Chapter Seventeen: Wherein I become prisoner of the elves.
I must admit that I slept well, notwithstanding the fact that I was using a rock for my pillow, and I had no mattress but the bare ground, and I hadn’t even my own blanket to keep warm. I slept well. I slept well until just before dawn, when suddenly, which is to say all of a sudden and without warning, I felt the weight of several bodies fall upon me. I struggled and threw one or two punches that found their targets, but having been attacked in my sleep and no doubt lulled into a state of drowsiness by elven magic, it was inevitable that I was overpowered. They took me captive, which is to say they tied my hands behind my back, gagged me, and put a sack over my head. Then they hobbled my legs with a piece of rope so that I could take only the most mincing of steps.
I heard some shouting and I thought I recognized Jholiera’s voice, but with the bag over my head it was impossible to make out what was being said. Once I thought I heard her demand my release, but I wasn’t released. I wasn’t sure who had attacked me, but I was relatively sure that it wasn’t goblins. Oh to be sure, goblins are thick in those parts. But had goblins come upon a sleeping man, they would have sliced his throat rather than taken him captive.
The point of something sharp jabbed me in the back. I didn’t know if it was a dagger or a sword or a pike or a javelin or a sharp stick, but the meaning behind it seemed clear enough to me. I was to go in the direction opposite from the side in which I was being jabbed, which is to say the back of me, so I should go forward. I did, but I didn’t go very fast, being hobbled as I was. Despite the fact that it had been my captors who had hobbled me, they didn’t seem to want to take that into consideration, for they kept jabbing me to hurry me up.
It is hard to judge time when your senses are deprived, which is to say your head is in a sack. But as I was marched along, enough light came in through the weave of the cloth that I could tell when dawn arrived and could more or less make out in which direction the sun was to be found as it move up and across the sky. We didn’t stop to break our fast, and we didn’t stop for elevenses, and we didn’t stop for lunch. When we didn’t stop for tea, I tried to protest by planting my feet on the ground and refusing to go on. The only effect that my protest had was an even fiercer jab with a dagger or a sword or a pike or a javelin or a sharp stick right below my left shoulder blade—fierce enough to draw blood. This, as you can imagine, didn’t make the walk any more fun at all.
Fortunately it was only a few more hours after that fierce jab when we arrived at our destination. I was jerked and pulled around until they had me right where they wanted me. Then my hood was pulled off, revealing to me three of my abductors. They were warriors, wearing shining armor. Their long golden hair and long pointed ears, as well as their stature, gave evidence to their obvious relation to my little half-orphan friend, who was at that moment nowhere to be found. The warriors removed my gag and hobble but kept my hands tied. Then they left me.
I looked around to find that I was in a small cave that had been turned into a prison with metal bars across its entrance. From the mouth of the cave I could see nothing but trees and forest. Inside the cave there was nothing but a ratty old blanket on the rough stone ground. You may think that it would be impossible to sleep under the circumstances, and ordinarily I might agree with you. But as I had been awakened in the middle of the night and cruelly marched almost an entire day, I was very tired and very sore and the wound in my back was beginning to sting. I suspected that without being cleaned it might gather an infection, especially in such a place as I now found myself in, full of noxious cave vapors.
When I woke, there was a small bowl of mush sitting just inside the bars. It was mildly humiliating to have to eat like a dog, since my hands were still tied behind my back, but I did it. I have learned on the few occasions that I have found myself behind bars that one should keep up one’s strength if possible. So if you are behind bars and you are given food, you should eat it. In the jails of Theen, I was lucky when I got a maggot-filled potato. In the prisons in Aerithraine I have eaten curds and stale bread. Food in Lyrrian prisons are a mixed bag, depending upon which city-state you find yourself. And woe be to him who is imprisoned in Thulla-Zor. I was once thrown in a tomb-like cell there and had to hunt for my own food—and you don’t want to know what it was. Imagine my surprise when I ate this bowl of mush then to find a delicious mix of unborn grains and dried fruits. So I ate. I sat down against the wall. I waited to see what would come.