I could not tell you how long I have been here. There was a time of darkness, of close earth, and beyond that something ephemeral and filled with sharp, clear sound and sensation. Hazy it is, growing less distinct, less definable as time passes. I think it was called life.
Yes, I see your fascination. Through the rippling, uneven glass of the water, I see you peering down at me, or what you believe to be my face, my body. I do not see what you see, though I have some vague memory of what you might see: a pale, beautiful face, an ageless body encased in leaf-patterned armor. That I was beautiful once, that much I do remember.
Come closer, for I know you would see more; the mere is so very murky, you realize, and your mortal eyes pierce only the shallowest depths. The water is stained brown by peat and rotting vegetation, and few eyes perceive what lies in the ooze beneath the surface. They see only what the pale sheen of corpse candles illuminates: shadows of faces, tangles of weeds floating on the surface like hair, perhaps the glimmer of steel revealed by a shaft of sunlight.
Farther below, picked bare by corpse worms and almost indistinguishable from the rocks, there are bones. A great many of them you would see, if you were able, for where now you swat away clouds of insects and pick your way through the marshes to peer down into the brown waters the dead once lay heaped upon the battlefield under the open sky, a harvest of gutted blood and bone.
I do not know which of those corpses was mine. Once some foul creature's blade took off my head—or perhaps I was speared from behind, I truly do not remember—what difference did it make? My bones could be any of these peat-stained lumps in the ooze, but it does not matter now. As hróar go, none are very appealing to me.
But I like your body, frail and dirty though it is. The upper world does not seem to have been kind to you—it never is kind to mortals--but then you are on the other side of this watery glass and I am not. They are always moving, these waters, always restless, swallowing the darkness, churning it and stirring what lies beneath. Ages without sleep, you know nothing of such madness.
Once, in the darkness, entangled in the rotten limbs of my brothers, I used to hear a voice calling to me, urging me to follow. Did I refuse the summons? Is it something else that keeps me here? I do not know, I do not remember. The water muffles nearly all sound, leaving only distant echoes. If the voice still calls to me, I cannot hear it. Perhaps it has given up by now.
Can you hear the voice, Engwar, up there in the open air? Nay, I had forgotten. Mortals do not hear the call of Mandos. So deaf and blind you are, you lesser creatures of Arda. Do you hear me now? Do my lips seem to move as you study my face? Ah, yes, come closer so you might hear me better, so I might tell you a secret.
Your cheek touches the surface of the water, breaking it, sending ripples of anticipation down into the depths. That is better, mortal, and if you come even closer I will whisper it in your ear. It is this: I do not like mortals. I do not think I like Eldar much either, these days. I envy you. I hate you both, moving about in the free air. Does that surprise you, mortal, that one of the Firstborn has utterly forgotten love?
But I remember hate. Oh, yes. I remember hate.
* * *
coavalta: (Quenya) houseless
Engwar: the sickly, a term for Men.
Thanks to Aerlinnel for suggesting the final line of the story.