1. The Walled Garden
She passed most of a year hidden in the deepest parts of her mind. Now and again, it occurred to her that there was something unnatural about this, but the feeling went away if she ignored it long enough. She could see the outside world going about its business, but it didn’t seem to matter. The pictures that came to her from the outside were clear but infinitely remote, and interpreting them took more effort than she could summon. She was safe inside, behind walls that were as clear as glass and stronger than stone. She rarely turned her attention outward. There was nothing out there to reward curiosity.
Her walled garden was tranquil and filled with color and fragrance. There was always a story unfolding there to occupy her whenever the beauty was no longer enough. Some were the old tales she had been raised on and others invented themselves as they went along, but in none of them did she ever see a person or a place she knew from before. That part of her life was lost forever and she was afraid of what might happen if she looked too closely at those memories.
She thought her captors might have been angry that she paid them no mind, but that didn’t really matter, either. She realized they’d beaten her a few times, before they gave her up as a lost cause. But that was the glory of her wall - it was so very thick that even pain took a long time to get through. From a distance, she could watch them strike her, and her body would respond in the way the guards expected, if a bit sluggishly. But by the time the pain reached her mind, the sensations had dulled and the fear had been stripped away. It worked well. Left to fend for itself, her body reacted enough to keep from rousing the guards’ curiosity, but not so much as to make her a rewarding victim.
When the baby was born, she watched from a safe distance as the midwife and the guard argued over whether she would rouse enough to care for it herself. The midwife seemed to think not, but the guard disagreed. Finally, the guard tired of the argument, shoved the baby against her breast and wrapped her arms around it. There was something not quite right about the baby, but it would take too much effort to move her arms away and examine it more closely.
She now lived in a long, low-roofed stone chamber with many other slave women. How long she had been there was hard to tell. There was a pattern to her days that probably contained the answer, but the question could not hold her attention long enough. The baby huddled close to her and its little body was warm against her skin. Nobody had touched her except in malice for over a year, and the baby's cuddling felt wonderful, like something from those days she wouldn’t let herself recall, before she was captured. His warmth reminded her of summer sunshine and thick fluffy blankets in the winter; all the beloved lost things. The wall was suddenly a hindrance instead of a blessing.
Looking at the baby sleeping miles away in her arms, she thought she could get through the wall if she really wanted. She wasn’t quite sure how she’d built the wall to begin with, or if she would be able to build another if she breached this one. But in the end, it became so frustrating to wait for bits of muted pleasure to filter through that without ever deciding to, she began to work her way out.
She had built a good wall and it didn’t fall easily, but in the end, she broke through. The baby squeezed her finger and she felt it as it happened, the little warm palm touching and the fingers closing. She held the hand up to look at it, followed the baby’s arm back to the shoulder, and nearly vomited when she took her first real look at her son’s face.
Once when she was a child, she had seen a troupe of traveling performers with a trained ape from some land beyond Harad. Her son bore a sickening resemblance to that ape. She’d known what his father was - even through the wall there was no ignoring that - but somehow she hadn’t expected her baby to look so far from human. She owed nothing to such a monster. She should thrust him away and have nothing to do with him, but he stayed pressed as close to her as he could get, and that was a thing too precious to give up just because he looked like an orc.
She played with the baby, touching the bottoms of his feet to make his toes curl and caressing his cheek. The Dunlending whose pallet was next to hers noticed. “Hey, look, the lunatic’s back with us,” she said. The sound roused the Dunlending’s baby and it began to shriek in rage and strike out with its clawed hands. The Dunlending held it at arm’s length with a motion that looked more like a reflex than a conscious choice. “You got a name?”
She could only shrug. Her old name was gone along with her old life, and it didn’t seem to matter much what came along to replace it. That other girl who used to live in her body had died a year ago, and as far as she knew, no one had bothered to name the one who lived there now.
The Dunlending snorted in exasperation. “Well, we can’t just keep calling you ‘the lunatic’. Too many lunatics to keep straight around here already!”
She shrugged again. All the names she knew were markers of nation and social position, and since she had neither now, how could she name herself?
The Dunlending cocked her head. “On second thought, we could call you Lu and the next one Nat and the one after that Tic so we don’t run out of names so fast.“ She chuckled a bit at her cleverness, provoking a fresh outburst from her baby.
Lu short for Lunatic. That might do very well, she thought.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.