Marble skin by Penelope Z

Boromir is gone. Boromir sleeps in the silent depths of the Great River Anduin, his fingers still wrapped around the hilt of his broken sword. Boromir is dead.

I almost envy him. A heroic sacrifice in the blood drenched battlefield, what better death could a warrior desire? Sail forth traveler, to your final voyage, sail thou forth to the endless ocean.

We run like the restless wind on the rocky hills of Emyl Muil, grey shadows on this hostile land, leaping over scrub and tangled thorns, pursuing the orcs across deep valleys and black mountaintops. I can only hope that Merry and Pippin will be alive and unharmed when we reach them. I can only hope I made the right choice.

This day will burn out soon, the dusk is painting the clouds purple and golden. A pale fog has risen over the dark forest, blurring my vision, but I know that the grassy fields of Rohan lie ahead, we'll reach them in a day if we rush. And further away, to the left, the White Mountains, covered with simmering snow that never melts away. My kingdom, Gondor.

I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir through thirty-nine generations, to the throne of that distant land. I have ironed my will through the years, my soul is clenched like a fist, always ready to strike. My fate was sealed before my mouth could form words, before my eyes could see. All my life I knew it would come to this.

But now that the final time is approaching with hurried footsteps, doubt is curdling my blood, poisoning my heart with despair. My name, my heritage is dead weight on my shoulders. My past is a dessert of solitude, my future an uncharted land, darker than Mordor in the depth of the night, in the hour of the owl.

What am I, but a marionette at the hands of fate? I know that if I was free from the burden of this destiny my ancestors have placed upon me, I would willingly follow the same path I'm taking now. But I still long for that choice I was never given, the moment I could have said no.

I miss Boromir. I miss his ambition and blind desire to sacrifice himself for his people. I miss his vanity and his weakness. I miss his flaws. To be flawed is to be human. My companions in this desperate quest aren't.

Gimli is grim and silent, he turns more and more into stone with every footstep he takes, his face is a grey mask of determination.

I don't want to think of the elf. I don't always reply when he speaks and he is the only one who does, soft, feather light words, like the rustling of the leaves in the forest. He sings songs of green fields and crystal waterfalls, of pale dawn and velvet midnight.

His figure is silhouetted, tall and lean like an arrow, against the evening sky. His feet make no sound as he moves, as he dances on the wet soil. His skin felt like ice, when his fingers accidentally touched the back of my hand, while we walked.

He reminds me of her. I don't know if I love him or hate him for it.

When she gives up her Elven Immortality for me, will she be warm and soft under my caresses?

Will she close her eyes to rest?

Arwen, I sleep with my hand clasped tightly around your medallion. You gave away your life for a king without a crown.

She was beautiful when she first came to me and love flowed easily, like sweet wine, as we walked barefoot on the mound of Cerin Amroth, among the blossoming Eleanor and Niphredil. Now its taste is sour in my heart but her skin is still pure winter snow, her eyes are still the deep blue sea.

We stop for a bite of lembas, a drink of water. Night will fall upon us soon, the darkness is chasing the dusk away.

Instinctively, I choose to sit next to Gimli. My hands are shaking as I break the dry bread to pieces. I hunch my shoulders in the warmth of my cloak, the hilt of my sword is a comforting pain against my ribs.

Legolas fills the empty waterskins with water from the stream. He thrusts his hands into the flow, letting drops run over his lips and across his chin. He looks at me and smiles faintly.

I can feel his eyes on me, burning through my skin. I feel examined, scrutinized. Is he waiting for this weak human to make his first mistake? To prove that this tired king is not worthy of his dusty throne? What does he think? What does he dream of? Does this eternal being care, if Middle Earth crumbles to ashes?

I shouldn't be making these unjust thoughts. He is a friend, a companion worthy of my trust. Let us go then. Let us move silently through the night to hunt for signs and reasons.

My heart is torn with longing. I miss Sam's pipe, I miss Frodo's laughter. I miss her midnight hair.

Please stop Legolas. Stop looking at me this way.

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