Title: Scattered Leaves

Author: Aratlithiel

Summary: October 6th, 1420 S.R.

Category: Drama/Angst

Rating: PG

February 4, 2003




*Winds shift, time falters and memory scatters before my eyes on the echoes of cruel laughter, hailing the ghosts of October.*

I feel in colors, all of them black.

Do you hate It? Loathe It? Rejoice at Its undoing?

Yes. Oh, yes.

Do you love It? Crave It still?

…oh… yes.

I am lost in the black, a sea of desire, an ocean of despair. It cradles me still and whispers of a life lost, a soul wasted and dead. It caresses my brow with cold fingers that set fire to my mind, race through my veins with the heat of molten iron, cleaves my weeping heart with the breach of forged steel. It sings to me – a tune I have no choice but to dance to til my heart bursts and I fall drained and lifeless into the ruin of my spirit.

It speaks to me and I must listen. It commands me and I must obey. It wants me, lusts for me and I must…

With trembling hands I offer It my broken soul and see it devoured by gnashing teeth and wanton tongue. I watch as my spirit's lifeblood is drained by lips bloated and blooded, curling into a mocking smile as I stagger about the void. I mourn for the heart that beats its empty rhythm in my chest, continuing its futile pursuit of a life that is now beyond it and I curse it for its senseless hope.

With cold breath on my nape It murmurs to me and - beyond love, beyond hate, beyond sense - I curl into Its embrace and let It take me. I cannot deny It now – it is a choice I have already made and I continue to pay the price with the relentless rape of my soul. I belong to It and It will have me.

*Winds shift, time falters and memory scatters before my eyes on the echoes of cruel laughter, hailing the ghosts of October.*

Shades of grey enter my world and the pale king mocks with hissing laughter and cold, black steel. The grey pierces me, a dagger of burning ice, and opens the way for the black. He laughs, thinking it my end and I laugh harder still, knowing it to be only the beginning. The grin on my face is that of a screaming corpse, the shrieks that emerge from my gaping mouth echo with insane humor.

The joke is on us both, my King. It is a cruel master that holds us in Its sway.

I wonder if the words I uttered in desperation and that cheated you from your prize would burn my tongue should I try to form them now. Would the Lady hear me as promised? Or would she strike me down for daring to speak words of grace from my foul and shameless tongue? I shall never know, for I dare not make the attempt.

'You shall have neither the Ring nor me.'

I was right, you see, for It had us both already. It is the cruelest of ironies that you are now gone, beyond your misery, done with your torment, while I…

*Winds shift, time falters and memory scatters before my eyes on the echoes of cruel laughter, hailing the ghosts of October.*

The sweet-scented cloth at my brow is cool and blue, the kiss at my temple warmest rose. Ah, that you would taint yourself so – a chaste kiss to a frontispiece for jaded lust. I would not have it touch you, would not succumb to your comforts if I were able to force myself to resist them. But your touch shatters the black, warms the grey and I am too weak in body and spirit to resist the charms of the color you bring me with your tender care.

You will comfort him as well when I am gone. He will need the warmth of your radiant heart once the empty ghost he refuses to see has abandoned him. He will not understand.

Your fingertips on my cheek are cool green; pale grasses misted with the first tentative glow of gentle dawn. Ah, there, you see? I remember now. There is a world outside this darkness that calls to my soul and it is full of forgotten color and a beauty that rings distant echoes in the memory of my heart – memory that scatters like withered leaves on the winds of cruel October.

I hear laughter on that wind, lilting and merry. Appled cheeks rounded with unsullied smiles and eyes ablaze with the fire of youth turn to me from distant dreams of love and kin. Who are these joyous children who look to me with love spilling freely from eyes of gilded green and muted indigo?

As one, they turn and bolt. Laughing, I give chase. Like the wind they run and vanish into the mist, the silver of childish giggles capering on the breeze - music like bells to my hungry ears. My groping hands find purchase and we are three on the ground, peals of laughter thrumming under my skin.

The notes change, the merry grins twist to grimaces of pain, the laughter to agonized screams. Muted indigo drowns in black, smoldering tears; gilded green is blooded and drips crimson down pale, angular cheeks. I cling to them in horror, caress their fevered skin in a small attempt at comfort. I hold to them, croon a frenzied lullaby in a voice jagged and screeching. They writhe in my embrace, cry out at the pain of my touch.

I must release them, else be their ruin.

I retreat, the feel of their skin on my fingertips a sweet pain that courses through my veins and into my ravaged heart. They look to me, call out. They do not understand that it is I who destroys them with my feeble imitations of love. I can bring them nothing but pain now, and they would accept it as their due and love me for it.

I will not have it so.

I retreat.

*Winds shift, time falters and memory scatters before my eyes on the echoes of cruel laughter, hailing the ghosts of October.*

Red creeps into my world of colors and I watch as burning scarlet drips from the void at my breast where It once dwelt. I look to my hand where a band of gold sits triumphant; disdainful in Its treachery, seductive in Its depravity. It had me all along and needed but to wait.

I whirl in Its depths, suffocate in Its darkness. The stars have voices and all of them scream, their songs ringing with the insanity of souls caught forever in the frigid void It spins into eternity. Slithering creatures creep from the slime at my feet and nod to me knowingly. We are brothers now. They speak to me in a dark tongue and my mouth spills forth responses of clotted, blackened blood.

The fires dance, a perverse waltz that my feet follow with thoughtless abandon. I move to the demented song of the stars and weep in terror for my soul. The Ring strokes me, Its licentious caress claims my spirit and my hips buck once, twice. Exquisite pain or repulsive ecstasy?

I cover my ears with my traitorous hands. I close my eyes to the insanity that screams behind them. It has me, It possesses me, It has unmade me…but still my feet move toward the chasm. Still I have one more deed to do. One more chance to save my soul.

*Winds shift, time falters and memory scatters before my eyes on the echoes of cruel laughter, hailing the ghosts of October.*

I look to my hand – an empty space where a band of gold briefly sat victorious. A reflection of myself, a symbol of my failure. I stare at the void through eyes misted with grey and tainted by knowledge.

He enters, a brilliant nimbus of golden light that pierces my colorless world. I look to speckled hazel and see the reflection of a friend well-loved. Ah, yes – this picture of truth and good intentions is what I was once. I will let him hold to it for a while longer.

I will not shatter his illusions with the truth of myself. I will not show him the ashes of the one he still clings to. I will not tell him that I murdered the one he loves in cold blood with the heat of the passion that rocked my spirit and put the fires of Doom to shame. I will not tell him that he holds to a corpse.

'What's the matter, Mr. Frodo?'

I open my mouth, choking on a shriek caught sharp and brutal in my throat. 'I am fine, Sam,' I mean to say but instead, I hear my voice croak, 'I am wounded, wounded; it will never really heal.'

I look to him and try to smile. He flinches and I realize my attempt has failed. So I rise and stumble to my room, closing the door behind me. I collapse to the bed and wring scorching tears from eyes that see the ghosts of screaming stars.

I look to the broken shards of my soul and try to cull the sweetest of the memories from them – try to pierce my empty heart with them so that I might learn again what it is to love, what it is to feel. I grasp at the scattered leaves of my mind and gather them to my breast with hands that shake from wretched weariness.

It had me.

It has me.

But I will not let It keep me.

*Winds shift, time falters and memory scatters before my eyes on the echoes of cruel laughter, hailing the ghosts of October.*

I feel in colors and they slowly return, banishing the black for a little while longer. I reject the ghosts of October and send them away soulless and weeping. They will not have me. Not yet.

I will be gone when they return to haunt me again.




A/N – Part of the 'Bronwe athan Harthad' and 'Harthad Uluithiad' universe. Inset between chapter 3 of 'Harthad' and 'Duet' part 1.