Cold winds howled as they swept through the craggy glen, penetrating the unconscious mind of the ancient dwarf. The winds blew so relentlessly that there was no room for pleasant dreams in his mind anymore. He was lying beneath the thin blanket under the cover of the tarp. He listened to the canvas flapping in the wind and felt the bitter cold of wintry Emyn Muil biting his face. He kept his eyes shut as if only absolute darkness could warm him now. He tried to remember the old dreams that had given him strength before.

The ancient dwarf opened his eyes. He was cold and he wrapped the blanket tighter around his frail, bony body.

He could see the moon hanging low in the sky through the opening of the tarp. He stared at the moon until the stars around it began to shimmer and dance. The man in the other tarp next to him did not make a sound. He never moaned with pain or sorrow like the prisoners of Mordor always did. He never even snored.

The ancient dwarf waited for the dreams to come and carry him away from Emyn Muil, away from the cold, howling winds. His dreams filled half of his existence and made his waking hours bearable.

What did he dream about? He had never mentioned his dreams to anyone, fearing that the dreams would be taken away from him somehow. Then he would have nothing left to make the long hours of wakefulness tolerable.

He could dream anytime, even in the middle of the day. His dreams protected him. He remembered one time when they were toiling in Sauron’s iron mines in Gorgoroth. The air had been so hot and so full of noxious fumes that he could barely breathe. It was the first time his dreams had carried him away from Mordor, carried him backwards in time into happier years of his youth. He was awake but dreaming, and he barely noticed the horror and awful things that were happening all around him. The dreams had soon become his only reality.

Now he felt like an aged suitor who had to court his dreams gently so that they would not fly away to others. He was so old now and he had lived inside a dream for so long. He never had any nightmares. The nightmare began when he woke up. His dreams were always beautiful.

Now that he had finally escaped Mordor after so many decades – even centuries – of imprisonment, the reality did not feel any more real to him. The reality was still a bleak and ugly nightmare. The thought of freedom did not excite him. Real freedom awaited him in his dreams.

How long had he been a prisoner of Mordor? What year was now? He did not know. There was no calendar in the dungeons and prison camps. He wondered if he was insane. Just as insane as every other prisoner in Mordor.

He closed his eyes. He would ask that question again tomorrow. After the dreams.

Soon he did not hear the incessant howling of the wind anymore. The dreams had carried him away to the only freedom that was real to him anymore.