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Title: Eyes in the Ice
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Characters: Original Character (Maija)
Prompt: Artifacts and Weapons: Palantír
Wordcount: ~1100
Warnings: Quite a bit darker than my normal. Suicide warning.

Among the Lossoth of Forochel, it was often told how a King from the South, the Gaunt King, had once come to them, seeking aid against Angmar. Though the Lossoth helped him at their own peril, for the wrath of the Witch-King was a fearsome thing, the Gaunt King still refused to listen to their warnings when a great ship appeared to bear him away. It was winter, and as all Lossoth knew, winter was when the breath of the Witch-King blew hardest. They urged the Guant King to wait for summer, when the storms would be tempered and the Witch-King's breath was lessened, but he would not be persuaded. Never again was the Gaunt King seen again alive. This is known.

From the hunting camp of Kuru-leiri, the remains of the ship could still be seen on a clear day, forever frozen into the ice of the bay. Though it could be seen, it was impossible to reach, for the Lossoth did not build boats, and the ice on the bay was treacherous and always shifting. No one who attempted to reach the ship had ever returned. If the cold didn't kill him, the wild beasts or the Susi-väki would. And yet, as the story of the ship was passed down through the generations, there was always someone who so desired the glory and honour that reaching the ship would bring them that they would risk all the dangers in the attempt.

Maija was one. Born in Suuri-kylä, she had joined a group of hunters after her twelfth winter and rarely after returned to the only true city of the Lossoth. The hunting camps ranged along the southern and western edges of the Great Bay provided enough shelter even during the harsh winters, and trekking back to Suuri-kylä would mean losing time. Others could transport her furs and salted meat back to where it was needed, while she continued to do real work.

It was along the Bay east of Kuru-leiri that she first saw the remains of the ship with her own eyes. It looked like some great monster, claws stabbing up at the sky. Despite her many well-wrapped layers, Maija shivered at the sight. Something about that monster called to her, even as she feared it.

When Ylemi broke his leg, and her hunting party decided to stay in Kuru-leiri for the rest of the season, Maija had her chance. She would go alone to the great ice monster, to see what could be seen. She couldn't risk any of the rest of their group, not that most of them would have been particularly willing to come along anyway. However, none of them tried to stop her, knowing Maija well enough to know when their effort would be wasted. Even as she left though, she heard them start a discussion of who might replace her when--not if--she failed to return.

This only served to strengthen her determination. She knew how to survive in the icy wilderness, and she made it to the edge of the Ice Bay without too much diffuculty, avoiding bands of Susi-väki and wild animals alike. It was at the bay itself that the hard part began. She could see the foundered ship. It wasn't terribly far from the shore. But there was no question of attempting to swim the distance. She'd freeze solid while still near the shore. Instead, she began to pick her way across the ice, taking her time. Rushing now would only get her dumped into the frozen sea, to freeze or drown. When she could, she tested the ice before moving onto it. When she couldn't, she put herself in the hands of fate, praying that the ice she leapt to could bear her weight, and the weight of her pack.

Whether fate was listening or she was just lucky, Maija didn't know, but she was still alive when she reached the ship. She stepped onto it as gingerly as she had any piece of ice, and was relieved when it held her weight just as well. She had entered through a gash in it's lower hull, and the interior of the ship was dark. She wouldn't be able to see much until morning without a torch, and she preferred to use her fuel for a fire to keep her warm through the night.

She built a fire just outside the ship, taking shelter from the wind within the ship itself and wrapping herself in her blankets. Nights were short the time of year, and there would soon be enough light to see inside the ship. She dozed as she waited, awakening with a start as light shone into her eyes from the sun as it rose over the horizon. The embers of her fire were still burning and she fashioned herself a torch, just in case. Then, with the sun at her back she entered.

Even with the sun and her makeshift torch, it was dim inside the old ship, and Maija had to wait a moment for her eyes to adjust. A glint of something in the corner caught her eye, and she pulled a crumbling scrap of cloth away from whatever it was, revealing two perfectly round stone balls.

She picked one up, startled at the weight of it, and stared into its depths. It seemed like she could see something in it... Water perhaps, and weeds, and mud. She shook her head, trying to clear it. How could she be seeing things in a plain stone ball, no matter how heavy it was? She looked again, and sure enough the weeds, water, and mud were gone. Now she saw an old man with a long white beard. His voice seemed to thunder in her mind, demanding to know who she was in the language of the southerners. Demanding to know where she was. How she had found 'it,' whatever it was. The stone?

The stone dropped from her suddenly loose grip, and Maija stared down at it and its mate with something approaching horror. What were these? How could they make her see things, hear things? Things that she would never normally imagine seeing or hearing?

Something compelled her to pick up the other stone.

An eye... A great eye wreathed in flame. More terrible than anything she ever had or ever could dream of. She couldn't even look away. It consumed her utterly, sucking out every bit of hope and joy she had ever felt. she didn't even notice as it too rolled out of her hands. The Eye was in her mind now. She was the Eye. Everything else that she had once been had seemingly vanished, to be replaced with that which was most evil in the world. Unaware of anything but It, Maija stumbled out of the hold of the ship, passing the remains of her campfire and fell into the bay, lost as so many other had been. Another victim of the Dark Lord's power.

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