Choices of Tar Miriel, The
2. The Smiling Sailor
In dull, faded servant's livery, the falcon's cage on her hip counterbalancing the weight of her personal baggage, Miriel reminded herself to keep her head down. She could not afford to be recognized without risking everything she had left to her cousin's wrath. She would have broken into a frightened, hopeless dash for the ship and the relative safety of flight it promised, were it not for Ragastion's steadying hand on her shoulder and occasional whispers of comfort.
To the casual observer, the former queen appeared but one more servant in Councilor Ragastion's baggage train, a rather slow-witted and stubborn maid who required a watchful eye and a tight leash. Or so she hoped.
The Winged Crown would be discovered upon the empty throne shortly enough, and the grounds of the Imperial Palace would be turned upside down in the search of the missing queen. Tar-Miriel was beginning to regret the impulse that had caused her to leave the diadem in plain sight. A gesture to her ancestors was not worth spoiling her last, desperate hope for the future.
Ragastion had reassured her many times that she resembled any other commoner. "There are those who call me a wizard in such matters, Majesty," the brown robed old man had said with a sly grin after adding the finishing touches to her disguise. "You needn't fear about being seen." Even her characteristic regal stride had been obstructed by cumbersome burdens, yet Miriel could not feel as sure about this course of action as she wished.
With any delay, Pharazon would be upon the throne and have Ragastion detained for questioning, and Tar-Miriel would be forced back into that maelstrom of fear and self-hatred that had marred her time as queen, as well as leaving gouges in both the arms of her chair and her own flesh. She would be executed for running away, at best. That was no less than what she deserved for abandoning her people to her cousin's greedy, grasping rule. Perhaps Pharazon is more just than I thought, she ruminated with a dark humor.
However, Miriel knew that death would hardly be Pharazon's first choice for handling his cousin's defiance. He would torture a confession out of Ragastion, force the old man to say that he had brought her along not only against her better judgment, but against her will as well. After breaking the her old friend's spirit and publicly shaming him with a crime he did not commit, Pharazon would have Miriel's oldest, closest, and wisest friend executed, so that she would have no one left to run to. The very thought made Miriel shudder, leaning slightly into the brown-robed man's comforting, fatherly arm upon her shoulder.
"The poor woman obviously needs someone to care for her," she could see Pharazon in her mind's eye, strutting proudly in his ill-gotten crown, leaning over her patronizingly. "As her only family left in the world, it is up to me to make sure she is properly cared for." His voice was almost as oily as his slick dark hair. "And how better to care for my dear, sweet cousin- " he would try to kiss her then, the soulless wretch, it was Miriel's deepest prayer that she would never let that most un-brotherly kiss land without a fight, "-than by becoming her husband and king?"
"Easy, Miriel," Ragastion murmured, suspecting the reason for her shudders, "We're almost to the ship." Indeed, the sounds of seabirds, haggling merchants, and bellicose fishmongers rent the air, and the smells of saltwater and fish assaulted the queen's delicate nostrils. The brown-robed man gestured to a medium sized vessel, rocking in the waves, and a grizzled sailor standing aboard waved in return, leaping ashore to help with the baggage.
"Passage for Radagast the Brown and a companion?" the seaman took the hawk's cage from Miriel, and Giladrian screeched her discomfort at a further change of handlers from under her embroidered hood.
"Best if you do not mention our true names until we set out along our way, Palansül," Ragastion bowed slightly. "Not all here are friendly with our associates, if you take my meaning."
"A paucity of friends has hardly stopped me from going about my business before, Radagast," the sea captain laughed. His eyes were bright and merry, as if he had beheld wondrous sights beyond mortal ken, Miriel noticed.
"No, perhaps, it has not," the brown-robed old councilor smiled in return, "but call me Ragastion, please, Palansül. It is the name my charge is most familiar with."
The seaman looked Miriel over, taking her brown hair, now pulled back into a tight bun, and soft features that had been smudged with soot to hide her identity into consideration with his laughing gray eyes. "And this would be she, is it not, my friend?" he nodded to her.
"I am she," Miriel said coolly, meeting his gaze with her own defiant one. Palansül gave a bow that the queen would have considered mocking from anyone else, but could quite well be genuine from this odd, jovial man.
"Well, welcome aboard the Elwing, milady. I shall be your captain for this journey, Palansül the Grayhavensailor." The ship was not much bigger than some of the tiny two man fishing boats Miriel had seen, and was further crowded by the rather half-hazard packing method its captain appeared to favor. Elwing was obviously the abode of a rather absent-minded bachelor. Its only other strange feature was a device atop a high crow's nest that Miriel did not recognize.
"Wait a moment, Ragastion," she said before stepping aboard with her councilor. She turned back toward the land, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Andor one last time as the brown-robed old man came to stand with her. "I don't suppose we'll ever see it again, will we?" she said softly.
"Perhaps not in waking life, Tar-Miriel," he said after a moment, laying his hand supportively on her shoulder. "But it will always be there in our dreams and memories."
"All aboard, you two," a gentle voice interrupted their reverie. "It is time." Palansül cast off, but Miriel's eyes never left her homeland until it was out of sight of even the sharpest eyed hawk, the tears in her eyes preventing her from ever saying exactly when Andor, which the people of Numenor call the Land of the Gift, disappeared from the horizon.
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