Marble skin by Penelope Z

Without a word he started running, fast and determined, a hunting dog stalking the doomed prey. My feet are treacherous, they stumble on wild bramble and moss-covered stones, they can't keep up with his pace. Gimli is far behind, I can hear him cursing the elf, breathless and angry.

Then I saw it, lying there, half-hidden behind a few lacklustre flowers and I called out to them. A silver Lórien leaf, beautiful and strange, on the grassy plains of Rohan. Pippin's brooch. The Hobbits are still alive. A spark of new hope burns in me like a beacon, perhaps all I have done wasn't in vain, perhaps there is still a chance.

Faith gives wings to my tired limbs and I lead our little troop now, running ahead for endless hours, until the evening shadows begin to stretch across the level land and pain hammers angrily against my ribs.

The curtain of the night will fall upon us soon.

Should we sleep now, or continue our hunt searching blindly for signs in the darkness? My companions declare their trust in my judgment, their eyes seeking mine expectantly. I grind my teeth as helpless anger overwhelms me. Why must the weight of another wrong decision fall on my weary shoulders?

But I must doubt my fate no more. I'm the leader of this mission and the Heir of Isildur. I will embrace my destiny and for victory or defeat, for a kingly crown or a silent grave, I shall follow my path to the end and bring no shame to my ancestor's name.

We will rest now, under the looming shadow of Tol Brandir and continue our journey tomorrow.

I wrap myself in my cloak, and as I lie on the ground my hand seeks to grasp the medallion that hangs from my neck. It's so cold it numbs my fingers when I touch it, the heat of my skin will never warm the ancient Elven metal.

Tinúviel, Tinúviel I called her when we first met. She did love me once, but the reason I never understood and never cared to know. I long to bury my tired head in her shoulder now and be finally at rest.

But instead, the damp grass and this hard like bone earth will be my pillow for the night. I feel the edges of my lips curling up in a strange smile. This is who you desired to be Boromir? See your King now in all his glory, with his face hidden in his hands, like a beggar child fighting against the tears.

I close my eyes and the world loses its shape.

I dreamt. My dream was a tumble of images, banners flying against a sickly sky, riders galloping wildly towards the doom, ghosts awakening from the murky waters.

There will be days when no sun will rise.

The Dead have been summoned. The King of the Dead is coming.

I dreamt that I woke up. I woke up and he was there.

The air is fragrant with wild herbs, no night creature distubs this eerie silence that falls upon the world before the dawn. The sky is a starless sea of deep blue, the moonlight still glistens on the long wet blades of grass. But the morning fog, like the breath of this moist earth is slowly rising, eating the dark away.

Legolas is there, standing with his back against a tree trunk, his gaze fixed towards the north. For a moment I think I'm still dreaming for his figure, long and frail like a tender willow, radiates with an otherworldly light and his hair is burning gold, melting on his shoulders.

I hesitate, then I heave myself to my feet and approach him. I move silently but he senses I'm there, behind him, waiting.

And as he turns his face towards mine I realize I was wrong about him, wrong again, horribly wrong. For he feels, and he cares and even though his smooth face isn't lined with worry when his eyes, tired and sad, met mine I saw that this desperate quest means more to him than I ever imagined.

The tone of his voice is hollow and defeated, he had a vision, he fears for the Hobbits' fate.

All the words have dried up in my throat and my thoughts have flown away.

He sees my despair and places his hand on my shoulder, encouragingly. His touch is ice but I'm grateful for this little, nameless act of kindness.

Still we stare at each other, and say nothing. A strange feeling washes over me and then I feel fear, more fear than ever before in my lonely mortal life, fear tearing through my skin like red-hot needles, fear gnawing at my skull, fear bleeding my heart.

Instinctively I turn towards Gimli, who still sleeps, hidden under his grey cloak, on a carpet of decaying leaves.

I must wake him up, we must leave, we must hurry.

'Aragorn'

His voice is hoarse as he calls out my name and the hand he spreads towards me in a gesture of timid invitation, is trembling.


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