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.