13. Chapter 13
Farielle signed her name in tiny cramped letters. There were two letters on this paper now, to her brother, closest in age, closest in heart. Although she adored her older brothers, Lominzil was her friend, her playmate, her confidante. She glanced cautiously at the door, and re-read what she had written.
A girl has brought me some paper and a pen. I do not expect you will ever read these, but I am writing them anyways. In some way, it makes me feel you are near, even though you are not, and never will be again.
I am in a tent here in Caldur - I think it is Caldur anyways - and all of your ships are gone. Even if I could get past the guards, and somehow manage not to be seen, there is no longer anywhere to run to. Everyone here has brown skin, and they all stare at mine. It makes my skin crawl, but I try to pretend I don't notice.
I am sorry - I tried to kill myself, but I failed. I do not know if I will get another chance, but I will try to do everything I am told and pretend that I am too frightened, and maybe they will stop watching.
I hoped no one would notice, so I lay on the cot all the time to make people think it was the same when I was there because I couldn't stand any longer. And no one did notice at first. But then a different guard came in. I think he thought I was someone else, for he came right up to where I was, and I couldn't hide it, though I tried. They forced me to drink, and now I am watched.
I am so weak, Lomin. I was almost glad he saw me - I have heard of men dying of sun-sickness, and it sounded such a painful way. I was terribly afraid. I didn't know it would be so hard either; I was so hot and thirsty, I wanted nothing more than to drink until I died of it, or drown myself in a pond like the one out behind our house. Do you remember? With the swans that nested in the reeds every year? Sometimes I imagine I am sitting there again, with you, crouched in the mud trying to count the eggs. It was so quiet. Everything here is noisy. I think my head will explode.
But I must try again. A knife would be easier, if I can get one.
I am to be taken to Umbar. I tried to convince them that Father would pay any ransom they asked, but no one listened. A man came to look at me, and he told them to take the chains off. The woman said that she hadn't planned to until Umbar, which is how I know that is where I will be going. I didn't know that any Haradrim could be kind, though I don't know if he said it to be kind. He also told them not to rape me, for which I am more thankful than I can say, though the reason... but I will tell you that later.
But a young man here has been kind to me. He said that he understood what it was like, that he had been a prisoner of Gondor, and he brought me some fruit and did not mock me when I wept. I was determined not to, but I thought of Mother and Father and you, of Eruiglas and Gwaithmir, and that I would never see you again, and I couldn't stop myself. He says that the man I told you of will be fair to me, if I am to him. And that there are other men much more to be feared. He is right. I have heard it myself. This place is terrible, Lomin. I don't think all of the people are. But they truly do worship our long Enemy. A man who I think is the husband of the woman who appears to be in charge here is worst of all. His sister is the girl I told you of. She is afraid of him, and I think that I am too. He says that if the negotiations for me fall through, he will have me given to him, to give to the Eye. And several other men have spoken of the same thing.
There is a man here who was of Gondor once, but through some dark powers, was given life when he was almost dead, and now he is turned to them. He is a slave here, and seems to want nothing more. I can't understand how this can be. What if it happens to me?
Lomin, I don't know what to do. The man I told you of, the one who said I shouldn't be chained, they call him the King. But the line of Kings is broken. They want me because I am a Girithlin, and he wants a Queen who is of Gondor. I think of it, and of our heritage, and I know I cannot marry him. I cannot. Everything rebels against the thought, not least the knowledge that I would betray the honor of my house, and lose your love, if I did. But he is the only one who can keep me safe. Even the young man who has been kind to me, his name is Yildirim, won't help me. He told me so. And if this 'king' doesn't want to marry me, I don't know what will happen to me. I don't want to be a sacrifice, either, to add strength to the Enemy. But how can I marry him, and let my children grow up in this dreadful place?
My dear brother,
He wears a veil all the time so that all you can see is his mouth and chin. I wish I could see his eyes, to see if there is any kindness there, or any honor. Yildirim says that Seaward Tower, who I am kept by, is different from Farside Tower, which is who he owes loyalty to. So perhaps all Haradrim are not alike. If I must marry him, I hope he is kind, but even if he is not, he must be an honorable man or I shall not. Can one find honor in a place like this? Perhaps I am a fool even for looking for it.
But I think he is a bit of a fool, in a way. Or perhaps 'fool' isn't the right word. I don't know what is, though. When they took off my chains (I was so glad! They were hooked to a stone so heavy that I could hardly shift it, and trying to walk made the shackle-part cut into the rope burns on my ankles. So I moved as little as possible, but there are things you just have to get up and walk to. I still spend most of my time sitting, but at least it doesn't hurt to move any more.), the woman - her name is Erufel, I hate hearing it, a woman like that with the name of the One! I will just call her Fel, here and you will know who I mean - told me that if I tried to run away, she would hunt me down and I would regret it; and also, the camp is filled with soldiers, all of whom have dark skin. And he is sitting there, this man whom they call king, and he said afterwards, 'If you choose to stay, Lady Farielle, I can promise you the food will be good.'
I am not sure what to think of that. Does he really think I have any choice at all? And to be talking of food at such a time! Good food is the least of my concerns! But he called me Lady, just as if he really thought I was. I mean, I am, of course, but no one else here seems to care. Though since they took me solely in the hope that I would be of noble blood, they must care somewhat. But either they ignore me, or stare at me as if I am a slab of meat at the market, and talk about me as if I cannot hear.
I think of what my fate might be if I were not of Girithlin, and shudder for that poor, imaginary girl. I, at least, am afforded a small measure of protection by my blood. If Mina had gone to wash the bandages instead of I... I don't even want to think about what might have become of her. Somehow, I don't think they would simply have brought her back when they found out their mistake. And then I shudder for myself. I am very selfish, Lomin, for I wish that you were here at the same time I am glad that you are not. I hope you are alive.
She folded up the paper, very small and looked around for somewhere to hide it. Under the mattress maybe.
The door swung open and she started, hiding her hand in her skirts, but it was only a maid bringing a tray of food.
"Thank you," Farielle said. The woman gave her a strange look, but bobbed her head in a sort of courtesy, and said something back in the harsh-sounding syllables of what must be Haradaic. When she was gone, Farielle tucked the letters between the mattress and the floor, and looked at the food. It was early evening, but she was hungry, and even though what was on the plate looked strange, it smelled enticingly. Her stomach grumbled. She ate.