“What´s your name?” he asked. The brief moment of ease dissolved in a rush, and she went a bit rigid.
“Míriel.” she muttered in a low voice.
“What? I didn´t hear you.”
“Míriel!” she repeated, busying herself with the repairs of the muddy stronghold. She did not see her cousin´s face, but she heard his snort behind her back well enough.
“That´s a stupid name. Sounds like a cat meowing.”
“It does not.” she replied, indignantly.
The worst of all, of course, was that it did, and there was no one in the whole of Núménor who hated that name more than Míriel herself. Because of it, nobody talked to her when she was brought to the King´s palace, and she had to hide in her grandmother´s gardens to play. Because of it, her grandfather used long periphrases to address her, and didn´t love her. Because of it, too, he stared coldly at her father, and didn´t allow him to lay a foot on the palace except on festivities.
As soon as she grew old enough to realise some of those things and overhear the rest, Míriel had begged her father to change her name. He had frowned, and told her that such a thing was not possible, and that it was a beautiful name.
Since that day, she had sincerely tried to be proud of it, too. Honestly. She had asked everything that could be known about it, and memorised it carefully to throw it at the face of the next person who would hear it with contempt. But those people scared her too much, so in the end she had never said a word.
“It means Jewel Woman. It was the name of a very beautiful and powerful queen who was famous for her weaving. She had black hair and a crown of stars.”
“Whatever.” The boy shrugged, apparently not at all interested in the story. “And Jewel Woman would be Zimraphel.”
Míriel frowned, nonplussed.
“In which language?” she snorted” Dwarvish? Orcish?”
“That´s ridiculous! Zim-whatever- is not Númenoréan, you dunderhead!”
“You are the dunderhead here! Don´t you know anything at all about Adunaic?”
“Adunaic?” She furrowed her brow warily. She had heard the name before... but where?
“It´s the oldest speech ever, what our ancestors used when they first came to Núménor!” he explained. “All kings use Adunaic in their names and in state ceremonies and in their official papers. My name is Adunaic, too, because I´m a scion of kings.”
Míriel listened to his explanation, speechless. For a while, she wondered whether to believe it or not. No one had told her those things before, and she was also a scion of kings.
Even as she was pondering this, a feeling of envy began to break through, and she bit her lip. It was obvious to her that he felt proud of his own name, really proud and not just pretending to. It felt unfair to her, somehow.
“What... what was the name again?” she interrupted him, almost in spite of herself. He stopped and looked at her for a moment, then flashed his smug grin from before.
“Zimraphel. I´ll call you that, it sounds much better.”
“It doesn´t.” she answered faintly, but there was no spirit in her voice, and she had learned by now that the boy would do what he wanted in spite of what she would say. Before she realised what she was doing, she found herself pondering its drawling, imposing texture in her mouth.
Her voice came out so hopeful, so covetous that she blushed to the root of her hairs. He laughed.
“Where did you get that caterpillar, Zimraphel?”
Could they... would they, maybe, love her now?
“In the rose bushes.” she said, and smiled a little, tentatively.