Marble skin by Penelope Z

The moon has sunk behind the rim of the hills and the night mantle of the sky is torn. Emyl Muil is bathed in a pale light, the first shy messenger of dawn.

I saw them first, five orcs, corpses huddled on the foot of a gloomy hill. Gimli strokes his beard, muttering incoherent words, worried about this new riddle. Aragorn is silent, his eyes comb the land, searching.

My quiver is empty so I slide down the hillside towards our silent enemies. The soil is soaked in their black blood, the stench is unbearable. Brutal death has twisted their limps, waxed their eyes with chill glaze, broken their glittering spears.

I shudder when I think of the little hobbits, Merry and Pippin, held hostage by these angry monsters, their soft skin bruised by rough, claw-like hands and I mourn again over our broken Fellowship.

I gather all the arrows I can find until my search brings me to a small pond, green and full of water lilies. I kneel down and put my hand in the water, clearing a space and I wait for the surface to become still again.

I gaze at my reflection, at this face that never changes, never grows old. Marble skin, high and prominent cheekbones, clear blue eyes. My dreams are painted blue. I dream of endless horizons, huge waves crowned with foam and blind sea creatures floating in the silent depths. I long for lands beyond the ocean, forests where man has never trod and pale cities in the skies.

Soft footsteps behind me and the song of the wilderness is silenced. I can only hear the beatings of his heart, a thunderous whisper to my ears. The colors of the forest dim as the reflection of his weather-beaten face appears next to mine, blurred with bristling beard, his bloodshot eyes glimmering.

Suddenly something comes back to me, a feeling I had known long ago. It's an iron grip around my heart, a memory of forgotten music in my ears. I felt it first when we parted from Rivendell and it grows stronger every day, beyond my will, beyond my control.

I wonder if he has realized. One more sidelong glance, one more accidental caress and I shall be betrayed. He must never know, never.

I can already hear his words of kind rejection, I can see the pitiful light in his eyes, and I know I will not be able to endure the pain. I will break like a weak branch weighted down with snow and age. The trees already know. The wind rustling through their leaves sings a melancholy strain, of desires untold and love unrequited.

Our eyes meet on the water mirror and he nods, an invitation and gentle command. I heave myself to my feet and follow them, my restless gaze never leaving his black-clad figure. I fear for him. His shoulders are hunched, his hair lined with silver and there are dark shadows around his eyes. Old and weary and beautiful and perfect.

He loves her. She whispered it softly to my ear when we two met after the Council and I smiled at her joy and held her hand tightly. I spoke words so seemingly full of meaning, though no true meaning was there.

Jealousy. A taste of ashes in my mouth, helpless anger numbing my limps.

I could have hurt Boromir when he insulted him at the Council. I vowed to kill Boromir if he betrayed him. Now he's dead and shame shall be my cloak for eternity.

Upon my bow, I have sworn a solemn oath to protect you. I shall not abandoned thee my king when the mountains of Middle-Earth echo with the shouts of war and the battle closes deep and bloody. I'll bring Sauron down to his knees for you, and place the laurel crown on your head.

She will sacrifice her Elven soul for him. Would I? Could I?

Perhaps he knows already. He always stands away from me as if afraid that my touch will scorch his skin. I'm afraid he will soon begin to hate me and I can only mourn for all that will never be.

Our night-long journey has brought us to the end of Emyl Muil, we have left this hard and angry land of black forests and steep ravines behind. The wide fields of Rohan lie ahead of us, the grass bows silver and green before the light wind, the air is crisp and clear. I take a deep breath, hungry for this spring land and leap ahead.

I see an eagle flying, dark warning against the pale sky. I see the shadows of twelve figures, creeping on the grassy plains, far away, towards the Mouths of Entwash.

The day is here at last, the sun bursts victorious in the sky on his chariot of fire and I'm suddenly running, running desperately, deaf to Gimli's pleas to wait.

I must run, I must run.

But somewhere along the way I forgot my destination.

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