Keeping her silent, soul-searing vigil at the stern of the boat, Miriel never noticed the quiet footsteps approach her from behind. “There was an old law, given to us by the elves when we first settled in Andor,” her companion ventured shortly after the westernmost of the human realms faded from view and he realized her fierce inner battle with her emotions had been lost. “The first Númenor were allowed to venture as far east as they dared, but it was forbidden for a man to sail west out of the sight of Andor.”
“And I suppose you consider yourself a hero, for breaking this single request that the elves gave to us. The eastern lands are not good enough for Captain Palansül Grayhavensailor. He must seek a way to bring ruin and torment to the elven lands as well,” Miriel’s eyes flashed with her fiery spirit, which was no less tempestuous for her troubled decision. Palansül was willing to swear of a close kinship between woman and falcon that even now rattled restively at the bars of her cage, if not for the hot-blooded nature of all members of the “gentler” feminine sex.
“I am one of the Faithful, majesty,” the captain rebuffed her gently, “as surely as you yourself are and your worthy father was. I still follow the laws of the elves, being what I am.”
The brown-haired woman, tears of what was at least partially laughter smearing the masking dirt upon her cheeks, wiped her eyes as the sailor looked at her in askance. “Surely you don’t mean that, Palansül; the island is long out of my view, and we follow the setting sun upon this course.”
“You imply the sun will rise in the west tomorrow if I am telling the truth? I have seen stranger things happen, Mistress Miriel.” He smiled playfully at her proud glare, and reached to kiss her hand. The queen pulled out of his grasp hastily, not wanting a stranger to see her scars. Palansül shrugged expansively, mistaking her abruptness for the hubris of the old noble houses. “But indeed, we may be out of sight of the eagles of Andor, but they are not out of ours,” he added mysteriously, with a twinkle in his ever jocular gray eyes, as if he were exposing some grand and heartening secret.
“How is such a thing possible?” Miriel searched his expression for some hidden clue, some vulnerability she could turn against this sailor to make him reveal the truth to her, but save perhaps a weakness for good jokes exposed in the wrinkles about his eyes and mouth, she could find none.
“Come, Majesty, and I will show you,” he replied. “Old Radagast, or Ragastion, as you know him, could probably use the opportunity to rest his aged eyes at any rate, wizard or no.” Gesturing broadly with an entire forearm, he led Miriel up to the crow’s nest upon the single mast that dominated the small ship. Starting up the ladder with the practiced ease of a spider in his web, he turned to offer the queen a hand as she approached the rickety climb.
“Don’t you have a ship to run?” Ignoring the proffered hand, Tar-Miriel started up the ladder behind him, careful not to look down.
“Aye, but the Elwing will get along just fine without her captain for a good while yet,” Palansül kept his ineffable constant grin upon Miriel as they climbed up to the crow’s nest. “We’ve a good wind at our backs and a three-week journey to the Havens. She’s a smooth runner, and allows me a good measure of independence. A man can hardly ask for more out of a good life-mate, and that the Elwing is to me, sure as her namesake was to Eärendil.”
“I know many a ship has been cursed by a maid for taking away her beloved, but I take it this one is not so blessed?” Miriel teased gently, attempting to gain a better understanding of this strange man.
“No, not as of yet,” was all Palansül was willing to respond. They finished their climb in thoughtful, companionable silence; the captain offering Miriel a hand up once they reached their destination. The queen pulled herself up determinedly without assistance, unwilling to acknowledge either her fear of heights or hidden scars to Palansül.
“Now, what is this miraculous device you are using to strain my councilor’s eyes that you are so eager to show me?” Miriel asked, scanning about the cramped lookout tower.
“Surely the daughter of Tar-Palantir would recognize this,” the captain unveiled a deep blue stone that looked as if it had survived the deepest seas and then taken the essence of their endless waters into itself. In its murky depths Miriel could make out the image of a gull in flight, and a harbor of ships rocking in the tide beneath.
“How did you lay hands upon a Palantir, Palansül? I dare not ask how you learned to work this,” Miriel shot a questioning look at her councilor, but Ragastion simply shook his head and turned back to a tubelike device that he peered into toward the distant shore.
“A long story, Milady, but then we have a long journey ahead of us,” Palansül relaxed against the mast, seemingly unconcerned about the long drop to the main deck, should he shift his weight in the wrong direction. “I dragged that aboard with a net of fish some ten years ago, and showed it to friend Radagast here,” he nodded to the brown robed councilor.
“I warned him not to use such things as he cannot understand, but Palansül was never one to listen to an elder’s wisdom,” Ragastion groused, turning from his device. “Though he has made a perfectly good telescope, the tomfool refuses to use such, relying instead upon a contraption that allows anyone with a similar tool to spy upon us.” The sailor bowed with a smile at the old councilor’s praise of his optical instrument, but shook off his warning with his infuriating grin.
“I don’t try to enforce my will upon it, Radagast, you know as well as I that it is impossible to get this seer-stone to focus anywhere else. I don’t know why it keeps such a vigil upon the western shore of Andor, but it makes a useful tool, for whatever wild or tragic tale may be connected with it.” Palansül turned to Miriel, guiding her hand atop the seeing-stone.
“But I know your tale is not yet finished Mistress Miriel, and perhaps with the sight of your homeland, it will be a little less tragic.” For the first time since she had met him, the smile dropped from Palansül’s face, leaving only sympathy for her quandary. “If you will accompany me, old friend, the queen can surely keep watch upon her country as a hawk over her nest.” Palansül, his smile back but paler, led the older man down the ladder. “Best not to bother a broody falcon, if you take my meaning,” the sailor added quietly, hoping not to upset the woman any further.
He need not have worried, though, Miriel, staring over the bluish scene in he Palantir, was lost in thought, deaf to her surroundings in her joy at catching even a brief glance at her home country, which she had no chance of ever seeing again in the flesh.