The girl walks in with a brisk, light step and an easy smile, as if the heat, the stifling heat of that day was nothing. It tires Míriel even to think of moving. True, her own rich dress is warmer than the simple shift of the maid, yet there is a weariness in her that is not to be found in the girl.
"I was told you called for me, Majesty", she says.
Míriel trails off. She has forgotten again. The heat seems to turn her thoughts, once sharp and clear like her dead father's eyes, into hazy, brittle threads of words, swiftly broken and gone. Sauron's (though he forbids to use that name) influence might also be in it, for all she knows.
The girl is staring at her in a puzzled way, her smile grown a little unsure.
"What were you doing ?"
The queen nods.
"We were making you that new dress you asked for, Majesty", the girl adds, a little bolder now.
Míriel remembers that now, and wonders if that dress will be finished ere the end comes. She nods again.
"Well, come and sew here."
The girl bows to her quickly, the hem of her plain, grey skirt brushing the neat floor of stone, then turns and flies away. Míriel listens to the light sound of her leather sandals, a gentle tapping that soon dies. Yes. A companion has long been wanting in that small, lonely room high in the palace of Armenelos. The queen tires quickly of her handmaidens, some of whom she finds too meek, some of whom she finds too pert, all of whom she suspects of spying for the king. Yet now that the latter has launched his great enterprise, he might have set apart that petty spying of his.
She is coming again. She must have been running, for her cheeks are flushed and her breathing quite short. A basket hangs at her left elbow, and she has caught and lifted her skirt with her right hand, so as to run better in the many corridors of the palace. Míriel suddenly remembers another girl, in plain clothes as well, though of nobler birth, who would run in the palace, in Armenelos the fair or the green fields of Emerië, and in quite the same manner.
The girl is staring again, though she now turns her eyes shyly away. Míriel points to a chair beside the window, where the girl sits. She looks rather self-conscious now, as she picks some feet of white fabric from her basket, a small ball of cork that many needles had turned into the likeness of an iron hedgehog. She raises her eyes quickly, meets the queen's, turns to her work again.
She is rather pretty, Míriel thinks. Her dark hair has a lovely sheen, her complexion, unlike the queen's own pallid one, is golden and her cheeks rosy - she looks like a young shepherdess perhaps, one that is used to roaming the fields of Númenor beneath a benevolent sky. Míriel must not have been very unlike her, before she was made a queen, before her marriage was poisoned, and worry and anger creased her features and whitened her face.
Now she turns her face towards the window, and seems to be sniffing.
"Nithil, what is wrong ?" the queen asks.
The girl frowns a little.
"Nothing, Majesty, but there is that scent of smoke again..."
Míriel also gazes through the window. There, behind the white buildings and streets of the palace, in the heart of Armenelos, the awesome dome of the Temple may be seen, like a dark and loathsome stain upon the fair city. And, true enough, alas, smoke again is rising, swirling above the building into the bright blue sky. She turns her cold face away, looks for the high peak of Meneltarma, majestic and immovable, forbidding perhaps.
The maid is sewing again. Her swift, nimble hands move quickly. It is her who should've been called Míriel, the queen thinks, remembering the old tales her father told her, about the legendary Elves, who lived beyond the horizon in the West, with the Valar he taught her to revere - Elves that once even came here. Which reminds her she does not even know that new handmaiden's name.
"How are you called, child ? "
The girl glances up quickly at her.
"Aiwamaitë", she answers, flashing a brief smile.
Míriel smiles vaguely in answer. A fitting name also, for that bird-like, swift-handed girl. She wonders if the folk of her land still retain that slightest gift of foresight, inherited from the Elves, that enabled mothers to give their children prophetic names, or if they have truly gone too far from the holy customs of their distant forefathers and noble tutors.
"And where do you live, Aiwamaitë ?"
Again, the girl glances up.
"In Andúnië, Majesty."
She smiles, with a twinkle in her bright brown eye.
"A little too far from Meneltarma. But I must go back there soon, for my old parents are left alone, now that all my brothers have left them."
Míriel nods. She used to love to go to Andúnië - before journeying there began to look like high treason to the King. Amandil and his household received her like part of their own family, less like a queen and more like the girl they had once known. She would ride with Elendil and try to push Armenelos from her mind - before it called her back, eventually.
Aiwamaitë is softly humming to herself now. Míriel bends closer to her, listening avidly, happily surprised. When the girl looks up, the queen smiles.
"Sing for me, child. "
The maid is hesitant at first, her voice a thin, shy, high-pitched little thread of sound.
Ilu Ilúvatar en káre eldain a fírimoin
Ar antaróta mannar Valion : númessier...
Míriel's father used to sing that song, at times. He would come from councils, or journeys into the country, weary and worried ; then put her on her lap, and sing that song with her, and all the tiredness and worry would wash away from his face, his voice, to be replaced by a more peaceful mood, if a little sorrowful. She long believed in the magical properties of the song, and now rejoices again in its simple words, in the fresh voice of the girl, now stronger.
But now the song comes to its sad end :
Man táre antávanin Ilúvatar
Enyáre tar i tyel, íre Anarinya qeluva ?
And Míriel's face grows darker. She sits beside the girl, takes her hand, and speaks in a lowered voice.
"Are you of the Faithful then ?"
The maid glances quickly about, then turns her eyes back to the queen, looking fearful, and answers in a whisper.
"My father is, Majesty. And so is my elder brother, who went with Amandil, lord of Andúnië."
Yes, Míriel knows who Amandil is, and mourns for him, though the king forbids it. Yet perhaps he at least has found redemption. But no one knows, that girl least of all.
"My second brother also - for he is a companion of young Isildur, and one of his dearest friends."
Míriel nods - she might remember - a young man who might indeed have been that girl's brother, barely more than a boy, with a honest face, who ever went with her cousin as he stole into the palace.
"But my mother thinks we must remain true to the King, and my youngest brother thinks like her. He is gone now, into the West with the fleet."
The queen presses the girl's hand with a sour face.
"But what do you think, child ? "
The girl looks puzzled and shy, and shrugs in a helpless sort of way.
"I don't know, Majesty. Sometimes I think we must praise the Valar, who gave us a home, and sometimes Melkor looks greater than them. But then sometimes I think of the Elves, and want to be of the Faithful - before I reflect upon what the King says, which I find very true at times. And at times Annatar looks wise and noble, and at others wicked. Sometimes I want to be loyal to my father, and sometimes to my mother - or else I think of the King, to whom I owe allegiance, and then of your late father. "
She speaks quickly, without pause, as if she had long turned all these thoughts in her mind, and only waited for someone to ask so as to pour her long worry and puzzlement out.
"And most people home are like that, she adds. We don't really know, Majesty. "
Míriel turns her face away, closing her eyes. The girl looks at her. A deeper blush comes on her cheeks.
" But, might I ask, Majesty, whose side are you yourself on ?" she asks.
The queen lowers her head. She will not speak of her own long battles - between her father's lessons, the fear and love of the Powers that has been ingrained in her mind ever since she was a child, her friendship with the Faithful, and her duty towards her folk, who seems to have chosen otherwise, her King, a husband whom she did not always loathe - and even the soft, seducing words of Sauron that sometimes swayed her heart.
She simply clenches the girl's hand tighter.
"I do not know myself, child. "
The girl, who had been looking at her hopefully, smiles now with something of sadness and pity.
"But we trust you anyway, our Queen. While there is a King and a Queen on the throne at Armenelos, and of Indilzar's line too, no evil can come to us, we say."
Míriel pales at that. Pictures of a broken island come to her mind, shattered houses and drowned fields, horror-stricken faces. A silent palace gone deep into the ocean, maidens lying upon fields of weeds beneath the deaf, cold water.
"No evil can come to us", she repeats emptily.
Aiwamaitë has just entered her parent's house, when the ground first shakes. It is a lovely, warm day in the summer, when Andúnië is more beautiful than ever. They all cry out in surprise and fear.
Then it stops. They gather together beside the hearth, though no fire is alight there. The old man takes the hands of his daughter and his wife.
"Father, what might be happening ?" asks the girl. Has Melkor come, or the Powers decided to strike us in their wrath ?
The old woman shivers.
"Surely Melkor would not punish us for the insolence of the Queen, who stands with the Faithful ?" she says.
"And surely the Valar would not blame us for the sins of the King, who have decided nothing as to the assault upon their land ?" the father adds.
The ground shakes again.
"And surely no evil can come to us, while there is a King and Queen upon the throne at Armenelos, and they guide us ?" says the girl, though her voice is unsure and her hands tightly cling to her parents'.
Then the wave comes, high and cold in a loud rushing sound, and their words are smothered.
Indilzar is the Adûnaic for Elros, and Nithil for girl.is the Adûnaic for , and for .
The entire song is to be found in The Last Road (HoME V), where it is sung by a girl of Númenor called Fíriel. Here is the translation of the lines I have quoted :
"The Father made the World for Elves and Mortals, and he gave it into the hands of the Lords. They are in the West.", and the end of the song : "What will the Father, O Father, give me in that day beyond the end when my Sun faileth ?"