Marble skin by Penelope Z

Midday. The sun throws down his burning spears, bathing the treeless plains in joyless daylight. I'm an hound seeking the prey, sniffing the thin air, searching the ground for signs. A snapped twig, a faint foot print, a blade of grass trampled underfoot.

We have traveled for long hours across the land of Rohan, until the wall of the gloomy hills of Emil Muil disappeared in the shadows behind us. The dark forest of Fangorn looms towards the north and further away the snow-covered mountaintop of Methedras glimmers, half hidden in the blue mist, as if floating upon ghostly clouds.

The river of Entwash meanders through the grassy fields, a silver thread watering the earth, awakening the Asphodel and the Eglantine, clothing the rocks with azure moss.

The land is tranquil, but it is an eerie silence and this reluctant spring is winter in disguise. The shadows await and if our mission fails and the Dark Lord raises his sceptre over the world tombstones will rise where flowers blossom. In the swelling buds of violets hides the seed of darkness.

I drive our little troop on mercilessly, but with every step we take I feel the distance grow. If there was any hope at the beginning of this vain endeavor there is none left now. We will never reach the captive Hobbits. Some obscure power gives wings to our enemies while we crawl defeated on the ground. Saruman. Or something darker, something colder.

Legolas shows no signs of weakness, his feet are still light, his gaze sharp. But he sings no more and I long to hear his fluty voice again, chanting tunes of savage forests and the silver scythe of the moon. Has our cold embrace robbed him of his mirth?

I can taste him even now, his scent still clings to my fingers. My mind is reeling and I fear I shall go mad for I cannot stop thinking how his lips opened under mine and how his fingers trembled as he buried them in my tangled hair.

Nothing makes sense any more, the world is liquid, changing shape and name and all that stood so clear yesterday, now dim in the mist that clouds my thoughts. I still feel the weight of her medallion around my neck. I dare not reach out and touch it for fear that it will vanish, like water, which stays only in the palm of an open hand but when the fist closes, the cool drops escape.

Frail love, your vows are all broken.

Do not forgive me Tinúviel, I deserve no pity, for it was not the desire for your sweet embrace that drove me in his cold arms. It was despair.

Viper thoughts coil around my mind. I will betray them both one day, my Elven lovers. Betray them for the one who holds a black scythe and patiently awaits at the end of the long path. And I will go to him, holding a broken sword or the sceptre of Annúminas, it matters not. When I sleep in his comforting arms, will you remember my name? Will you remember you were mine once?

We stop near a small hill, lone upon the level land. Gimli is exhausted, his shoulders hunched, his heart is stifled with grief, now that all hope is lost. We let him rest at the foot of the hill and climb swiftly to peer at the horizon for signs.

We gain the top of the rise and pause, breathing in deep gasps from the run. The evening has stolen into the hot footprints of the day, the luminous clouds are tinted purple but the night is still far.

A shifting darkness approaches. Riders. Riders are coming, the valley is overflowing with the sound. Proud Rohirrim warriors, a hundred or more, they burst upon the land like a wolf into the fold, long lances lifted, helmets plumed, their blond braids trailing down their backs.

I draw my sword and he lifts his bow. In a smooth sweep of the arm he takes an arrow, draws the bowstring taut, steadying the aim, prepared. Then our eyes meet, his gaze is hard but his ribs are heaving with deep, shuddering breaths. You look so young deceiving elf, in the halo of your golden hair.

His hand slackens and the arrow falls on the ground with a dull thud. He reaches out to me, feather-light fingers touch my wrist reluctantly, as if begging for permission.

I grab his hand roughly, with a crack and grind of bone and bring it to my hot mouth, teeth and tongue and lips grazing over marble skin.

He makes no sound. I'm the one who speaks his name now, again and again, till the words melt together, a murmurous haunt: Legolaslegolaslegolaslegolaslegolas...

How I wish to fade away with thee Legolas into the forest dim, to vanish like an inaudible dream, distant from the cares and needs of others. But my fate has called, I'm the Chieftain of the Dúnedain, this life is not my own to spend in aching joys and feeble yearnings.

All this will never come to any good. But his mouth is hot and wet, our teeth clang together, my eyes are rolling to the back of my head. Torn cloth, long fingers hungry for bare skin, the pale curve of the neck. I bit his lip, copper taste of blood. Bleed for me.

My left hand strokes his hair but the right one still clutches the hilt of my sword. I pull away and accidentally step on the fallen arrow.

It cracks, a final sound.

It is broken.

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