Notes: Happy birthday Starlight! Many returns of the day!
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters and settings mentioned.
It is very dark. There is no window to show in the light beyond, and not much can be made out from the unnatural night. There is a great silence too; filled with the distant sounds of fire.
A soft chuckle is heard, and two voices whisper in the quiet.
"I don't think I will ever understand Elves."
"Few mortals do. But all the same, we do dispose of a lot more time to figure out mortality, yet few if not none of us can even achieve that."
"Not now, you see. Not now that I have stepped upon the threshold of death, …"
"…knocked at the door…"
"Tssk. I did not know that the immortals…"
"Oh, but we have done the same."
"Isn't it time already?"
"Ah, they're late, aren't they?"
Both voices are yet young, yet different. One, deeper than the other, is undoubtedly that of a man, a young man in his twenties; it is saturated in bitter cynicism and though cracked and low, as that of one who has not drunk in days, it sounds like the speaker can barely refrain from laughter when he talks.
"But I had hope, you see." The first voice says. "It's almost a sin, but I still have hope now. I know that I will die, and it fills me with courage."
The second voice is young also, but wearier and thinner; it is not dry like its companion, but so soft in its sighs that one can barely hear its words above the silence.
"Hope is a good thing."
A hint of curiosity lights up in the first voice, and there is the sound of a body shifting on the ground. Despite its parchedness, it still sounds younger than the other, more vibrant, more alive.
"Hey, is it true what they say about Elves, that…"
It does not finish its sentence.
A long silence follows.
"In a way."
A sigh, the sound of a tranquil breath.
"We know that cowardice stems from hope and courage from despair. The Elves seek death when they lose hope, if only to preserve that of others."
"But cowardice from hope?"
"Is it not your instinct to preserve yourself when you think there is the slightest chance yet for you emerge unscathed?"
"Others must hope, because that way they will be preserved. Once an elf sees despair he knows that he is lost, and will begin to fade away; a quick and valiant death is a gift to the people who will make it into song and transform your anguish into hope for them to feed."
There is a long silence again, and the sound of a regular thumping of indistinct nature is clearly audible from outside the walls.
"I think I see."
The deeper voice is slightly precipitated, uneasy.
"There is a lot that you have understood then." The words are gentle and kind.
"Have I?" A short laugh, followed by a fit of harsh coughing.
There is the sound of something roughly moving again, the rustle of cloth, and the high-pitched clanging of metal against metal.
"It won't matter anyways."
"Oh, but it does."
"What do you mean? It's going to matter for the next five minutes. And I'm still a coward."
"It is better to be a coward sometimes."
"You think so?" And the hopeless irony lurking in its depths is subdued for a moment, as for the first, a hint of emotions, anger and despair and sarcasm is perceptible in the gentler voice.
"I wish I could be a coward now."
"It is hope for you that has moved me to help you in your quest." No more accusation.
"Don't be. There is no need to be. It's not your fault."
A great outburst of shouts and yells and roars is heard outside, and both voices pause in their conversation to listen.
"Whose fault then?"
"I am an elf."
Silence again, and the crackling of fire in the background.
"It never is anyone's fault when you're dealing with an elf."
"Not Miriel's fault for laying down her life, not Finwë's fault for taking wife again, not Fëanor's fault for grieving for his father; not our fault for choosing to follow in his wake… Not Morgoth's fault for desiring the Flame of Iluvatar…"
"Is it the… song?" The younger voice sounds sceptical.
"Yes. It is the song."
A long period of time passes. Probably moved to music by a comprehensible association of thoughts, the first voice clumsily breaks into the first notes of a song, which interpreted by his rugged and dry voice cannot be deciphered; and it promptly made silence again.
"You knew her when she was a child?"
"Please indulge a dying man?"
A sigh again.
"What is there for me to know that you do not?"
"I am… I am twenty-five years old, my prince."
"Mortals are also a hard concept to grab for an elf." The second voice seems to muse.
"I wish I could understand this."
It is the turn of the soft one to say "I'm sorry," though it is a mere civility; it can be perceived that its mind still dwells on other things, far away from the lightless dark.
"Always as beautiful." The words come abruptly out of the void, with no preamble, no transition between their beauty and the harshness of silence. "She has not changed, since I first saw her. Perhaps still a strange gleam in her eyes, ever awaiting something beyond the grasp of others; as if knowing of the fate that led her by the hand."
"Yes. Always as beautiful."
"She has waited for you for all that time," the gentle voice recites, like a litany learnt by heart, "dancing in the forest waiting for you to come; a ragged and dying man; to lie your eyes upon her dance. She has grown wings for you, flown ever for you, danced ever for you, the one that would not be born for yet hundreds of years; but it is for you that she was made, for you that she has danced under her moonlight for centuries, and had you not come that she would have gone on with her dance, never staying her feet upon the blooming flower buds…"
"But I came, and tore her from this background, a work of art from the work of art…"
"You did not." Abrupt again, reality and matter cutting into the poetry. "She is an elf."
"Ha. Always the song, is it not?"
"Lunchtime, by Eru! Lunchtime for thou, hellspawn! The meal's tired of waiting!"
A heavy weight gracelessly lands on the hard ground, and the sound of metallic chains violently clanging against each other is permanent for a minute; and then everything falls back into stillness.
"I'm still here. Not for long."
"I think I've come to understand mortals."
"Hey. A star shone on the hour of our meeting then." A soft chuckle, made unnatural by the weary voice and the surroundings.
"Do you think it's daytime now?"
"I don't know. I think so."
"I hope it is."
"Yes. I would feel it were it night."
And then there is the rhythmical sound of a liquid dripping onto the floor.
"I can hear his foul breath now. It's almost hot against my neck."
"Yes. I have heard him all along," the thin voice adds mysteriously.
"Namarië, then, my prince." The first voice, as if unable to contain itself anymore, breaks into a high, unnatural, desperate laughter. "Meet you at the end of the world, no?"
Dripping liquid, drop by drop.
"Namarië, friend." The other voice also seems to smile. "Courage stems from despair. Remember that one for me, will you not?"
There is the slightest sound of chains.
And then chaos.