“It’s said it takes seven years
to grow completely new skin cells.
To think, this year I will grow
into a body you never will
-Brett Elizabeth Jenkins
i. year one
He keeps thinking that someone will know.
He returns alone, the story spilling easily from his lips: ambushed, all the others, dead, all dead, I alone survived. He thinks it must be visible in his eyes, that his uncle will take one look at him and see his corruption. Cast him from Caragdûr, he says. Ill-gotten son of an ill-fated father.
Turgon embraces him with relief, welcomes him home with kindness that makes him shiver. Later he bends over retching, expecting something foul and black to issue from his mouth, some evidence, some trace.
His hands shake at the feast. He hides them under the table. It is easier to smile than he expects.
He can feel Idril watching. She will know, he thinks wildly. Always, Idril has known him better than all others. She loves him, she does, he clings to that even as it suddenly tastes like poison.
He is ravenously hungry and eats until his belly aches. When he sleeps that night he wakes choking on screams.
He crawls under the bed and closes his eyes again. It is safer there.
ii. year two
No one seems to see anything wrong with him.
He does not understand how. He can feel it, after all: every breath, every heartbeat, every waking moment the knowledge throbs within him, the fear, the dread that is now and forever etched into his bones. He thinks it will be with him forever, even unto the Halls themselves.
He wants to scream. He wants to laugh. How did he never see it before? This seething pit of hypocrites, their smiles just as false as his. Every one of them just as faithless. If they had seen what he has, if they knew what he knows-
His anger is a snake wound around his heart and squeezing ever tighter.
At night he paces the high walls, standing nearer and nearer to the edge, teasing himself with the lure of the fall.
But what is the use? The thing is already done. His death will not stop it.
iii. year three
He can fight.
This he thinks wildly, standing in the forge and sweating over a half-finished blade. He can go to his uncle and tell him everything, tell him the truth, and claw some scrap of himself back from the ruin he has made.
They will lose, but maybe he can die clean.
(In his mind, Morgoth says you are mine, forever and his hand slips, searing his palm on hot metal.)
Three years have passed, he tells himself, and there is silence. Maybe there is time. (There is no time. There is no victory. He learned that, as he learned the pointlessness of defiance, in pain and terror and dreams of his mother that twisted into nightmares, because there is nothing that Morgoth cannot turn to rot.)
He thinks of Turgon’s face, cold and still as his father cursed him, them, everyone. Cold and still as his father fell to his death. Too late.
He stares at the metal melting into slag. It is ruined, too.
iv. year four
No one has ever asked, how did you escape?
No one has ever asked, why did they leave you alive?
He is exhausted. He is waiting, wishing he knew when the fire would come. He fantasizes about oblivion, about peace, about silence from the clamor in his own head.
If one person asked, he thinks, he could tell them. But he has tried, now, to speak the words. Always they die on his tongue. I am sick, he tries to say. The world is sick. We are all dying. The words he speaks are not his own, but belong to some other tongue.
The man’s son (Idril’s son) fears him. Good, he tells himself. I will make a new city, he tells himself. I will save her and together we will begin again, he tells himself.
Some days he even believes it.
v. year five
He thinks he is going mad.
He cuts his hand in the forge and is surprised when it bleeds red instead of black. He goes to Idril, hand still unbound. Cousin, he says, and stops. What can he say?
Your hand, she says, shocked. He looks at it, almost surprised. There is no pain.
Ah, he says. Yes.
She makes him sit down. Fetches bandages. He watches it bleed and starts to weep.
Cousin? she says when she returns.
Take your husband and your son and go, he could say. Run to the sea and swim back to Valinor. Only shed a few tears for me before you go.
You are beautiful, he says, and she draws back. You are the only beautiful thing that is left.
I ask you not to speak to me that way, Lomion, she says. What is the matter? You are acting so strange.
I think I am dead. I think I am dying. I think I am a hollow thing about to shatter.
We were friends, once, he says, reaching out to touch her face. Again, she pulls away.
(In the name of that friendship, help me.)
You should go, she says. I am sorry. She even sounds regretful. For just a moment, he hates her.
Please, he wishes he could say. Please.
But there is nothing in him left to save.
vi. year six
(In the shadows under Thangorodrim, his mother came to him, cradling his face in her hands. “My shadow son,” she said. “Is this for what I gave my life?”)
You wanted to speak, Tuor says. He sounds wary. He does not turn. Tonight he stands above Caragdûr, wondering if somewhere below his father’s bones still lie.
I did. There was some thought, a fool’s hope, that perhaps it would be easier with this man for whom he bears no love. He turns. For a moment, the earth pulls at his heels. He wonders, sometimes, if he dreamed it all. There was no Dark Lord, no pits, no terrible bargains made.
The words will not come. Six years of silence, he thinks bitterly. Six years in which he shattered and no one saw, no one asked. He has always been alone, ever since his mother died, but now it is clearer than ever.
Let it all burn, he thinks. Let it all burn, and me as well.
Lomion? Tuor says. His false concern makes him want to snarl.
You should never have come here, he says at last, and leaves.
vii. year seven
The city falls.
The city falls, and Idril’s eyes blaze with hatred, and there is blood in his eyes, and he swears he almost remembers this, almost dreamed it once. Soon he is going to wake up, in shadows under the trees, and he will be young again, and whole.
It is going to be all right, he says. Idril’s face blurs, sharpens. His eyes sting with smoke or tears. I will keep you safe. I swear it.