Numb

The overhanging shoulder of the rock was all the shelter that could be had but at least they were out of the deadly wind. Wind like an evil spirit, passing through cloak and garment, searching their wasted bodies with icy fingers, sucking away any warmth of life, till they went numb, chilled to the marrow.

He tried to force his swollen lids open, tear the lymph-clotted eyelashes apart but it took him some time till he was able to blink at his surroundings through semi-glued eyes.

Around him his men lay, huddled together, wrapped up in cloaks and blankets, knees pulled up to preserve the little warmth still circling in their veins, like boulders in the dim grey light of another hopeless day.

He sat up, slowly wrestling down the numbness that held his body. Staring at his hands, he tried to move his fingers and felt a short wave of irrational relief sweep through him, as he could still feel them, throbbing painfully in the tightness of the clinging gloves.

His feet? He remembered yesterday's torturing march, the feeling of his boots getting tighter with each step. Today there was nothing, just numbness. He tried to wriggle his toes...nothing. He knew what that meant.

When he set his jaw in grim resolution, he felt the blisters on his blood-encrusted lips crack, felt the taste of blood, oozing from the wind-cracked chaps. He could not open his mouth, his lips, thickly covered in scabs, felt like pieces of wood, nailed across his face. There would be no need to cut off the numb black toes, to prevent the bad humours of the dead, rotting flesh poison his entire body.

He lifted his bleary eyes, feeling the change in the air. The wind had died down. The air had turned smooth and moist. Slowly big flakes began to fall, noiselessly covering the sleeping forms.

He managed a lopsided grin. Arvedui, Last King...though the Valar seemed to have forsaken him, at least they provided a stately shroud.