Marble skin by Penelope Z

Eomer. Eomer is the name of the Rohirrim leader, a tall and proud warrior. His face is noble but hardened with suffering, his voice melodic but tinted with suspicion. He does not trust us. I gaze at the riders with narrowed eyes. Hurt him and your flesh will taste the sharpness of my arrows.

Aragorn speaks, narrates the story of our mission. I am silent for fear that if I open my mouth to speak no words will come out, but savage sounds, howling of wolves, cries of vultures. My body is still humming from his touch. Will he ever call out my name again? My lip hurts, the wound still bleeds.

I only react when Eomer points his long lance at the dwarf. Gimli, trusted companion, who saw and heard and understood. And pitied. I raise my bow, the bowstring thrums in warning against my archer's wristlet. Gimli swings his axe in circles over his head. Bitter words and dark threats are exchanged, the situation will soon be out of hand.

But then he draws Andúril, the naked blade glimmers against the evening sky. He reveals himself. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Elessar, Chieftain of the Dúnedain, Heir of Isildur. A white flame flickers on his forehead, prophecy of a kingly crown.

The Dark Lord would fear him now, for his eyes are stone and wildfire, his hand is firm and behind him I can see an endless ocean of ghostly faces, ancestors of the Dúnedain race, guiding his way. His tattered rags are the Prince's robes and his weather-beaten face bears the Leader's mark.

But dark despair benights me for it is all over for me now, now that everything begins anew. He has left the past behind and like a newborn infant, striving against the swaddling bands, he walks into his frail, uncertain future. I will be forgotten. But no matter if you cast me out Aragorn, my love for your gnaws at my mind, smoldering like the embers from the fire of the Phoenix.

Pity me not, west wind and mellowing sun dripping gold, for I have not been deceived. All along I knew it would come to this. I unfolded my arms and willingly embraced my doom, I eagerly parted my lips and like holy water I drank the poison brew that runs in my veins now.

The choice was mine to make and if I could decide again I'd still call out to him, my hands open, inviting that bitter kiss, tasting of sorrow. For my long life has been nothing but waiting, a prelude for that short, hasty moment.

The brief rose is withered now, the petals blown away by pitiless winds, but the thorn is mine. The thorn is mine to keep.

The tide is rising, sweet voices maze my mind. There's nothing left for you now Elf. One day I will journey down to the Grey Harbors, to sail upon the sparkling waters, where pain is mild like the fair ocean breeze. I will see the untrampled depths, strown with azure and purple seaweed, I will find the island hidden in the ocean's womb.

The Lands Beyond, enchanted and savage place. Tumult of mighty harmonies, ivy leaves and copper bells. The King and Queen divine. The knife of stone, the silver altar, they hunger for sacrificial blood. Worlds without end, worlds without beginning.

Not yet. There are deeds I must fulfill. Not till this quest is over, this war is won and I see him wearing the laurel crown of my visions. Not till that dreaded moment when his cheek will grow pale in easeful Death's embrace.

To hear thy name spoken, to know you walk under the same vaulted sky, it is a solace, my dark King.

The Rohirrim leader is convinced, he offers us their spare horses. Aragorn mounts first, I delay to help Gimli who is grumbling, fearful of the wild mare. He turns around, hands gripping white-knuckled the bridle of his horse and glances towards me. Do I dream with unclosed lids, or are his cheeks truly moist and his eyes glimmering with a red glow?

Before my thoughts can reach him, he is gone. Drumming his heels along the sides of his horse, he charges forward. The horse's mane flaps like a banner in the wind, and I follow swiftly behind. There was something I needed to tell him, but the words I no longer recall. Let it rest in the past untold, it makes no difference now.

For when the Ring is gone, and all that is broken mended, when this story is finally over and the reader closes the book, rubbing his tired eyes what else would there be left, for me to say to you and you to me but...


Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fair-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!

Ae fond kiss and then we sever!
Ae fareweel! Alas, for ever.

-- Ae fond kiss, G.Burns

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