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Under the Madness

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The elfin stalked along the borders with bow drawn, arrow quivering between her nimble fingers. Her breathing was slow, deliberate, quiet. There had been no more spider nests for some time, but there had been signs of darker things, though her king, the Elf-Lord, refused to see that there were darker things moving. His sight of what was best for his realm limited what he saw as a whole, and it angered the elfin. Though she loved her King - she adored him and worshiped him actually, she could not agree with his blindness to the other creatures and beings of Middle-Earth.

"No spiders. No tracks. This was where the activity was reported this week, but there appears to be no signs of the activity that was seen by Eri. I wonder. If not here, then where? If so, who?" She questioned out loud, the dark forest shrouding her question almost ominously as the wind picked up in the trees and branches clattered all around her. Her sharp eyes narrowed at each movement, above, below, and around all sides of her. She suppressed a cringe. She felt like she was being watched by something or someone, and that feeling never failed to bother her and to allow her to let her mind play tricks on her though she knew better then to let feelings dictate how she approached things in the field.

A smell assaulted her nose that made it crunch up and she stopped and glanced around herself. Subconsciously checking all sides of herself. The winds were gusting strongly and branches and undergrowth creaked, leaves were blowing and catching in her braided hair. "What is that?" She murmured and ran a hand down her arm, letting her bow go lax in her hand, the arrow pinched in her fingers still. A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention and lightning fast an arrow was loosed at the source, a rock rolling down a small hill. It had sounded larger and the arrow slamming into the earth nearby was deafening and almost muted the sounds all around her. Her guard was not back in place soon enough when the next sound came.

A branch cracked to the west of her, a foot crunched on the undergrowth of the woodland, and the she-elf whirled around still distracted by her firing an arrow at nothing, something hard catching her cheek, and the feel of blood oozing down her chin, and she lost sight of the world and all went black.

--

The harps were being played and most of the elves were joyously drinking and making merry with songs of joy. There were some that were not addling themselves with the spirits, such as the Prince Legolas, and the royal protective guard, and the border patrols for the evening. Staunchly the royal protective guard stood by the King Thranduil's place at the table, the rest fanned out to the walls and entrances, Legolas left unprotected as far as most were concerned, but he also vehemently protested royal protective guard surrounding him as he was skilled with weapons himself.

The Princeling's eyes scanned the tables, the dancing elves, the harp players, the border guards, and yet there was no trace of his dearest friend, Tauriel. 'Absent again. Father must surely notice.' Legolas mused to himself. He had no question of where she was, as she was not at the tables or around the proximity of the guards or himself and his father, she must be 'Out patrolling alone once more.'

An elf maiden came up to the table and bowed before speaking.

"My great King Thranduil, and my high Prince Legolas." She started, it was clear the direction and Thranduil dipped his head in the direction of Legolas, much to his chagrin, as an invitation to continue "I would like to accompany you, my great prince onto the dance floor this barren, starless night." She requested humbly, but with confidence.

Thranduil wore veiled amusement. Legolas hated that. Among other things of course, but his Father's arrogance and lack of true emotion outside of self-pleasure, drove the kinder things of Legolas to despair. That, and he despised dancing and being made the sport of the elf-maidens for the amusement of others. For a moment, he considered declining the offer and going out into the starless night to enjoy the company of himself and his thoughts, but ever the loyal prince and friends to his people he rose, bowed to her, and swept her out to the floor to dance.

--

'Why does my head hurt so?' Tauriel struggled to open her eyes, her head was swimming and the thoughts that came through were heavily distorted, she felt ill, uncommon feelings for an elf. Her eyes refused to open, at least for more then a few seconds. Every time she tried, she seemed to be able to do less and less and a tired feeling unlike any she had ever known settled on her. 'Why is this happening? Where am I?' Tauriel's thoughts became clearer, her head pounded all the more though. She focused on breathing slowly, centering herself, before trying anything else. She needed to use her other senses to evaluate the situation. She was clearly in danger. Someone or something of great strength had obviously caught her unawares and whacked her senseless. No one knew where she was. And...

"Elf-maidens. Easy pickings. This one din't even put much fight, caught her good. That club did good. Mighta gone better if Rhu had hit harder. Elves are hard to fell, damn near impossible, it has been long since I smelt elf-blood, sickeningly pure but it tastes good smeared on me fingers." A coarse but jolly voice discussed.

"I think we ought to leave it, as a warning. If they come near to these borders agin, they will suffer losses. Let it bleed, that cut on her neck is foul and will be fouler still in near time." A smoother but louder voice suggested.

They paused their stamping of feet and thundering steps. "Maybe right, but let's take it down toward the waters, leave it there, cause it might drive them to us and we can give them all a good scare, get some meat. This one is too," he paused looking for words "too goody, the meat would taste of sweet things, I like them bitter tastes like the old roots and blood of fine elks."

Tauriel felt rough hands assailing her body, but there was no strength in her to fight. Her mind was muddled and the wounds she had, though she only remembered the blow to her cheek, affected her entire body. 'Poison perhaps.' She mused darkly. All her years of training, time spent protecting people, saving the day, and it came to being left out by the river to die as a sign to her kinsmen. A tear found its way down her cheek 'Perhaps Thranduil will see the madness now.' And she lost the world once more to the blackness as her head and limbs made contact with rocks as the orcs drug her along carelessly dumping her beside the dark river that roared.

--

Thranduil found himself thoroughly entertained by the elf-maidens seeking Legolas as a dance partner. The prince was fluid and could handle any dance move with finesse and graces but yet his own style that did not match any of what he learned in his youth from the instructors of the court. But, his attention was drawn away from the festivities by the lack of the red-haired silvan elf. Tauriel. He had taken her in many hundreds of years before, watching a battle-scarred elfin make her way into his court, and into his heart, little by little. His brows knitted together in concern and he excused himself from the feast and merry-making.

"Have you seen Tauriel this eve?" He questioned the guard on duty at the door, Galion.

The elf shook his head "No, your liege, she went out early this afternoon to scout the farthest borders for any signs of mishap, she told me not to say, but I am worried for her, she should have been back before now." The elf had been standing steady until Thranduil came up, he swept out the doors almost knocking him to the floor in the process.

"Gather up Legolas, Eri, and Fen." Thranduil bellowed. "Instruct them as to where to find me." He added and called his great beast, mounting without a protective guard, or anyone aside him. He urged his beast to take haste into the night.