The Silmaril had never been so stupid as to expect recovering Maglor would be easy.
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Maglor, OFC, OMC
Action/Adventure, Angst, AU, Horror, Hurt/Comfort
May 24, 2016 Updated:
June 08, 2016
The pace I write Erevir's story means I wont be reaching this anytime soon so it gets its own fic.
1. I - The Graveyard of Creation by Urloth
2. II - The Graveyard of Creation. One Mile Out. by Urloth
3. III - One Mile Out. Twelve Days Walk. by Urloth
4. IV - Twelve Miles Walk. by Urloth
I - The Graveyard of Creation by Urloth
Here was a place where the very ground was a graveyard of itself.
Once flowing with life, now utterly blasted free of it. The ground was so white it hurt to look anywhere. Snow blindness could happen in a land so hot and baked hard that water would roll over the ground like bright marbles till it evaporated. Never absorbed. Never nurturing.
Every step was a painful mourning trudge to a funeral that had lasted ages and would last into the unmaking of the world and precious tears escaped Erevir’s eyes no matter how hard they tried to control it because there was no escaping this misery. Even once they finally left this land they would be unable to escape this misery because to know of what had happened; to know what stood in place of lake and tributaries and hills and forests and moors and mountains…
Nen Echui in Þindarin. Cuiviénen in Quenya.
So many other languages had another name for her: Mother. The Womb in which Eru had nurtured their Quendi children.
Only the Five Arrows distanced themselves. They called this land the Cradle of Civilization. Erevir supposed it was because somewhere amongst the blasted grey in the distance which looked deceptively like boulders thanks to a trick of light and distance was where the Five Arrows had survived their harrowing creation. Somewhere there amongst the shattered pieces of mountain that had been torn away to reveal the earth that had then torn apart to uproot Utumno where it rested in the place where rock became fire.
It was telling, Erevir had thought this before but now it was very profound a thought, that nowhere in the memories Fëanor had bequeathed them were, there any great and detailed tales of Cuiviénen. They did not think they would find any further signs of the place in the other silima bound parts of itself or even in Fëanor.
What Fëanor remembered was more that knowledge of Cuiviénen was precious and rare than actual knowledge of Cuiviénen. And unwillingly knowledge of Cuiviénen was an emotional budern for himself for the majority of what he knew had come from his Mother first and then Rúmil Lambengolmo who had tried his best to replace his sister when Fëanor had needed it. There had been no asking his Father about it. Not after the first time. Not after the loss to near equal the loss of Míriel turning the air between them both sickly and stale.
No wonder, Erevir thought. No wonder everything they knew of this place which had helped them find it was from the Tatyar, the Taenferdhrim, the Nurya, and even the Five Arrows.
It had been a Tatyar who had stayed till the bitter end as witness.
A Taenferdhrim who had marked the route by which they had escaped.
The Nurya had been the ones to create the star maps.
The Five Arrows kept a distant and wary eye on Utumno's backfilled demolition site as a matter of principle.
The future Amanyar had not even stayed till the very end but had seen enough to scar their tongues and seal their throats. Wisdom or some sort of silly social censoring Erevir decided they did not care because it had been the wisest decision.
So grief stricken this land was, this echoing hollow of loss, that the only animals that traversed it were old oliphaunts who came with a single purpose to lie down and leave the boundaries of the world for the next.
Ancient lake bed crunched underfoot but the Silmaril carried on with only one pause to place a hand against the gargantuan skull of one whom the land had stripped bare of flesh. When had it been that they had been told that sometimes the oldest of the human tamed olipaunts would disappear?
Had it been in Sud Siccana they had been well entertained by a tale of the younger animals working together to free their elders of the chains that held them in place at night? Animals raised from calfhood to need the guiding hand of humanity to survive, so stripped of Arda were their fea.
“You made your escape well,” they told the empty bones, light casting green over the decaying metal that had capped sawn off tusks.
“You did well,” they stroked the bone under their hand, “I am sure you were happy.”
But they were not here to find the great mysteries of oliphaunts, and there were many great mysteries to think about if one had the time. Olipaunts were not enough of a draw to force themselves to walk the earth where Eru’s sorrow was mightiest; where the echoes of the Be All And End All told of … Greatness. That was the only word for it. Greatness.
Such Greatness of all varieties that had left their mark in the memories that this dead earth clung onto.
But they were not here for greatness. Or Greatness.
Or maybe they were but not this sort.
He lay just a bit beyond the Runaway. His back was propped up against the sole tree standing though what type of tree it was hard to tell and only one who had been stone knew that the tall black spear sprouted from the ground was the trunk of a petrified tree, so glossy and black it had been polished by the sand and wind so that the imprint of bark had long been lost.
Erevir’s mouth felt too dry and their head was ringing with dehydration but they had saved their water, likely warm and rank with the taste of the water skin, because they could force themselves to ignore deprivation past what a Quendi could, even an Amanyar.
His hair blew out where it straggled around him at a sudden sharp shove of wind then lay back flat. It was thinned and there were sores on his scalp exposed to the air. Truly it was only the olipaunts who came here because anywhere else the wounds would have been crawling with insects
A shadow passed their feet. They thought a vulture was proving to them that at least the skies lived here but it was no vulture. A mirage perhaps instead.
Maglor’s head was slumped but the Silmaril did not need to see his face to know it was him. They just knew. A deep and unmovable knowing forged from the bonds the House of Fëanor that ran far stronger than even the Oath.
Their heart was hurting.
They paced themselves, walking measured and slow towards Maglor so that should he still be conscious he had time to see them. A good idea because Maglor might resemble a freshly collapsed corpse but he was still fast and strong, sword rising, held in the left hand, with nary a tremble in a warning before it was lowered to his side again.
Up came his right hand, palm flat.
“Halt,” breezes had more strength of air than Maglor’s breath but Erevir froze in place.
The first three fingers of the hand presented to them were shriveled and bent down against the palm, necrotized then calcified into twisted stubs though the little finger was long and elegant in spite of the dirt encrusting every pore.
Their eyes were caught in Maglor’s chapped and shrunken lips, a crust of dried old blood making clumsy the movement of his renown mouth. It was perfectly framed by the window created by the hole in the middle of Maglor’s palm, the edges of it pink, shiney, and tight in the way of burn scars.
The Silmaril found their eyes screwing shut. Trying to reject the sight of what the hallowing had done.
The brief wind stilled and it was so oppressively white with this single point of darkness leading the eye to Maglor who watched them with eyes that gave nothing away. An inverse of the void where Fëanor would eternally be a pillar of flame piercing the icy darkness.
There was a low rattling groaning coming the way that Erevir had come, the old matriarch they had joined on the unknown road to this place now breathing her last.
Ah this was such a miserable place.
II - The Graveyard of Creation. One Mile Out. by Urloth
warnings: disturbing imagery, cruelty to, and the death of animals
They waited for Maglor to give them permission to come closer but he did not.
He did not even ask who they were. What they wanted.
His right hand returned to his side. His left hand had not moved from his sword. He watched them and they watched him.
Eventually one of them would have to give way. Erevir knew it would be them.
Maglor had come here to die, Erevir had come here prepared to haul him back alive no matter what. Compared to everything else that had happened to them in their life, standing and waiting in this unbearable heat was a mild discomfort not an agony.
They counted time by the number of times Maglor blinked. There was a glazed sheen to the bright eyes that made them wonder if Maglor wasn’t suffering from the light blindness the Silmaril was barely keeping back.
Blink by blink.
Breath by breath.
And then Maglor’s eyes did not open and slowly then quickly he fell sideways with the graceful clumsiness a body no one is controlling has.
Erevir did not stir. Behind the cloth they’d pulled over their face to try and save some of their skin from the burning they licked their chapped lips and wondered if they were seeing a trap. Maglor had fallen away from his sword though.
Panic duly flared.
What if he had finally achieved what he had clearly set out to achieve when he travelled here?
What if Erevir had just stood and watched him die?
But it could definitely be a trap.
There was almost a smug feeling. Makalaurë had excelled in games of strategy and tactics. His son…
Hold, Erevir firmly caught themselves as their thoughts tried to slip into that particular trap. They stepped to the side of Maglor’s prone body and kicked away the sword. It spun across the sand.
It was a good sword. A short sword which was surprising. No special maker's marks or designs that they saw. In fact they rather thought it was one of those mass produced blades Gil-Galad's armory had been overflowing with. The kind that had been wielded by the Minyar foot soldiers of the Amanyar army in case they lost their spears. Quite a few had been left behind when the shining host had departed.
They looked at Maglor again.
It was a trap wasn’t it? It was most definitely a trap.
But in this heat which was not even approaching how it would blister the skin at the zenith of the day.
Ah but it was too convenient.
But then again look at him. There was nothing left.
Still they were not convinced that Maglor was not pretending and they were right, utterly unsurprised when they reached to touch the pulse in Maglor’s throat and found their hand bent back to an impossible angle and then their throat grabbed. Their back hit the ground and something in their shoulder did not like how hard they hit the rock solid soil.
But really the most pressing thing was that Maglor was doing his very best to choke the life out of them. He was doing a very effective job with only one hand, he was using the other one to apply weight so it was more of a crushing attempt.
They weren’t sure if the dark spots in their vision were light blindness from the brightness of Cuiviénen or the lack of air. Maglor had chosen to grab them as they breathed out. Very sly.
Eru they would pass out. The cloth over their mouth had become a willing accomplice to Maglor’s terrifyingly silent assault, making drawing any breath an impossibility as it wound up scrunched in their mouth.
They wished that he would say something. Their kicks and blows were doing nothing. They were loath to draw blood. Their nails carried enough trace amounts of silima that they could open flesh to the vein if they weren’t careful. It seemed to defeat the purpose of finding him if they would cut him open. The Hallowing was popping under their skin. They could feel it flaring in scalding bursts of pain along their shoulders and under Maglor’s hands in particular, radiating away from their skin contact. They did their best to stop it actually touching Maglor but they must have failed.
There was the faint scent of burning skin.
He growled out “sorcerer!”
And yanked the cloth over their face away, giving them a moment to breathe, with a clever hook of his single finger.
And then they wished that he would go back to that terrifying silence given the acidic torrent of abuse that reigned down up them and how their neck was going to break with just how hard he was bearing down on it.
They really shouldn’t feel so blasé about the damage he had already caused.
Talking was now right out of the question and would be for a few days till the crushing injuries were healed.
And the Hallowing was building strength behind their fraying hold on it.
It slipped their grip in a sharp punch of power and they heard the sizzle of flesh even as Maglor was flung back, something bursting bright between their bodies like ignited magnesia.
And then Maglor was not pretending to be unconscious and Erevir had something near to a crushed windpipe though they could draw enough breathe it couldn’t be completely gone. They hauled the Hallowing back like the leashed beast it should be. It came, petulant, and they thought again that they were not at all happy that the Hallowing seemed to be gaining a sort of sentience. It was easier when it merely reacted to control it.
They crawled over and checked Maglor’s pulse… steady.
The Hallowing tried a feint and they slapped it down so hard they felt the impact of the blow like an aftershock.
They checked Maglor’s hand with nausea then chilly relieved shock to find the skin was only blistered on the outer edges.
A scalding burn.
But the smell…
Their skin prickled all over and acid coated the back of their throat to see that the old Hallowing wounds were reburned. Most particularly the hardened, necrotised flesh of Maglor’s fingers was …char.
It was too much. They pushed him back so they didn’t vomit on them then regretted not controlling themselves because even that was precious water they couldn’t loose.
This was not, in anyway, how they thought this would go yet at the same time they weren’t sure how else it could have gone. Fëanor had left them with a host of strong feelings and beliefs that weren’t their own. All of those regarding his sons were positive.
Beyond positive. They were overflowing with his love.
At times these emotions would fly free and Erevir would be paralysed by the overwhelming nature of his love for them and of his assured knowledge of their love for him… and every time they had crossed paths with one of his sons they had tried to kill the Silmaril.
All of the two times they had encountered one of their creator’s sons.
Did Celegorm’s hungry spirit count?
They thought so.
Celegorm had even been in possession of a body at the time.
The contrast between what those emotions tricked them into expecting or perhaps wanting and what happened was so jarring and disheartening…
Which was irrational because they couldn’t blame him…
Cheer up, they told themselves.
Celegorm actually choked you into unconsciousness and tried to eat your heart to boot.
This was nothing.
This was… nothing.
They really couldn’t afford to lose the sort of liquid crying would waste.
What could they do about Maglor’s hands instead? They had left much of what they’d carried at the last oasis, as much as one could call the puddle sized patch of brackish water with a few straggling bushes and two very sad trees that might have been palms. They had buried it near the trees. Who knew what withered scavenger might have dug it up?
Maybe it was a good thing Maglor was unconscious. They could carry him at their own pace and not worry about him. It would be two days by foot if they pushed themselves.
They settled for coating Maglor’s hands in the salve they had been given for blisters and bruises since they had nothing else, and then wrapped them in their scarf.
The scalp sores needed cleaning. Maglor’s hands probably needed cleaning too but Erevir was not going to risk wasting water even if he didn’t wake up to drink it. They wrapped Maglor’s head lightly in a dirty scarf they found amongst his few possessions, skin crawling at it, and then gathered what they found.
There was not much. Decaying clothing, a few cloth wrapped objects they suspected were of emotional value and the pack he’d carried them in which had given out at the bottom. There was also a misericore.
Erevir had seen Maglor’s sword in Gil-Galad’s armory alongside Maedhros. They had been recovered near the outskirts of the Minyar encampment where the two remaining Silmarilli had been taken. They had been every bit of the beautiful art combined with lethal practicality and functionality one would have expected from the sons of Fëanor. Not the word of Fëanor himself but instead one of his first apprentices.
The enamelling on the misericore matched the same beautiful combination of white and dark blue that had been on Maglor’s sword, with the same discrete rippling that was meant to guide liquid away from the grip.
They supposed they should be thankful Maglor had either misplaced it or had chosen deliberately not to use it because a stab through the eye and into the brain wasn’t something they could walk off.
They could survive it. They were not permitted to end their existence until they had fulfilled their bargain with the Almighty and besides there was no afterlife for them to go into. But brain injuries always healed the slowest.
It had taken them years to recover from taking a zaġāya to the head, and the fallout from the Hallowing responding to the violence had erased a very prosperous town from all maps.
The misericore was wrapped up and packed away and they grabbed the kicked away sword.
It was put back in a sheath that was definitely the property of some poor Minyar foot soldier, and they buckled it over their hips to get it out of the way. Then they heaved Maglor up into their arms, pointing themselves towards the unknown road that would finally bring them away.
They passed the Runaway, and then amongst bleached white bones they saw the Matriatch where she lay in final repose. She had a great many scars across her hind quarters and back. And as they rounded her they saw a trident embedded in her left flank, shaft snapped off and what wood remained well weathered
They paused and stared in awe for the skin had grown around the tines thick and hard like wood.
The Matriarch’s large dark eye stared up into the endless blue sky, up beyond the clouds and where the veil of stars hung, beyond the dome, beyond darkness, beyond… to wherever it was that Men and Oliphaunts escaped to when they shook themselves free of Arda.
If their hands had been free they would have saluted her. The most they could do was bend their knees in nothing close to a bow but as close as they could manage.
Not that she could care. Or would have cared.
Apart from briefly inspecting them with her trunk she had been a disinterested travelling companion but had cast a decent shadow to stay in.
Nen Echui did not quite farewell them but they did feel the moment they stepped beyond what would have been the edges of the world for the Unborn and the three generations or so who had called it home.
They were not sad to leave.
A mile out and a wave of wrongness rolled over them.
They shouldered their burden carefully and considered the consequences of investigating it. When would Maglor wake up?
His wounds should not have kept him sleeping but he was in a torpor. A real one. Not pretend. They had risked brushing their mind against his and found his thoughts trapped beneath a deep thick fog of exhaustion. He must not have slept recently. Possibly for as long as it was possible for Eldar not to sleep. Which was a length of time that would kill a Man.
Did he have trouble sleeping in general or had something been hounding his dreams away?
Their stomach heaved at another wave of …
Maybe they could walk on. But with Cuiviénen so close…
It wasn’t that the land was a holy one, or sanctified in anyway. But its nothingness gave it a purity found nowhere else and usually influenced its surroundings. Things simply did not approach it, for ill or for good. Animals lived and died beyond its borders and oliphaunts within but the ground and much beyond it simply would not take up personality in the way the land of Arda should.
So why was this taint seeping across the ground and through the air as the thin wind changed to bring a ripe, gagging taint of carrion?
Well they would not put Maglor down but if they were careful they could look.
It required they scale a steep dune; to climb so high up shifting slippery sand that when they reached the top they thought they saw the word begin to bow like a map over the edge of a table at the horizon, and they climbed it cursing Maglor’s long legs and unwieldy hard shoulders all the way up.
Steep as a cliff on the side they had climbed the dune flowed gently down. Down and down and down it rolled that even though it would a gentle fall your own momentum would kill you. And lying at the base of that gentle slope where the ground spread out into a deceptively beautiful plane of gold lay the carnage they had smelled.
There were three calves… no four, they had not seen the unborn calf that had been hidden by the gutted baulk of its mother in amongst the piles of discarded intestine.
Four calves and three matron oliphaunts, arranged in a bent ovoid shape with blood drenching the sand and cementing it still in the spaces they did not touch. In the middle was a pile of their hearts still smoking.
T’was an eye, staring up at the viewer.
It saw all.
It saw them.
Erevir’s skin lost all heat and their head went light from the horror of it.
The longer they stared the more awful it became. It was not just oliphaunts. Amonst the offal they saw vultures and lion dogs, the scavengers of these impossible landscapes of shadow and gold, lying on their sides or splayed atop of the generous offerings of food. And that shading across the ground was not the shadows cast by the oliphaunts' bulk. The sky was in the wrong positon to cast shadows that way. It was insects, dropped dead when they should be crawling everywhere.
This was nothing the paltry light of a Silmaril could heal.
“I must leave,” the Silmaril breathed out into the air, more a thought on breath than actual spoken words since they were unable to form hard sounds around the pain in their throat “yarely I must leave or I shall unravel.”
The dry air stole what sound they were able to make as they spoke and just as well. It might be out there, whatever it was, listening.
The Hallowing thrashed around their body, kicking up sand and petrifying it into explosions of cloudy glass around their feet while it clawed the air, digging furrows of fire out of nothing all around them. It was not even bothering with Maglor. Compared to what had riled it now he was nothing…
They caught a scythe of fire before it slammed against Maglor’s sleeping face.
The Hallowing wriggled a defiant razor of pain against their palm so they released the fire to dissipate into the air from a bloodied palm.
They were so far from the trade routes out here. They were so far away from where caravans and inns made life tolerable.
They would have to endure further askance of their body to defy what the Quendi had taught it to need. Walk through the day and night to the oasis, give Maglor a chance to revive if he had already not, and then press on. If Maglor could not keep up they would carry him. They would bind him hand and foot with those filthy rags he wore if he fought them again. They could force their body to march through the day and night to remove themselves far from this place and pay the heavy price of doing so later, far away.
Far, far away.
III - One Mile Out. Twelve Days Walk. by Urloth
The tears came as they reached the oasis. The pathetic patch of mud and plants that should be ashamed to call themselves such.
They let themselves have a mouthful of the foul tasting water in their water skin and put Maglor down. They could feel their thighs burning as they knelt to put Maglor into what very tiny amount of shade there was and dug up their pack.
Maglor had not even stirred the entire distance. They were worried.
His mind was drifting out of touch within himself, buried leagues under a grey smoggy exhaustion and a mental weight Erevir had no knowledge of.
The image of the oliphaunt herd had not left them. Had they been part of the Matriarch’s herd? How had something managed to get to the calves? Matron oliphaunts were the most terrifying creatures in existence, in Erevir’s opinion though they had not yet met a Balrog. Even wargs on the hunt hesitated to try and separate a calf from the pack.
Then… perhaps the Matrons had been killed first. In front of their calves.
Oliphaunt calves could cry in reaction to shock and distress…
They pried open Maglor’s mouth and massaged his throat to make him take some water in then lay his head on the cleanest cloth they could find so they could doctor to his scalp sores. Then they unwrapped his hands. It was possibly worse to look at then it had been before and they nearly lost the water they had drunk as a bit of charred finger simply…broke off and rolled out of the cloth and onto their lap.
They lay him back and went to find their fire pot. They could at least purify some water and clean him up again but when they tried to clean away some of the dirt more crumbling char fell away. It seemed the harder they tried not to disturb the damage the faster it broke away by itself as slaggy, awful smelling char that left filthy dark trials over Maglor’s already filthy hand.
Erevir was no healer. They had basic training because the Lord Healer of Greenwood was loath to allow anyone to wander the leagues of Arda without knowing what to do if they broke their leg. This was far, far beyond what Lord Lithwaloth had expected Erevir to ever have to take care of.
The Hallowing had completely decimated the old flesh which they supposed was better than it decimating new, living flesh. The more they looked, the more they realised it had to come away. Still they dithered on actually taking action for a long time, hoping Maglor would wake up and force a conclusion.
It didn’t feel right not to have his agreement either but they were fairly sure he wouldn’t have agreed.
Maglor did not stir and at last they opened their pack and found the little roll of sharp knives the Lord Healer had given them. They picked the one that seemed the likeliest to be useful and began the terrible task of cutting away the hard, charred flesh of Maglor’s old fingers.
The time of sepsis and infection had long passed in the old flesh and they saw signs of just how bad it must have been at the time of the wounding and wished they could stop their imagination turning back the water clock to show them how it would have been.
The dead flesh came away… far too easily. The hardest part was figuring out what was built up old skin on the living flesh and what was calcification and making sure they did not cut anything that had managed to survive.
The Quendi body had an amazing capacity for healing, far beyond the capabilities of man. Blood flow had redirected itself and they suspected the lost nerves had regrown to skirt around the hole in the middle of Maglor’s hand. The hole itself revealed a hair’s width of regrown flesh once they had cleaned away the dead skin and dirt.
An amazing capacity to heal indeed for the race that had all the time in the world. Which was good because they needed all the time in the world. Urion, the elf who had named Erevir and taught them the basics of survival in the woods, had lost his leg near two ages ago and had perhaps a thumb’s length growth of new flesh beneath the original amputation scar.
It hadn’t been much longer back that Maglor had received this injury. Which engendered the nauseous realisation that Maglor had been carrying around the dead fingers of his hand for that long. But also suggested the wound had been far…far worse.
Far, far worse.
They had to get up and circle the oasis a few times to clear their head after that, hands shaking and a new cold sweat over their skin.
Should they really be doing this in these conditions? No but when else could they do it? What if the Hallowing had actually injured the living flesh beneath? The risk of infection would be immense. It was all crumbling and peeling away beneath their eyes. Best get rid of it all in one go and give the flesh beneath a fighting chance.
They could almost feel the Lord Healer’s gaze from however many leagues away he was. The halls of healing in the Greenwood were immaculate clean spaces; apprentices earned their free education and board by cleaning the place constantly. The Lord Healer allowed his healers no bare toed shoes, and no loose hair. No meals were to be taken anywhere but in the cafeteria, and his wrath would find you if you failed to wash to the elbows and over your face after eating.
Corners were always swept first. Grout was scrubbed with tiny brushes near daily. If a healer picked up a knife they’d best have scrubbed themselves with lye-soap everywhere before making a move towards their patient.
But Lord Lithwaloth had trained the healers that had marched with armies, and accompanied wardens on the marches of lost Beleriand, just as they accompanied the wardens patrolling the Greenwood, as well as commanded Healing Tents of many wars. The level of cleanliness in the Healing Halls was not achievable much beyond the door. (The step of which was clean enough to eat off... which you might find yourself doing if you sinned heavily enough against the Healing Halls.)
He would understand, Erevir reassured themself. They were not even doing anything of a healing nature! They were just…cleaning up what was already crumbling away.
And peeling off an unconscionable amount of dead skin so thick and tough it could be compared to hide.
One strip of the stuff seemed to have the tip of a dagger broken off in it.
Had Maglor tried to commit suicide by sepsis? They looked at Maglor. In sleep his face had regained a sort of dignity he’d not had snarling and raging at them. The blood on his lips needed to be sorted out lest he swallow it and it settle in his gut and make him sick.
Had he then tried suicide by bad hygiene?
Suicide by simply not attending to himself? Neglect?
Or had he just not wanted to take care of himself? Not having the will to care or not having the energy they could understand.
Under all of that detritus there was revealed a fairly normal shaped hand in spite of the hole, and gracing the top were three tiny stubs. The barest roots of fingers. And by the way the skin was warm and pink and how it twitched under Erevir’s touch, the blood supply and nerves had definitely regrown around the hole in the middle of the palm. They weren’t sure what was happening with the muscles beneath.
Their disgust faded and they gently patted the newly bared skin of Maglor’s hand all over with a cloth dipped in the cream meant to protect ones skin from the sun.
They were getting the feeling that Maglor shouldn’t even have a hand. How had he not been dropped from sheer shock and trauma?
They patted the hand again guiltily.
How was Maglor going to react?
He tried to kill us, they reminded themselves, so relations between us cannot get any worse.
Ah. They remembered their throat. Which had not stopped hurting but which they had been able to ignore while they focused on Maglor’s hand.
They had some of the Lord Healer’s pain brew in their pack. They could use some of that. But what if they needed it for Maglor?
Maglor who had nearly crushed their throat; willing to kill in order to die.
They allowed themselves some healthy anger and then they made a weak version of the brew with some of the heated, purified water, casting side glances at the terrible excuse of a watering hole.
This oasis had been marked by the Taenferdhrim and Five Arrows both, and was mentioned in many Tatyarin edda that described the area. It was meant to be a large pool of water; unnaturally still and unnaturally chilled, with dense, near impenetrable thorn bushes surrounding it and a constant shadow upon it from the old trees sprung up at its edges.
Since this was the only place they’d found with water it had to be the same spot. The star maps further confirmed it.
No one had visited in a while apparently.
Erevir felt cold all of a sudden. When they closed their eyes they saw the slaughtered oliphaunts. Saw the shape they had created.
And from the darkness came the first scream. No common animal could create such a blood chilling noise as that. The last time they had heard it was the nights of the long siege of Baradur when men could be plucked from their guard-posts by fiends who travelled on silent wings.
That scream meant that one had found success in their hunting.
Other screams acknowledged the first. Less triumphant. More hungry.
They chugged their pain-brew, stood, and kicked sand into the fire pot to extinguish it.
Maglor could stay sleeping. The more he slept the faster Erevir would be away.
They left the oasis behind with a desperate prayer that they would encounter Mankind sooner rather than later.
Maglor awoke in a tent.
It was not much of a tent really. His back was against rock…a boulder. The cloth was stretched from that, over him, and had been weighted on the ground by another rock with the remaining cloth falling down to create a second side. He’d been laid parallel with the open side, head at the higher end and feet at the lower.
Tent was really being too generous.
A wind gentle ruffled the cloth and caressed his face with pleasant near coolness. It might be small but it was doing its job admirably. His eyelids dipped. There was a terrible temptation to fall back into the sleep he’d come from. It had been so long… so long since he had slept any manner of time in a clean fashion; no night-terrors and constant pulsing pain from his hand, no tearful children sobbing just beyond sight in the shadows and the very real voices of the dead castigating or cursing him.
No eternal moment of time when he was too far away and too slow to prevent Maedhros’ step out into air.
Beyond the shadow created by the shelter he saw the white of sand and the heat rising from it.
This at least had continuity from the nightmare he had fallen into after he had laid himself down in the land of ringing emptiness. He had hoped to become a part of that emptiness. To finally fade. Instead he had slipped into an awful dream. Was this a continuance of that dream?
It seemed too real. The pattern of the cloth. Stripes of brown and dun. Tasselling along the edges. The dryness of his mouth. The grit in his eyes. The hushed but strident arguing beyond the view the shelter gave him.
There was absolutely nothing near him he could use as a weapon save the .rock weighing the end and moving to grab that would definitely give away that he was awake.
He waited, tensing, and when he tensed he felt the difference in his hand. The light tingling tenderness.
There was a scarf around his hand; a clean, cheerfully blue cloth. The looseness of it and lack of bandaging were no reassurance. He ripped it away
He did not recognise what he saw. The grey-brown fingers permanently set in place against the side of his palm were gone.
The leathery surface that had grown down to his knuckles and what had been left of his palm, and then over, consuming them was gone.
In place was a pink and tender surface with stumps barely pushing past the top of the palm. Where the Silmaril had blasted open his hand was swollen and irritated. There was the strong smell of an ointment of some kind, a bitter, familiar scent though the composition was different, that indicated a remedy for infection.
Hot electric spasms fluctuated from the ghostly tips of his fingers to his wrist as he stared and the tiny stumps twitched in response.
His gorge rose and miraculously there was something in his stomach for him to struggle to keep down as his rage built and built from red boiling immediacy to black sharp chill
When he moved the sand barely stirred, the cold riding into his limbs and bringing into sharp focus everything he needed to be aware of not to make a sound, not to ruffle the material as he flowed out of the shelter with the anchoring rock clasped in his good hand.
But bringing it down on the back of the unguarded head before him did not work as he calculated it should. There was nothing in every scenario for what would happen once he struck that included the back of his hand splitting open from a blade he could not see. That the skin would peel back from a lash of heat. That he saw for a moment, words in cold starlight on the back of his hand.
He was sure… he was sure… Valarin was not a language that was easily written down. It resembled equations more than literature. He was sure it was one of those that had flashed before his eyes like a flirtation. Or a warning. A reminder?
Wide pale eyes.
A torment in his flesh that had too much similarity to the moment after he’d reached into the velvet sack that Arafinwë’s people had shoved the Silmarilli into, and tried to fulfil the Oath.
And then an arm was shoving itself under his shoulder to force him to stay upright even though his legs wanted to fold from the pain that was only increasing with each labouring heartbeat. A hand closed over his, forced the rock from his locked fingers, and the pain began to reluctantly retreat. Cloth was hurriedly pressed into the cut to stem the flow. All done behind the person’s back.
More talking. No longer hushed. It sounded like bargaining.
The ringing in his ears died down and he leaned into the body holding his up and listened, feigning faintness until he had reassessed his situation. The body simply accommodated his weight like it was something they were used to doing. And it was painfully familiar when he pressed his forehead against the thin shoulder even though it should have been wide and hard with muscle.
The nightmare blurred by his light seared vision roused and awoke as fresh and terrible as before.
“He is unwell. He is unwell as I said. My friend surely you have compassion in your heart as the Almighty commands. You are not even losing your mount. I personally shall find you at the Autumn Fair or if not I then my brother-”
In fact the whole body felt wasted. His right hand brushed hips that were jutting rudely, and wrapping his arm around the torso had him acquainting himself with sharply defined ribs.
He risked glancing up. The one he would have attacked had their hair covered in a cloth but it did not totally obscure his view of the other possible threat. He saw a Man in his later-middling years, wrapped up in the familiar style of the Bedaya against the environment. Though that was like saying the familiar style of the Ñoldor. But he recognised it at least. There was a pouch of gold and silver that had been spilled out onto a cloth and a canister of some kind of dried leaves between them both, indicating what had been in play as they haggled.
He wondered why the Man had not run away when he had come out. Either he had moved too fast for the Man to pick up more than what had happened or the one insisting, as they bantered back and forth, that Maglor was unwell had forethought to explain away random acts of violence.
Smart if he had.
There was also a young man, appearing from the left in his vision, leading a very spiteful looking ungulate towards them so Maglor assumed the bargaining was really over and done with and what was going on in front of him was just pride or enjoyment.
The older Bedaya turned away to grab the animal’s leads.
“What are the dried plants?”” he asked, sotto.
“…tea?” confusion, a voice that was not golden and rich enough, raspy and hushed from pain “what do you think it is?”
Exhaustion in the drag of breathing.
Reliant on whatever sorcery he had now used twice on Maglor.
Subdue the sorcery and the sorcerer would fall.
How to do that however?
His hand might not be in an unnatural agony but there was the definite pain of an open wound now thudding in the hand that he had tried to strike the sorcerer with.
And then the body he was leaning on leaned back and Maglor was forced a step back…then another step back. Then another. Then down onto his backside under the now ruined shelter.
Which was easily put back together with the exact same rock.
He looked up.
His breath caught and his heart tried to follow suit.
Stunned stiff and silent he sat mum as the sorcerer wearing his father’s weary face turned away to conclude whatever bargaining was left. There was a large red stain across the back hem of his tunic where he’d used the cloth to put pressure on Maglor’s hand.
His head fell forward and thumb thick braids swung forward from where they’d been trapped behind his shoulders. He raised his hand to his head and found his hair had been braided where it was long enough and skirting between each braid was the residue of a balm… and in some places bandaging.
An unnecessary kindness when surely it would have been easier to cut his hair short to doctor his head.
He caught the ratcheting of his breath in speed and intensity as panic tried to take hold.
No, no… he tried to command his lungs to slow, head light. No.
A simple case of terrible resemblance. How many times had some Tatyarin bastard given a Ñoldor a fright looking like his long lost brother? The Tatyar covered their hair with cloth didn’t they? He thought he remembered the Tatyar wearing brighter clothing though. And they had not been the only ones to cover their hair.
Or an illusion.
Or… no Eru please do not let this be a sign that his brothers had sown wild oats. What more miserable and more cursed a thing could it be to have been sired by one of them?
Mere coincidence or foul trickery it had to be. He couldn’t accept that his brothers would have been so stupid.
There was a sudden great weariness upon him, weighing his eyelids. Unhappiness, grey and bleak, chased away any lasting rage.
Just the thought… just the thought that they might have been so foolish.
No. He rallied himself and looked down at his hand, the cut crusted over. He had already seen magic; felt it used against him to perfectly recreate the inescapable burn of the Silmaril hallowing eating through flesh. It had to be an illusion.
And if it did happen to be some unlikely coincidence then this was not the first time that he had encountered a doppelganger of his father. But the Tatyarin woman Fingon had married had definitely been herself; a vibrant and fierce personality all of her own.
The shock of her face had faded by about the third time he’d met her.
And there had been no connection with her on the spiritual or mental plane; blood barely caring about her presence.
He needed to find that difference again. If he could not break the illusion.
The sorcerer returned, leading the ungulate, and all his resolve shattered like glass.
The doppelganger almost blurred where he stood in the bright sunshine to reveal the overlaid wraithe of his father staring back. Everything seemed to lurch sharply and something very fragile that he had not allowed to see the light of day for more than two Ages tried to break free and run straight to the stranger.
Be embraced by him.
The day his Father had died most of their family had died; bodies remaining but fëa violently yearning so much for him that the chill of the Eternal Void stole the warmth from their skin and their hearts.
This felt like turning his face towards the sun at last after a long winter.
He closed his eyes and pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes. He listened to the crunch and squeak of sand.
“They also left us with some milk. It would be good if you drank it now,” the voice was very tentative. The way his father’s never had been. “I’ve only managed to get honey mixed in water and gruel in you. The milk can sustain a Man for a month by itself.”
“Where are we?” he turned his face away to try and find his breath.
“I don’t think there is a name for this place but we are eleven, close to twelve days, as a healthy Eldar would walk, from Cuiviénen.”
“Cuiviénen,” he breathed, caught by the wonder of it despite his situation but forced it away.
“Twelve days unconscious?”
“That is where you were, yes, and no you have only been unconscious for four.”
All of these statements rang true though the sorcerer might be able to hide the lies from him.
He looked up at the ungulate.
“You killed your mount from exhaustion and over work didn’t you?” he asked, disgusted that they would misuse an animal and work them into death. But also wondering why.
“I will not kill this one,” the stranger did not answer him, “he will get us away from this place.”
And yes the matter of that.
“And why must we leave. For that matter why have you kidnapped me? There is no one who will pay you a hostage’s ransom. I have no treasures left that you can abscond with.”
“Because I am…” the sorcerer paused and thought. Maglor forced himself to look at their face, seeking differences and he found them in the hollowed cheeks and gauged black bruises under each pale eye. In the dark centre of the bruise and the halo of plum around it that covered the front of their neck. In the slight suggestion of youth lingering beneath the injuries. “I am bound to you. Under a compulsion to find you. To stop you from dying.”
Maglor could not stop his ugly smile because it was the most base irony that a sorcerer would be tripped up by sorcery.
“Who bound you?”
If you enjoyed this, I would love to know. Even a "it's good" is always appreciated!
IV - Twelve Miles Walk. by Urloth
Alrighty! A needed note. I do not follow the geography of the east coast of Arda the way it is commonly laid out in maps. I also do not place Cuivienen and the Sea of Helcar where the Atlas of Arda positions it and while there are canonical reasons I could do this, its just me being me. I've basically tacked added landmass to the top third or so of the east coast and extended the chain of the Ororcarni and added a land bridge to the Lands of Shadows and a bunch of islands and isles not relevant to the story. I can try drawing it if anyone wants but for now: where Maglor and Erevir currently are geographically does not relate or have a position on the Atlas of Arda.
Sweet agonised life.
Something rose, unhindered by the great height of the dune before them, and looked down with indulgent pleasure at what the sage they had enthralled had created. Too bad the Man had not survived the experience, for it was a true talent to subdue oliphaunts when even the calves could toss a man with their trunks.
But he had been so good as to die within the work, collapsed at the base of the heart mound, hidden from the view of the dune, adding his life to the gorgeous miasma that now allowed them to settle at the top of the dune.
The naked eye could not have seen them. Perhaps an extra wave to the heat rising from the sand. The tiniest dark trail of smoke rising up the side of the dune, swirling slowly over strange blooms of glass.
A mouth, red as the hearts below would have been when dragged from their owners, opened and breathed in slowly.
Gold sweet pollen…
Lush silver fruit…
Fire beyond the intensity ever found in common forge or heavenly star…
Ahhhh, the mouth smiled, ahhhhhh.
Makalaurë Fëanárion thou hast truly wandered far from lonely shores…
And what power he still brought with him despite his years of vagabond insanity. That power would serve well once Maglor’s heart was spitted upon an altar and his head rolled free so that his blood could empty into a gathering bowl.
Really it was a pity they had lost the talented sage for it would not be an easy hunt but… there were others. Many others.
“Our Father,” Erevir had wanted to say.
But more that that: “Our Father; My Mother; My Creator.”
But they had not said it. A while ago they would have said it. Proudly. Happily. They knew better now.
And they were terribly resentful of it despite it being the safest and most practical path. It was probably the four days and nights of no sleep making them irritated.
Maglor had appeared to stop breathing. Then with a gasp he was back and lunging for them. He had the weakness of four days of unconscious, but they had four days of exhaustion built up. It was a fairly pathetic tussle, Erevir grabbing his wrists when he tried to pummel them, his fists trying to reach their face.
Erevir clamped one of his legs between theirs to stop him trying to crush or stamp them, so he slammed his free knee furiously into their thigh and hip, and when that all failed he head-butted them.
If they had not been on the receiving end they would judged it the sad actions of a desperate man.
But the crack of their foreheads meetng was as painful to the ear as the pain of impact. Maglor was not expecting Erevir’s hardy bone structure. They both groaned and Erevir was able to push him off and roll away, head ringing.
Maglor had assumed a fetal position on the sand, hands over his forehead. He made a tiny groaning noise. Erevir, not one to be fooled twice, did not bother to approach him and instead picked up the discarded skin of deve milk, helping themselves to a nourishing mouthful.
“You are a child still!” Maglor let his hands fall but his forehead was now developing a nice red bruise and his eyes were watering, wasting the precious water Erevir had managed to get him to swallow, “you would have never met my father!”
“I am older than I look,” they were aware of the incomplete nature of their appearance, easily mistaken as the unfinished look of late youth. They had been created looking even younger but had grown and matured in the same order as an Amanyar child until one day they had simply stopped.
“You know I am not lying.”
“You are a sorcerer and capable of tricking my senses as proven by your countenance.”
“I would not be casting stones about being a sorcerer,” Erevir snapped, patience fraying, “when ballads sing of you and your fay voice sending orc armies into lakes where they drowned without struggling.”
Maglor hissed sharp and hard beneath his teeth, “I am no coward to not engage my enemy.”
“You are a strategist though, who would not have discarded any tool in his grasp to hold a pass as treacherous as the Gap named for you,” Erevir shuffled away, realising Maglor had been very subtly inching forward towards them.
“I am not decieving you. I cast no socerery. My face is-,” they kept the distance enough that he could not lunge for them, “-it is the face I was born with. I am, in terms of existence, younger than you but of the years of The Trees.”
Careful Not-Lies and sidestepping because they could not say their face was their own, and they could not say they had known Aman.
They could see the muscles in his neck bunching, shoulders sliding discretely into alignment to propel him forward with a lunge.
“I am bound to you,” they insisted, “your Father made me so. I have been looking for you, interrupted by war and distance, for more than an age.”
“More than an age?” Maglor snarled, “I have lived the death of two ages. Where were you when we needed a protector bound to us before that? When there were seven of us! Where were you for Maedhros?”
I was there. I am the one who felled him finally.
“You were not lost then,” Erevir heard the thinness in their voice with weary dismay at how easily they were broken by accusations and reminders. No strength of will for them. Just mention the name of he that had been well formed and they were assailable and easily disposed of. “The geas did not reveal itself to me until I knew you were lost.”
If they were shy about telling Maglor the exact details of their nature, they were even shyer to discuss how, for all their efforts to distinguish themselves from him and make clear cut their memories from his, Fëanor still had one lasting way to influence them.
“We were lost,” Maglor’s voice was like gravel being ground into an open wound, “we were never not lost.”
With Beleriand’s drowning they had been saved from haunting the gravesites of each of his sons. However from the moment they had heard of Maglor’s survival they had been caught in Fëanor’s iron will to find his son. To find him and to prevent him from coming to harm.
For the long centuries since then, they had been compelled to roam seashores in search of Maglor. But the compulsion could be mastered by more pressing concerns. Wars and their duty to Eru Illuvatar could force it back. Sometimes it even went dormant. They had travelled then. Everywhere they could, as far from the ocean as possible. But a single mention of Maglor and it was active again, driving them to find him. Save him. Care for him.
They did not actually know how they would take care of that however.
They had saved him for now. They might have to again in the future. And for the long term?
They didn’t know. They had no clue what to do now. It was becoming a swiftly knotting ball of anxiety to torment their gut.
And how presumptuous of them to just barge their way into his life.
Hah! Presumptuous? He had every right to stop his sons from doing harm to themselves. Every right to care for them. Every right to remove them from harm’s way forcefully if he must.
Yes thank you Fëanor, Erevir thought mulishly, but what about me?
Fëanáro was not forthcoming. Both the shard of him at the centre of Erevir and the rest of him within the Void remained mum.
Once they had told Gil-Galad they wanted to find Maglor. Gil-Galad had looked sad. Then he’d held Erevir’s hands and told them that if they found Maglor they could bring him to Lindon. That Gil-Galad would take care of everything. That Gil-Galad would make sure Maglor would not be hurt or hounded.
Erevir had been young then. Still very much a child in most ways. They had just been happy that someone as wonderful as Gil-Galad would help them, naïve and caught by fleeting (ai! how embarrassing to remember it) calf-love.
Gil-Galad no longer hung the stars for them however. More importantly Gil-Galad no longer tread the earth.
What were they going to do?
“Just… I couldn’t… I wasn’t… just… let me do what I can now,” their voice sounded still too thin and raw, “I could do nothing then. Let me do what I can now.”
Their first instinct was to go to the Tatyar. The loosely scattered but strongly connected strongholds and citadels of the Tatyarin shadow empire provided them with a variety of options.
They trusted the Tatyar. Lived seasonally with the Tatyar and claimed good friendships and even chosen kinship with some. They had provided Erevir with refuge and comfort many times. They were a wise people. A generous people.
Sometimes there were things about the Tatyar that distressed them. There were things that would be intolerable to Maglor if he encountered them; the lost children of Vinyamar, the forgetful reborn, their imprisoning of Celegorm’s hungry ghost.
The world wasn’t perfect. Erevir had learnt to pretend they were not affected.
They had a feeling Maglor would not be sweet on the idea however.
The Tatyar were not an option.
They could not take Maglor to the Greenwood for obvious reasons although they thought Thranduil-Taro might be amused by it as well as enraged and if there was something King Thranduil needed, it was a laugh.
Rivendell was risky because they actually had no clear understanding of how the Fëanorions were viewed there since it was such a mismatch of survivors and cultures, and to call Lord Elrond a complicated man was an understatement.
The presence of Glorfindel the Elder, and Glorfindel the Younger, respectively Maglor’s uncle and cousin through his half Aunt Findis, made Erevir find it too risky. Glorfindel the Elder was an enigma but Glorfindel the Younger, once of Gondolin, was infamous for how he had held and maintained multiple grudges and feuds over several ages, some even enduring through his own death and rebirth.
He was not a man who forgave or forgot.
Erevir’s jaw, once broken by him, ached just thinking about him.
Eregion was right out for the defunct court of Lindon would be eager to prove they were still relevant and still had power with a public execution.
The deve grunted, breaking their thoughts.
They had debated for over four hours for the deve and Maglor had almost ruined it. They did not like enchanting those open to their brand of persuasion. But they had. And now they had a deve and Erevir had not had to empty their pack to pay for it.
Not that negotiations had been going badly, the word of a Tatyar held a lot of weight with the Bedaya. Erevir was not Tatyar by birth but they thought they counted by now given how often they found themselves resting in Tatyarin Citadels. They were at least partially Tatyarin by default of Ñoldor and Tatyar being like Roses and Apples.
They had just had to make the Bedaya… ignore Maglor’s violence and his new wound.
They did mean for the deve to be returned
That left them thinking of the Tatyar once more. They needed to go to the Tatyar, because they needed to tell someone of the evil they had seen. The Tatyar were nearest, or likely to be nearest for the Tatyar had an elaborate network of citadels and hidden roads crisscrossing Arda’s length and breadth. These roads were woven from Power that allowed one to travel as a crow on the wind would, though the fickle magic loved to play tricks upon the unskilled traveller.
It was by the Tatyarin hidden roads that they had left the safety of the Greenwood, and it was from a Tatyarin citadel on the border of Corsair territory that they had set forth to seek Maglor, unable to stop their desperate flight to him when they had heard the rumour that he had been seen in the havens of Umbar.
But again Maglor…
They could avoid the Citadel where Celegorm was kept. They could avoid the Tatyarin realms with significant Ñoldor populations.
Maglor’s blood presented a great many problems.
T’was not that he was a Ñoldor. Despite the conflict of their earlier interactions, and the grievances and slights each other had laid, the Tatyar maintained a rather maternalistic approach to the Ñoldor as black sheep and lost cousins. They had welcomed many Ñoldor refugees into their lands and to join them; the majority of whom had been followers of the Fëanárii.
By dint of that, the problem was not that he was Fëanorion.
The first and greatest problem the Tatyar would have with Maglor was his kinship to Turgon.
And that was only the start.
Turgon’s sins against the Tatyar had not begun and ended with his murder of Eöl Elmion, Târo of Nan Elmoth but went back deeper and were the reason the Tatyar no longer allowed even their most humble homesteads to exist in plain sight.
For lush and fertile Nevrast with its natural protections had not been an untouched and unoccupied land when Turgon had arrived. The Tatyar had thrived there, had villages there which prospered from agriculture, the plentiful fishing, and mining.
And Turgon, late comer though he was, had not been willing to share this bounty.
To speak of Turgon to a Tatyar was to speak of someone who stood on the same plinth as Melkor and his lieutenants. How anyone could not be an agent of that corrosive hell that Melkor represented when they had done what Turgon had done was impossible, the Tatyar reasoned.
The other problems of Maglor’s lineage were lesser problems compared to this.
In a scenario where Maglor might be happy to repudiate Turgon’s relationship to him and declare Turgon nameless to him, then how the tragedy of Míriel and Finwë had managed to effect even the Tatyar could be addressed.
Yes. Even the Tatyar had been affected. Maglor was a political quagmire thanks to his grandparents.
A rarely indulged part of their nature actually wanted to take Maglor to the next Assembly of Clans and watch the fall out.
All this worry though was precluded though by the fact they did not think they could get Maglor near a Tatyarin Citadel.
They shimmied away on their arse because Maglor had gotten himself too close again.
But Maglor just held out his hand.
“Give me the milk. Do you have any bread?”
“Only lembas,” they heard their voice rasp out hopefully. They were so tired. And they didn’t know how to convince Maglor of the truth without having to first tell him then convince him of even harder to believe truths.
Maglor grunted but nodded. They struggled to their feet against the slippery sand and shoved the milk in its skin at him then darted to where they had buried their pack and Maglor’s sword to get the lambas.
Maglor was watching.
And now he knew there it was. The sword.
Maybe other belongings to help him escape.
They really had kidnapped him hadn’t they? They walked back, pack and sword in hand, and gave him the lembas warily but he made no move and they moved over to begin loading the deve.
“What is wrong with this milk?!”
Their panic broke. Maglor had taken a mouthful of the milk and then spat some out. Wasting it.
“It tasted fine…” had it gone off? In this heat they supposed it was possible.
The light of understanding dawned.
“Oh,” they realised, “oh….” then “how have you managed to get this far without drinking or partaking of any sort of deve milk?!”
They pointed to the deve.
Maglor looked horrified.
“What? You didn’t expect goat milk did you?”
“What did you expect me to think when you handed me ‘milk’?”
“I expected cow!!”
“Show me the pastures to graze those cows on!!!”
Packing a deve was different from a horse.
There was more sarcastic side eye.
More stretching ones legs.
There was a lot more spit.
“Where do you plan to take me and what do you plan to do after?”
Maglor was right beside them, silent and deadly even when diminished. His shadow was long over their body and cast dark against the side of the deve, and he crowded them in even though they had a half head of height on him. He loomed though it was unclear if it was on purpose, and they clutched the Minyar short sword in both hands till the leather detail of the sheath was imprinted in their palms.
“There is a waystation two days south from here by deve, the Bedaya have informed me it is not much but the only settlement to be found in this direction. From there I mean to seek the Tatyar, for they are likely to be the closest and the fastest route to safety. Unless of course, there is reason that the thought of seeking aid from the Tatyar is intolerable to you?” they forced themselves to ask him.
Maglor took hold of the sword. No fighting. No struggle. He just reached out and grabbed it.
They held on tighter. He didn’t pull. He just let his grip rest on it as a claim and did not break eye contact.
“Safety? Is there danger you run from?”
“Ah. I did not tell you about the Oliphaunts-”
“One could not help but notice the Oliphaunts there. You have also yet to introduce yourself.”
Erevir felt chastised.
Maglor felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand briefly up at the name before the feeling faded to embarrassment. It was an epessë. It had to be. No parent named their child Lonely, no parent would risk cursing their child that way. Even if they mitigated the blow by adding preciousness to it, by naming them a jewel, no parent would condemn their child to a life of isolation.
He began to put a small amount of pressure onto ‘just Erevir’s’ arm, hoping to loosen their grip by slowly stressing their muscles. His insides felt like they were bruised from Erevir’s fanciful claims which had ripped through him with everything they tried to suggest.
Only when they were lost.
Only when they were lost?!
They had been lost when their father had broken apart into clouds of scalding ash in their arms. Before that even! When they had set fire to the ships! When they had slaughtered former friends in Alqualondë!
The blood on the walls and floor of Formenos!
The light of the Trees suddenly gone!
The conflict in the former safety of their childhood home!
There were so many times they had become lost that Erevir’s claimed geas should have brought them into their lives.
Bald faced serpent.
He had no way of proving, yet, how Erevir was deceiving them. No way of proving truth and lies because everything they said resonated as the truth to his senses. It was not quite true that Quendi could not lie to Quendi. It took a great deal of sustained effort and a special skill to cloud truth when their minds were always slightly open to each other even without training in Osanwë.
Erevir was open to such a connection. He felt no dishonesty but he did sense that things were not being said that were important. The problem was that when he tried to press a little into their thoughts he found a bright jumbled mess of colours and light.
The issue was if madness was in play because deception only occurred when one knew they were not telling the truth.
So he had no way of proving deception. He also did not know where he was. He began to position himself to make holding onto the sword increasingly awkward and uncomfortable for the other.
Cuiviénen they had called the empty place. But he had no proof of that.
So empty, so miserable. Had he really tried to die in the mythical birthplace of the Quendi?
Had virgin woods and an eternal lake been so blasted out of existence?
All of the Lays and Edda he had ever encountered had treated Cuiviénen as a person; a person who had been dying or who had died. They were funeral songs mostly. Mourning land and people both. Few songs predated Arrival. What had been brought West was kept secret by those who knew them or were locked up within the poison room of Valmar’s Academy of Lore.
I can no longer hear the water lapping.
It is gone.
It is gone.
Mine feet have reached the end of the road.
Mine hands ache for loved ones long spurned.
I conduct no rites in darkened rooms.
I turn from tree-light to the East.
There is no body to be buried.
She is dead.
She is dead.
To subdue Melkor, weakened by the Silmarilli burns and halved in power, the cost had been Beleriand. He did not find it a stretch of imagination to believe that the fight to subdue him the first time had cost the land its very life.
And the Valar would have likely considered it a small cost. After all they intended to take the Quendi back West with them.
Maybe that, at least, was true.
He cast his mind to maps he had seen, largely hypothetical amusements of scholars during more peaceful times.
“How close are we,” he made a stab in the dark, the maps hazy in his memory like he had viewed them in poor light though he was sure the lanterns had blazed to keep the darkness at bay, “to the Sea of Rhûn?”
They had marked no deserts on those idle speculations. They had stretched their knowledge to the very breadth of what a few very brave adventurers had returned with and what the oral histories of both their elders and Men recalled. But they had not realised quite the devastation that had occurred. Most proposed landslides and a damming of the river in places by them, causing smaller lakes to form.
Only this seemed to irritate Erevir though they made an effort to hide it. It was intriguing. Sadness and desperation had been the main negative emotions they had shown him so far. Irritation was new.
“We are nowhere near the Sea of Rhûn,” they moved enough that the pressure Maglor had been watching whiten their knuckles and twist their shoulders uncomfortably as they kept hold of the sword, released.
“You aren’t thinking of that awful map based on Pengolodh’s fever dreams?”
There was something to that faintly waspish comment that revealed more of them than all their interactions so far. It almost made him want to smile as well. How many scholars or intellectuals had he heard take that tone of offense? How many arguments had started in his childhood home over disagreements regarding sources for the assignments Rúmil Lambengolmo assigned them?
What had Pengolodh done to offend?
Had it been a slight delivered face to face or had Pengolodh only struck at some kind of academic sensibilities? Sorcery required training and knowledge to use. Evidence of scholarship in Erevir was not surprising.
Offended intellectual bitterness should not have been so delightful.
“I was not but please,” his cheeks hurt from not smiling, “enlighten me.”
“The Sea of Helcar had no relation to the Sea of Rhûn nor the Sea of Núrnen. These are both popular untruths sprung from an early cartalogical mistake in mapping the Great Migrations, which that arse Pengolodh helped propagate-”
A pause from their companion.
“-we are probably closer to Umbar than to Dorwinion though I realise how inexact that comparison is.”
“And how close are we to Umbar?”
“We are not close to Umbar at all.”
Erevir looked around them, at the great waves of white sand and endless blue sky, broken up by a few scattered boulders yet to be eroded that were lonely sentries over the deep pools of shadow between the mountainous dunes.
“Where we are is called Erjalit, the Lonely Sands, though we are nearing a not so lonely area if there is a waystation. To reach here I have definitely… definitely been travelling over sixty days since I left Umbar.”
Maglor tried not to grind his teeth together but he was also very worried about that note of uncertainty that Erevir’s voice had.
“You do not sound very sure.”
“I… I lose track of time when I become focused upon something and the geas… focuses me.”
Maglor went cold. The last thing a man wanted was to be lost in the desert. It was a death sentence. Hypocritical as it was. He had come here seeking death but it was to have been death on his own terms; being lost because he had gotten himself there.
Not a malnourished, possibly mentally unsound, sorcerer.
“You do not know where we are.”
“I do! I do!” the sorcerer insisted, “I know where we are and where to go to reach the furthest waystation. I just do not know how far we are from Umbar. I need to check my maps.”
They had maps. Maglor needed to see those maps.
“Give me back my sword,” he demanded. He needed it if they were going to have to travel miles in these wastes. And he felt unbalanced without the weight of it.
“No,” he was refused, “I do not trust you not to injure me with it.”
That was… fair enough. At last wisdom.
“I will not injure you with it.”
“Or yourself, I do not trust you not to hurt yourself” his lips pinched together angrily as he realised he was… and had been manoeuvred into promising.
Any child wonders what their parent looked like as a child themselves. As a youth. A contemporary. Now Maglor had some idea of his father on the cusp of adulthood. The resemblance was uncanny beyond mere resemblance.
The gauntness; the hunger and the exhaustion chiselled into ‘just Erevir’s’ face allowed Maglor some distance but he still caught himself slipping. Caught himself believing. Turning to this Erevir the way he had turned to his Father. Wanting to promise anything.
“I will not be hurting myself with it,” he was reluctant to promise, not because he meant himself harm because it would be giving in even a little to this nightmare Erevir represented.
He was given a relieved and happy smile so bright and cheerful it erased his father’s presence for a moment and that was enough to break the spell. He jerked Erevir forward then back almost immediately and sent them down onto their arse, sword now in his possession.
He’d watched Maedhros enough that when he’d toiled and adjusted to his new reality he had been able to figure out how to accomplish with one hand what had been done with two. Including buckling his sword belt.
This was about power, he told himself. He needed to regain some after being so vulnerable in the sorcerer’s care for so long.
As he let the weight go with his hand he realised he had fully committed himself to allowing this kidnapping. At least until he had proof of deception or had figured out to nullify their power of illusion and of that wicked sharp flame.
“Show me how to get up on this animal,” he turned away and heard the rustle of cloth and squeak of sand as the cloth of the shelter was retrieved and stuffed into the pack, before Erevir was at the front of the still angry looking creature and ordering it to kneel into the sand.
The saddle and padding had only the barest resemblance to the saddles he knew and were positioned upon the hump, not the dip. He was mildly displeased when Erevir mounted in front of him but then he was too busy keeping his balance at the animal stood, gripping one of the pommels and Erevir’s cloth belt.
“It is a lucky thing we are diminished as we both are,” Erevir sounded far too cheerful, “between the both of us and the pack and the fodder for him we are probably at the near limit of what he can carry.”
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