Cling and Clatter: Part I
by Jules

Chapter One. - The Village

Catch your breath
hit the wall
scream out loud
as you start to crawl
back in your cage
the only place
where they will
leave you alone

He trudged his way back to his cell, iron ankle shackles clanking like an audible reminder of his imprisonment. Like he needed reminding. It had been 6 months that he'd been forced to work as slave labour, tending fields, breaking in horses and doing general ill work. He was one of many slaves in the heinous village; each forced to do menial or physical labour as 'payment' for encroaching upon the lands of the village. Most were travelers, much like himself, not knowing the so called 'hospitality' was a ruse, drugging travelers with meals and drink, chaining them, and setting them to work in the fields. The people of the village had a relatively easy life, spending their time wining, dining and dancing away the hours while their free-labour toiled and provided for the community. It was a village based on deceit, the villagers being content to 'recruit' workers, and the workers not having any say in the matter at all. He'd had nearly escaped once, making it out of the cell blocks and into the stables before one of the guards placed a well aimed arrow into the back of his thigh, easily incapacitating him. They'd put him in solid iron ankle and wrist shackles after that as punishment, only releasing him when he was locked within the confines of the enclosed roundyard while breaking a horse. It was a humiliating existence, first losing his home and family, and now returning for the anniversary of the incident, he was enslaved by hostile villagers and forced to do work not worthy of hobbits and elvish fieldsmen.

He fell onto the hard mat on the floor that served as a bed, ignoring his aching muscles and joints as they impacted with the almost solid surface. His eyes started to glaze over in sleep as his pathetic excuse for a meal was shoved under the bars of his door. He hurt all over, even his elven stamina was nothing compared with an endless barrage of ill-tempered, badly handled horses that were to be broken in. All were sent to the human breakers first, and finding them far too dangerous to continue with, were sent onto Legolas. So frightened were the poor beasts that they resorted to using their heels and teeth to ward off any oncomer, including the Elf. He had tried talking to them, easing their fears before attempting to strap the hideous excuse for leatherwear onto their backs and around their faces. Elvish horses needed none of the barbaric devices that the villagers used, yet he'd long ago given up trying to teach these horses the Elven way. The poor beasts would be sent almost straight back to him, along with 50 lashings for not doing the job properly. He ended up using a combination of both Elvish and Human training methods, finally making the poor animals accept the saddle, bridle and harness.

Groaning slightly he reached out a bruised hand towards the chipped grotty bowl that contained the pitiful excuse of his meal. A watery broth and a soggy piece of bread were his rations for the entire day, barely keeping him functioning, let alone allowing him the energy he needed to formulate an escape plan. To him, this was a never-ending cycle of brutality, slavery and hopelessness.

Not even bothering to sit up he slowly ate his meal, ignoring the bad taste and stale smell of the bread. He knew it was either that or nothing, which he had of course tried at the beginning, earning him more lashings for fainting in the field due to malnutrition. Setting the now empty bowl back near the door he stretched out on the thin mattress, reliving the joyous events of his past in his mind, the Fellowship, his first bullseye, beating his brother in archery. His mind wandered until the exhaustion brought slumber to him, his body trying in vain to recuperate before the next day.

'Cause the weak will seek the weaker until they've broken them
could you get it back again
would it be the same

Dawn arrived with the usual ringing of the 'waking' bell; its harsh clanging enough to rattle the bones let one wake anyone up. Groaning with effort Legolas rose to stand by his door, ready for the guards to take him to the roundyard for another day of breaking. Following the harsh tug on his chains he followed the guard down the dank corridor, not paying attention to the other slaves the guard collected on his way past the cells. It was customary to gather all the slaves doing the same chore at once, less effort for the guards of course. A tall dark human was pulled from a nondescript dark cell, almost colliding with Legolas as his chains received a sharp yank. The battered human muttered something by the way of an apology when Legolas noticed something different about him. He looked slightly familiar, yet it was obvious he was not coping with the harsh life of the slaves. He face, hands and clothing bore the marks of numerous lashings, as did the haunting look in his eyes. Dismissing the thought that someone might actually KNOW him here Legolas continued after the guard, knowing that if he were caught hesitating he would be lashed again. It was no surprise when the human was roughly pushed into the same roundyard as the Elf, the guard muttering something about 'stupid human might fair better with the nags' as he locked and bolted the only door, leaving the two alone with a selection of angry and frightened equines.

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