It was a long time before I saw another elf.
I had been blindfolded all throughout the numberless days until darkness was the only companion I had. I grew accustomed to its eternal presence and it was the only thing on which I could rely. It wrapped itself so tightly around me that it blinded me from a new sensation that I began to carry with me. I cannot recall the moment when I first felt it, nor do I remember how long it had been with me.
Dread accompanied the darkness and me now.
It lay heavily on my chest, but I did not discern it as anything separate from the gnawing of hunger in my stomach, the dead weight of my tired feet, or the ache of bruises beneath my skin.
Yet Dol Guldur emanates a malice and unwholesomeness entirely separate from that which shrouds the rest of Mirkwood, and I knew the moment I stepped across the threshold of the fortress. As my blindfold was removed, I was released from my blindness and shackled by another captor at once. The dread that had been building unobtrusively within me surfaced and clamped down, suffocating me.
I had thought it a blessing that the orcs chose this precise moment to throw me into the companionship of other prisoners such as me. They, my kin but still strangers nevertheless, opened their arms to me and whispered soothing things in my ear. I remember nothing of what they said to me, but it kept me inhaling the stale air against the dread that threatened to squeeze my breath from me. It seemed a mercy to me back then that they would let us huddle together in the main chamber of the prison, arm locked in arm, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, sustaining each other with our touches and looks – even if they were cold and empty.
But now I wonder if it was not a trick. Cunning are the servants of the enemy. They left us alone for many days. Each day proved the same: uneventful. I grew desensitized to the dread…I ignored its warning, the only usefulness it had. Instead, I trusted in the comfort of my kin’s tattered clothing and the embrace of their flesh. Just when I thought I might sense warmth and light in their touch…
They began taking us away, one by one, down a corridor none of us could see beyond. Groans and screams reached out to us from the passageway, but we never again saw the elves that were taken away.
They toyed with us that way – adding new prisoners to our midst every few days and taking them away, only after they had drawn some peace from their kin and had relaxed their guard…only after they had formed some attachment to the ones that held them together.
There were times when I would unclench my grip from my kin’s arms and think: Let me go. I would rather face my end than waver exhaustingly between false hope and despair.
But I was not so brave as that. I only needed to imagine what may lay in wait for me down the corridor to renew my grip and dependence on the other prisoners.