I feel as though there is a fog inside my head, and I am suffocated by it. The captain is explaining at great length about the dangers of sending more after the missing scouts, but I barely understand the words he says. The light touch at my arm becomes almost supporting – my friend and mentor, who insisted on accompanying me, gives me a concerned look that I do not register. For a while I was so angry at the insults of Aranglachel and the lies of Celephindir that I felt as though that alone was sustaining me. As the night passed, so did my rage, and now there is only this awful numbness inside me – as though without Galdorion every colour is faded, every sound muted. Even my feelings are dulled – suppressed somewhere so deep down that not even I can reach them. I move through the day in a cloud of controlled blankness, and nothing seems to be able to penetrate it. The captain shakes his head at me suddenly, and I realise that I have not even heard what he is saying. All I can see is the weary, defeated look in his eyes. He does not know how to tell me that he will not risk more for those who may already be lost.
My companion tugs me gently away, steering me by his hand on my arm. I am grateful for his support, yet I wish he would leave me alone. Around others I find myself acting as though Galdorion has only stepped away for a moment – I am determined not to reveal my fear, or my pain at his absence. It is exhausting. A part of me feels that to show my weakness and doubts even for a moment before others would allow the envoys of the Hammer to triumph. Yet worse than that, it feels as though believing, even for a second, that Galdorion will not return, will make it come true. In the Stone Garden my companion stops, giving me a compassionate look. If he speaks, I might shatter into hundreds of pieces, like cracked glass struck with a hammer. Perhaps he realises this, because he merely embraces me in silence and leaves me to the stillness of the stones.
It feels like drowning. My breath catches in my raw throat with every sob – the grief I have been so carefully controlling bursts out now as though there is no end to it. Kneeling among the fallen leaves of gold, I am entirely overwhelmed. There are no thoughts, only fear; no hope, only mourning. My tears run out between my fingers and soak into the red scarf at my neck as if that is all it is for – what was given in pledge, now serves only to catch my sorrow. In the silence of this peaceful space, my weeping sounds almost inappropriately loud. I am beyond caring. There is only pain here, in this forsaken glade – there is no longer any room for peace. Perhaps this is the price we pay for daring to dream of peace at all.