You had all the time you needed to muse about what exactly had gone so wrong. Locked between four cold walls of living stone, you sat on a small worn rug, your uncomfortable bed for the next… You were not so sure how long exactly but a tiny voice from the depths of your mind told you it would be for a very, very long time.
All had been fine at the beginning. You had entered the colossal vestibules of Thranduil’s Halls completely unseen as many times previous and in there you had been hiding in the dark corners of the endless passages and tunnels for days. That is, until you found the way to the armoury. You had waited another couple of days in the corners where the light did not touch, waiting until you were able to sneak into the most guarded room in the entire kingdom. Once entered, you had slipped back out without activating the protection spells or bringing yourself to the attention of the guards. You had taken nothing that you thought the guards would miss, just the old, almost obsolete effects: one ordinary longbow, an old quiver and a couple of arrows. The rare archaic swords, daggers and magic bows had interested you not. None of those could possibly be changed in this realm and you needed some food to take on your way out of the kingdom, to take your way back home.
Home… You smirked at that memory for you had never had a true, warm home. As far as you could remember, you had never had an honest, loving family. You had been raised by a wandering scum and thus you had been influenced into becoming one. Your life had been difficult; you travelled from one corner of Arda to another, until finally your steps had found their way to Greenwood the Great. It soon became your shelter, your home, your dominion where you learned how to hunt, to track, to survive on your own. You felt renewed when surrounded by a living forest and you had become friends with forest animals; you had found your peace in your mind and soul. Then after some time a foul magic tainted the forest and the once emerald realm full of life turned into the dank and poisoned Mirkwood, a corrupted and dying forest. Corruption spread from the ruins of Amon Lanc, now known as Dol Guldur - the former palace of king Oropher, first Sindar ruler of Woodland realm. His only son and heir, Thranduil, resided to the northern part of the forest, leaving the fortress once owned by his father abandoned. The Elvenking had sheltered himself in the enormous caves not far from the human town named Esgaroth and the dwarven kingdom of Erebor. Due to the spreading sickness of the forest and the corruption taunting every living creature and plant within it you were forced to travel north as well. You found yourself in the land of Woodland elves that were ruled by their king Thranduil for now more than a millennia. You had been hiding for more than a century and none of the elven patrols had ever been able to found you. You survived unnoticed when the giant fell spiders came from the south; the spawns of Dol Guldur and its engulfing power. You watched the dwarven company whilst captured by Legolas, the prince of the Woodland realm, and followed them until they crossed the enormous gate of Thranduil’s Halls. That was when you got the bold idea of stealing from the mighty Elvenking.
You had no memories of who your parents were. You were sure that you were no human, even though you looked like one and were raised by them. You were average size, a little corpulent in your opinion and you had [length, colour] hair and [colour] eyes. The colour of your gaze was something unusual amongst humans and you had always imagined that it was your inheritance from your mother who surely was beautiful, perhaps even noble. You were growing painfully slow, as at your age of fifty you were still looking like a youth. From the tales your elders used to tell you, you knew that you should be an elf – but you had ugly human ears. Your ears – you were almost certain about it – were the reason why your parents apparently rejected you. They had abandoned you as an infant and if there had not been any human hunters to find you in the woods, you would surely be dead today. Thus, you had been raised in the realm of men as one of them. They had taught you everything you knew, and passed onto you all the knowledge they had accumulated in their short lives. After fifty years you decided to leave as it was more than evident that you did not belong with them. Since then you had been living on your own, here and there with these and those, until your wandering had brought you to the Mirkwood and the human vagabonds. Whilst staying with them you had learned how to steal in order to survive and to not harm others. You have been trying to be righteous and not steal from the poor, but this was the Thranduil’s palace, was it not?
You were caught whilst you were sneaking through the underground gardens, the pride of the Elvenking himself for he had been the one who had established them and had been taking care of them since. You were famished from your endless waiting in the dark corners. Thus, seeing fruits prepared for another of his numerous feasts you were unable to resist and plucked an apple from the silver plate. That had been your undoing.
“There! A thief! Stop him!” You heard the voice of a patrolling guard on the high passage above the gardens, alarming another guard standing at one of the two entrances; standing with their backs turned to you until now. You glanced behind yourself to check your ground and let the apple fall from your hand. Two heavily armed guards were running towards you, more of them about to come. You grabbed the bow and ran towards the shadows where you had sensed a rather small opening, hopefully leading to some long forgotten tunnel or unknown passage.
“Stop him!” The guardian that spotted you shouted at his counterparts. “Catch him!”
“Catch the thief!” Numerous voices were engulfing you, making you run even faster. It was your only chance to escape, to outrun them and hide yourself. You had heard stories about king Thranduil’s dungeons and you were not eager to know them first-hand.
You were lucky that you were hiding under your dark cape. The guards could easily have mistaken you to be another little urchin from Laketown... Or so you thought. You avoided three more soldiers that were running towards you from the second entrance, but the guardian from the upper level, unfortunately one of the royal archers, aimed at you. His arrow hit you right in the thigh. Sharp pain spread from the wound and you collapsed to the ground. Though you were a mere ten steps from your target, escape was not possible as you writhed in pain. Guardians half-circled you, threatening to have your head with their swords pointing at your throat. One of the guards, bearing the sigil of the kingdom on his chest, which you knew was a sign of a captain, ordered his subordinates to disarm you. You had no other choice than to comply, handing another guard the bow you stole as well the quiver and the dagger you kept hidden in your right boot.
“Take him to the dungeons!” The captain ordered after your weapons were safe in the hands of the other elves. He smirked at you slyly. “I shall speak to him later,” He said, emphasizing the word ’speak’. You knew what that would mean; he would interrogate you and you were not going to enjoy the experience.
“What an unusual day…” Came a voice from a short distance away. Hearing its smoothness and power, you shivered on the ground involuntarily.
The guards that already were holding your upper arm let go off you and made a free space for the owner of this heavenly but menacing voice.
You had heard tales about the Elvenking ever since your early youth but none of them had been accurate. He was the tallest being you had ever seen, taller than an elf ever should be. He was several thousand years old and because of that, his powerful aura was emanating from him; one could almost touch it. Dressed in the finest silver brocades he moved slowly with his head held high and proud.
You turned your sight down just before your eyes met and bowed yourself awkwardly. Muscles in your wounded leg were twitching painfully but you forced yourself to stay bowed as the king had not allowed you to raise your head.
“What is happening here?” The king asked in a glacial tone, knowing that you were not one of his kin but an intruder. His tone made you gulp as you recalled how he had treated the dwarves that had interrupted the Feast of Starlight one year previous.
“He is a thief, my Lord,” The captain of the guard answered immediately. “We caught him during his attempt to escape.”
Another guard pulled off your cape then. Your long hair cascaded down your arms, leaving no doubts of your true gender. Even the captain was rendered speechless by the sight of you.
“How surprising...” The king began as he looked you up and down, his voice dripping as sweet and as slow as honey. “A female thief.” He made a complete circle around you, touching your uncombed hair when he was standing behind you. Then he continued his speech, glaring at you whilst addressing his guards. “How did a human female enter my halls, find her way to the armoury and manage to steal from there?” Then he finally let go. You exhaled in relief silently.
“We will investigate the matter, my Lord.” It was again the captain that answered. “Right after we escort her to the dungeons,” He added then after noticing a small frown spreading through the Elvenking’s face.
“You had better,” The king said coldly, his voice threatening. Then he shifted his eyes. “Is this all that she stole?”
“Yes, my Lord. A bow, a quiver and arrows, nothing more. The dagger is hers.” The guard answered.
You had been standing there looking confused for they had been talking in their woodland dialect, though you could understand almost everything. You had learnt it whilst listening to them as you had been observing them for decades, but there was no reason to let them know that. No one asked you anything and you felt that your voice escaped you anyway.
“Simple, ordinary bow and the arrows? Not the countless treasures of my household?” The king asked silently. “What use do they have for a thief?” He took a few arrows and lifted your chin with them, even if your sight remained turned down. You had not enough courage nor strength to face the Elvenking’s apparent anger.
“Are you an archer?” He asked you after a rather long and unpleasant silence. You gave him confirmation with a single nod. His tone then became even more aggravated. “Answer me properly, girl.”
You had to clear your throat first. “Yes, my lord,” You uttered, not knowing if you are allowed to call him that. He was not your king after all.
“A good one?” He continued to question you, his aggravation turning slowly to interest.
“I would like to think so, my Lord.” You then answered with renewed faith in yourself. As an archer, you could match with his royal guards… if not outmatch them.
“Better than mine?” He mocked you mercilessly as if reading your thoughts. You blushed. “Then, I shall see.” The king asked for the apple you intended to pluck and the captain gave it him immediately. The sun behind the king blinded you, reflected more so from the one of his two silver rings. He had another two on his left hand. “A bow and one arrow, give them to her,” The king commanded further.
“But my Lord..." The captain began to try to change his mind, but the king cut him off by raising his hand. There would be no arguments on the issue.
You took the bow and the single arrow the guard handed you and waited for the king's command. You swallowed hard and felt an almost painful lump form in your throat when you saw a sly grin spreading across his beautiful face. Then you realised you were looking directly into his cerulean eyes so you lowered your gaze once more, rather ashamed. What were you thinking?, you scolded yourself.
The king stood back from you at a distance of about twenty steps and turned to face you. “I want you to shoot the apple from my hand.”
Your eyes widened in shock. The king held that apple in his right hand next to his body. With an arrow in your leg, it was an almost impossible task to shoot it down without wounding the king. You saw him smirking and you realised he was well aware of it. However with your skill you saw another way. You aimed at the apple first but then you changed targets and aimed at the king’s chest. “Let me go!” You whispered, yet you knew he was able to hear you from where he stood. The guards nearest to you too indeed heard your words for they reached for the hilts of their swords. Your eyes turned to the king’s to check his reaction, your demeanour calm and cool. Though, you were perhaps more scared than king himself. Indeed, his eyes were deep but bright, without any trace of fear. His gaze was majestic and wise, noble and arrogant. He had faced far more dreadful foes than your pathetic arrow and had survived. He stopped the guards by raising his hand up again, his demeanour rather amused.
“Are you about to shoot me, the Elvenking?” He asked without a single emotion in his voice as he imprisoned you in his stare. And imprisoned you indeed were, your spine melting.
You composed yourself with shaking your head, your eyes still focused on him. “Let me go!” You repeated patiently, your voice lowered by a growing menace. “I will shoot, I swear!” You stretched the bowstring.
“By all means, do it.” The king bid you as if you were offering him a flask of his favourite Dorwinion wine; you robbed the Esgarothians that delivered it on a frequent basis.
Looking in his icy-blue eyes, you fired.
Arda - the world
Amon Lanc - former residance of Oropher, king of the Woodland realm
Dol Guldur - Amon Lanc after corruption
Esgaroth - Laketown
Erebor - dwarven kingdom located under the Lonely Mountain