Author's Note: Quite possibly the oddest thing I have ever written: likely the product of too much nostalgia and Silmarillion and general sleeplessness. I am not quite sure what I think of it, actually, but here you go. And, er, apologies for the hyphen-deluge. I was in one of those moods. Title is dubious; any suggestions for a better one would be welcome.Thank you to avonleigh on LiveJournal, Noldo, and LadyMoriel for assuring me that I hadn't gone mad.

by Vintage Blue

He should be used to this sort of thing by now—the slow, slow stiffening, the enwrapping of oneself in a mantle of eternal grey (though for he, the Grey, the grey is not eternal as to Men). He should be used to the way his hands curl into themselves tiredly some nights, worn and wizened beside the teacup that has managed not to chip.

(He should be used to watching Men die, fade backward into a languorous blackness, eyes turning back to fix upon some unseen horror or wonder. He should be used to the sound of breath all rushing out in a miniaturised windstorm. He remembers where the freed fëar of the Eldar flee; he remembers the halls. He does not know where it is the Edain find their way to, and still, he is not used to the descent into colourless decrepitude; he thinks it should be some other way, some brighter way, or not at all. Less still is he used to the sudden culling of the warrior from his horse, falling as the arrow-pierced bird falls as prey to the ravening host beneath.)

He is not used to names: in Arda they are so fleeting and small, and important. Names were not so needed, so anchoring before; he is not used to a name tying him to a place, to this world. He is not used to thinking that perhaps they might.

Even after long centuries, in which much of his old mind has been ocean-worn to something that might be wiser, more comfortable, after eternities of sun-bright sharpness (which he did not think was blinding then), he is not used to this being, this hröa, which his half-forgotten folk find frail and fleeting, and Men find a marvel of sorts, for it does not so easily fade, despite the grey and the stone-weathered oldness. He settles into long decades (decades now seem long to him: he is not used to that) of being, and used to, and forgetting, but the odd rainy day comes when his bones ache (such a wonder are these; these bones!), and in a moment of un-celestial clumsiness his head meets some unforeseen corner of the wall, or his shoulder the doorframe, and he marvels over this strange, petty thing that Men call "pain", this sharpness or thick-thudding dullness in the flesh; not what he would call pain, or would have, once. He remembers the colours before he was the Grey, but there are other colours here. He is not used to this even when he thinks to himself that he must be beginning to be, but he does not regret this flesh, and this world-knowing, for there is more to know in flesh, he thinks, than in a forever, and his knowing can become the knowing of the Eruchín. Here there is grief and gladness, and the hröa knows this in a way fëa cannot. There are moments when he feels as if this world is sliding itself upon his shoulders, carefully; he thinks Eru-Ilúvatar, is this so?

He is not used to that.

- soul
hröa - body, physical form
Eruchín - children of Eru