilarious. He grasped the fruit and then he suddenly had a small knife in his hand and cut the fruit into smaller pieces with experienced hands. Maglor sniffed, the smell was sweet and very tempting and he took one bite and found that it was rather wonderful. The boy nodded and went over to the closet. He pulled out a drawer and it was filled with cloth and pulled forth what had to be a loincloth made from blue silk and a sash in the same material. Maglor felt embarrassed. The boy obviously expected to help Maglor getting dressed and that idea that a slave could have slaves was something he had problems understanding.
Maglor got the darn piece of clothing on and the boy nodded with a pleased expression on his face. Maglor felt half naked, but in this heat he supposed that it was very practical. The boy pointed at his own chest with his thumb. “Kôr”
Maglor frowned. “Is that your name, Kôr?”
The boy repeated the gesture and Maglor pointed at himself.” Macaläure Fëanorion Finwëion”
Kôr just gaped and made a gesture with his hands as if to shrink something. “Maglor”
Kôr gave him a thumbs up and smiled. “Ma-g-lor”
It was barely recognizable as his name but he nodded. “Yes, Maglor”
The boy smiled. “Come”
He pulled at Maglor’s arm and Maglor could only follow him. The guard on the other side of the door did stop them and put some light chains onto Maglor’s wrist but they weren’t tight and obviously only a safety precaution in case the new slave turned out to be a bit rebellious. Kôr walked ahead of him through some very beautiful corridors and rooms and then they entered a huge hall filled with comfortable furniture. Maglor had to blink, he had never seen a room like that and neither had he seen people like those assembled there. He just stared until a deep pleasant voice suddenly broke through the shocked silence. “ My oh my, so it is true. That old son of an ogre have indeed managed to get his hands on one of the eternal. I never believed I would see something like you beautiful one”
The language was understandable but just barely and Maglor turned around slowly and let out a yelp when he saw the man staring at him. He had never even imagined a creature like this.