The Ghostly Ones
by Le Chat Noir
I have no story to tell.
It is not worth the effort. Let me lie in peace. Long days have glided past in perfect monotony, their pattern unrested by naught; it is well. We do not wish for else.
How long have I lain here? The cyclic sun has rolled over my head many times, and many times again she will. Alien shadows have played their games behind the drawn curtains, crawled up the blanched walls, lingered there and fled.
How long already? Do not ask me to remember. Beatitude is ignorance, peace of mind. Dreams may come that I do not heed: much less the living, much less the dead.
The boy; he was alone, in the midst of his escort of Green Hunters, he alone stood out between them all, his clothing like theirs, his bearing like theirs, his horse even. Which boy, you ask? Oh, but him, do you not see? He whose hands have to try twice before being able to bring a glass to his lips, whose crown has clattered through his fingers to the ground when it was handed to him. Him, the boy with the dark braid and stone-grey eyes, about as expressive as the minerals they borrowed their colour from; he whose forced smile seems that one a statue.
Let me sleep, let me sleep. I do not wish to remember.
Oh, a statue carved by the most skilled hands, I must say. Some exquisite work of art its creator had loved too much to risk destroying it with the ugliness of a living, sentient soul; a little perfection that could not be marred by the reality of laughter or tears. The small white-haired girl watched him during the first banquet, seated at the table of kings: she watched as he strove with his forks and knives and tried to keep them from escaping his grasp. She watched the tender looks that he received from the King and Queen, the fond exclamations of the Court that fused about him; and, childish jealousy or not, she shunned him for the strange foreboding that came upon her when he smiled.
They were told to play together, the two children. She led him through the mazes of the underground citadel, shuddering as if followed by a shadow of death. Hours long they spent near the lake, skipping rocks on the lifeless surface; his ricochets were always better than hers. It was, he said, because he spent his days at home skipping those on the seventh river, and by the way they had back in Tol Galen much rounder, flatter, more skippeable pebbles than these.
He was a little spectre of death, I know. A little boy-death walking and smiling his statue-like smile in the great beating heart of a living city, killing all he touched. He was, in himself, in his beauty, an omen of the dark times to come, a nightmare who thought it was a dream, a boy who could not live; he who was king already then, crushing all under his oblivious law with the first soundless step he was allowed to take within the throbbing kingdom, which writhed under his foot.
It is a nightmare, I know. Please let me sleep. I am a ghost wedded to Death; the one I worship.
There is no story. The enchanting fairy-tales woven to charm children, singing maidens, spellbound love, dubious dances under the stars; they were not for us. Only the more and more frequent visits of the young prince, as to inspect a land he knew would soon be his; the time they spent together in strained silence looked knowingly upon by various rumours in town. In his presence an uneasy dread she learnt was to be called shyness and awe; in his absence an even stranger turmoil her mother laughed at, naming it longing. Shivers up her spine when he touched her, and ethereal hand nearly passing through hers before he realised it himself. His skin was cold, cold like marble again, and his absent, otherworldly eyes froze her like him, bent her to him.
He had not meant it, she knew. From his part, she could perceive that the words came genuinely, from a true desire to love and be loved. In the depths of his innocent heart, a heart he forged and gave to himself, there stayed the hopeless belief in being able to feel the way of those of flesh and blood, he who was born of the seed of a ghost and the womb of a god.
He has wanted to love me, wanted it with all the will he could summon, with all the heart he could recall from his ancestors of mixed blood. He has hated himself as I have hated myself, and there was blood to be found on his sheets when in the night he bit through the skin of his wrists to undergo a pain he could not feel. And I am unjust, for his pain was by far greater than hers. As he endured heavier and heavier sorrows, her step went lighter and lighter, her eyes vague and blind and oblivious, and she laughed more than spoke. A laugh was all that she found to answer with when, embarrassed and sullen, he asked for her hand under the tall oak tree; a clear laugh, mocking the cold of his skin and the stone of his eyes.
Oh, I have slept then, I have slept better than I ever have, with despair in my heart and love upon my lips; knowing my fate, the fate of the City, knowing that if I ever had said no he would have killed himself over being unable to weep under my sentence. I have slept over the certitude of my doom; and nightmares have come and gone without me heeding them. In blissful peace I lay, and lived, dying a little death every morning when I woke. I sang, and I danced, and I sat in my chambers all day, tending to my trousseau, and during these days I saw no one, not even him. He had gone back to Tol Galen, I think, to announce the news to his parents. I do not remember; it was not important. Spring was there, birds flew to my windowsill to vocalize for me, the fiancée of the prince of the Isle of the Walking Dead. Every morning I sat at my window, and gazed southwards, and counted with barely repressed wonder the days that still parted me from the upcoming trip.
Far enough, far enough. I have gone far enough on the road of recollection. The Sun has risen again, see? She has begun her arched journey across the sky. I have dreamt long for someone who is dead. I have said much. Who has heard? Who will heed? It is only a nightmare of two children who could not love. But she knew that morning when she rose early to greet the dawn in the forest for the first and last time, that she only did so because she would not have a chance to after that; yet it served no purpose, for the clouds hindered her vision and hid the sun from her eyes. Her escort waited for her at the gates.
For sometimes, as we dwelt in Tol Galen, my heart was soothed, as the illusions we drained ourselves in building each day made me almost content of lies. He was away from Menegroth, the boy-death, the innocent bringer of an unwanted truth, I was the only one my intuition could harm. The City, I thought, could know relative peace.
There, he sought to love me. He led me to the riverbanks, those he had once told me about, and taught me to skip rocks again. Night after night we lay in open fields, watching the stars; and his hand felt cold in mine. And love was made, strange fire sprung from ice, and three children we seared, one after the other. No more memories. There is nothing to be said on a love that did not exist, a chimera feeding on youth and ignorance. He is king now, and it is too late.
That letter; it was so small a piece of parchment, with so few words, so insignificant in size and value. It was the materialisation of all my terror and my fears; the spectre of death the boy had brought upon the kingdom snapped its shadowy jaws.
Death, the messenger of Death.
We came back with our children to a land of ruins: I, to light the spark that will burn my parents' stake, him, to rule over cinder and dust. I am today a queen of Nothing, with a crown of gold. Aye, from crumbling stones are sprouting again the walls of our past and pride, stuck together with the cement of foolish hopes and old memories, but Death and Fading loom ever closer. We will not hold by long. For what is Doriath, without Thingol and Melian? What is Doriath with a king who has more and more trouble in preventing his own sceptre from falling from his hands, a king who forgets to use the gates, and absently walks through walls? And what am I, a child of Menegroth, born within her secretive shadows?
Serenity lays her veil upon my face, my mind. Another day is begun; the serpent bites its own tail.
The end has never troubled sneaking up behind our backs, it is advancing openly, advancing in front of our very blind eyes. I am the ghostly queen of a kingdom twice fallen, a ghostly land and people, and he sits besides me, the boy-death; we do not exist but in the world of Past. For what is Doriath with a ghost as a king but a ghost of what she was?
For the occasion of Tolkien's eleventy-first birthday! This is an instalment in the series Finished Tales, written by various members of the Silmfics group, featuring Most Shafted Characters in Eä. (Just thought about it: Ilùvatar is a *very* shafted character.)