For those of you who fell asleep halfway through the Silmarillion and didn’t bother to skip ahead to Akallbeth, Miriel was the daughter of Tar-Palantir, the last of the line of Númenor kings who was friendly with the elves. She was forcibly married to her cousin, Ar-Pharazon, who was the last of the Númenor kings of old, before the isle fell.
How would the history of the Dunedain have changed if Miriel had escaped Pharazon, leaving an imperial line of old untainted by the fall of Numenor? The ramifications of this question are handled more thoroughly in the later part of TQW, but one doesn’t have to read that to understand this story. No members of the fellowship were harmed in the making of this work.
* * *
Miriel, “the weak-hearted daughter of a rebellious elf-friend,” ran from Pharazon when she was convinced by her councilor Ragastion (Absolutely of no relation to Radagast the Brown, the wizard reassures us, [Authorial insertion: RIGHT! > ]) that she could not fight her cousin and giving up the throne willingly was not an option. Pharazon, against all law, custom, and good taste, meant to marry his cousin to thoroughly secure the throne for his descendants.
At first, Miriel was ready to fight. Her father was the first king in the generations since the breaking of alliance between Elves and men to openly declare himself an elf friend, and the newly crowned Tar-Miriel had every intention of continuing where her father left off, even if such work meant openly declaring her cousin and all her ancestors back to the days of the first seafaring Numenor, or “Dunedain” as the eastern folk called them for their dark hair and western origins, traitors to the Empire.
Her councilor, a wizened old man who appeared to prefer the company of animals, especially birds, to that of humans, warned the brash young queen that Pharazon still had the sympathy of much of the military.
Even at the height of the Numenor Empire, ruling queens were looked at as little more than puppets. The army would likely rebel if the Tar exiled Pharazon, a man fond of power with the ability to capitalize upon all of Miriel’s weaknesses.
“It would be best to have him assassinated in a way that cannot be traced to you, Majesty,” Ragastion told her, “Best if your `noble’ cousin was lost at sea before he can start this scheme to win the Winged Crown for himself. Yet any attempt on his life will automatically be linked to you, whether we actually try something or not, so I fear that option is out of the question.”
“Yet we cannot sit here like helpless kittens whilst his power and ambition grows under our noses. If we give him much longer he will seize the throne through a forced marriage, if my cousin has not already the gall to oppose me upon the battlefield,” Miriel shot back, gripping the arms of the throne worriedly. She was enrobed in regal splendor, although there were none there to see save for her old councilor in his simple brown robes, and the hooded falcon hunched upon his gloved fist.
The Winged Crown of the Sea-Kings weighed heavily upon her brow, appearing too large for her head, despite, or even perhaps because of, the exotic hairstyle she wore that wove her many small braids back and forth through the golden band and points reminiscent of birds’ wings swept back and above her head in order to keep the coronet in place.
“No,” Ragastion shook his head empathetically, upsetting the bird, which flapped tetchily to regain its balance. “No, we cannot sit here, Your Majesty. In fact, I must encourage you to leave the empire entirely.”
“Leave my country?” Miriel clutched the arms of her seat even more tightly to keep herself from rising in anger. “And leave that power-crazed cousin of mine an open path to the throne? Councilor, one might think you’ve gone senile. I hardly see how this helps our position.”
“It has often been said that discretion is the better part of valor, Majesty,” the white-haired man said dryly as he soothed the falcon upon his wrist. “That’s enough out of you, Giladrian,” Ragastion murmured to the irritated gray bird. “I can only deal with one flighty female at a time. Tar-Miriel, it is exactly the fact that you are leaving that impedes Pharazon’s way to a clear throne. He can hardly hope to eliminate your proper heirs if he cannot find them, your majesty. You cannot oppose him upon the battlefield, and we cannot let him take you or your descendants into his clutches. By hiding them, your children may be able to return and reclaim their rightful throne.”
“If there is a throne remaining for them to reclaim,” Miriel ignored her councilor’s forestalling hand, allowing her temper to get the better of her training in diplomacy and her trust in the brown robed old man long enough to voice her pent up fears that had festered under constant fear of her cousin. “Pharazon will destroy our lands and divide the Empire with his lust for personal gain. He cares nothing for the people, merely for war and expansion.”
“Indeed, you are right, Majesty. I fear Pharazon will divide the empire in civil war, but as so long as there are people who believe in the basic decency of the human spirit, there shall be support for the true wearers of the Winged Crown. They shall resist Pharazon and await your heirs eagerly. The kingdom, like a sword, may be broken, but if there are still those who remember its power, it may yet be reforged.”
“Yet even if I could brave myself to face the shame of abandoning my country when she needs me the most, where could I go? Pharazon will surely declare me traitor, as surely as he himself is a traitor,” Miriel’s rich brown hair shook partially loose of the crown as she covered her face with a stiffened, tense clawed hand. Her long nails left a slight red burn upon her pale forehead when she removed them, opening and closing her fists. There was no point in damaging herself, for this would only worsen her hopeless situation, she knew that. Yet the pain was something she could feel, something she could do something about, unlike her cousin’s threat. “This would mean abandoning my empire entirely. I cannot do that, Ragastion.”
“Yes, you can, Tar-Miriel. You can, and you must. I have a friend, a ship-captain, who can transport you across the seas, out of your cousin’s hands.” Ragastion took hold of her clenched fist and opened it, shaking back her sleeve to reveal the scars across her palms and wrists. “You leave the land no less permanently if you die, Miriel,” he said quietly.
“Leaving my homeland means defeat, councilor. I cannot live with defeat.” Miriel responded, snatching back her mangled hand. “And going to the mainland is hardly out of a monarch’s reach. It is useless. I should die upon the battlefield, and make my last stand show that not all women are weak. Saving that, best to lead to the suspicion that Pharazon killed me.”
“Nonsense, Your Majesty.” Ragastion removed the hood from the bird’s head, causing the falcon to blink her third eyelids rapidly over her huge, round red irises and bait at her jesses. “True enough, that we cannot hide you upon the continent, but Captain Palansül knows of more lands than the main content and the isle of Andor.”
“Palansül Grayhavensailor?” the queen was as wild-eyed as the goshawk falcon. “If you think to send me to the elves, you may as well forget it, Ragastion. They have not accepted humans since the kings turned from them. My father’s feeble attempts to renew the ancient friendship will mean nothing to them. That is worse than hopeless, unless you wish me to end like Eärendil and sail the seas unhomed for all of time. Palansül is a hopeless dreamer.”
“Perhaps he is,” Ragastion said with an enigmatic smile as he stroked the panting hawk, “And perhaps there is more to the stories of his journeys than meets the eye. I have my connections, your majesty, and if Palansül can get you to the elven home, I can assure you that you will not be turned away. But if you will excuse me, majesty, I must take Giladrian out for a flight if she is going to make any more catches for this court before I send her back to her homeland with the captain.” The brown-robed old man turned to go at an imperious nod from the queen.
Miriel sat on her throne for an endless moment, stroking the arms of her seat as she pondered her options. “So this is how my house shall fall,” she murmured, turning her hand over to see her wrist with its series of scars with new interest. Running her fingertips over the contours of arms of her throne and the gauges left by her nails one last time to memorize her surroundings, Miriel stood, leaving the throne of her forefathers.
She shook her braids out of the Winged Crown and reverently settled it upon her recently vacated dais, wishing she had an extra eyelid to clear the tears in her eyes without losing sight of her home. “Forgive me, father, but this is beyond my power. This is beyond anyone’s power. Perhaps this way at least, time will heal the wound enough for us to return.” Miriel, bereft of crown, country, and pride, bowed once before the empty throne and left to follow Ragastion to the ship.
* * *