“My Lady has given me leave from my labors so that I might speak with you, Indis of the Vanyar and the Noldor. I am willing to do so for my own part, and I am counseled by my Lady, and by the Lady Nienna, that in so doing I might assist you in your quest to mend old wounds. As the grief from these wounds lies heavily upon me, with shame for the part I had in their making, I am willing to speak with you, Indis the Fair.”
Indis stared at Míriel, who did not smile as she gazed at the tall blonde figure before her. Míriel’s appearance was much as it had been before her passage into the Halls of Mandos: large dark grey eyes, rounder and wider than those of most of the Eldar, framed by delicately arched brows of a shade somewhere between black and the color of her long silver hair, and a small straight nose over a delicate mouth.
She was much shorter than Indis, and her movements were quick and economical. Although Indis was renowned for her grace, she briefly felt overly tall and awkward as Míriel passed the two Valar and exited the hall. Míriel wore a simple black dress over a long white chemise. Her hair was pulled back simply, as unadorned as her clothes. She wore no jewels, no rings or amulets.
“Shall I call you Sister?” Míriel asked solemnly. “It does not quite describe our connection, but I cannot think of how else to put it.” Indis could not tell if Míriel’s words were spoken in sympathy or derision. She chose to believe the former.
“I would like that, Sister,” she replied.
“You may also call me Míriel, if you wish. I am not used to conversing. Shall we stroll over to that small stream? It is a pretty place and I enjoy the sound of the water rushing over the rocks. It was one of the few pleasures that I rediscovered upon my return to life.”
“I will follow you, Míriel. And as you already have, please call me Indis.”
Míriel nodded once, then turned toward the stream. Indis looked back to bid farewell to the two Valar, only to find that Vairë’s door was already shut. She followed the small dark figure who moved ahead of her on sure feet.
After they had walked in silence for several minutes Míriel stopped at a spot on the side of the stream where the grass grew thick. She turned to Indis and raised an eyebrow in question. Indis nodded, and Míriel seated herself comfortably on the grass. Indis did the same. They sat in silence as Míriel gazed placidly at the rushing water, and Indis toyed with a piece of grass.
It falls to me to start this conversation, Indis told herself. But she was uneasy in the face of Míriel’s calmness. Míriel didn’t seem at all discomfited at finding herself in Indis’s company. But why should she be concerned? Indis realized. There is nothing I could ever say to her that would hurt her more than she has already been hurt. I am anxious because of what I fear she might say to me. Perhaps I am not ready to face the truth after all.
No! Giving herself a mental shake Indis drew her wits together, and addressed the strangely still figure sitting a few feet away from her. “I thank you for agreeing to speak with me, Míriel. I have journeyed across Aman to seek help from those who might know how I can resolve the issues that have hung over my family – over our family – for too many years to count. Our children share a father, and as you have already observed, that makes us kin of a sort, although the connection may be unwelcome to you.”
“It certainly was to my son.” Míriel’s reply was inscrutable.
“Yes, yes it was,” Indis admitted.
“And yet I do not find it to be an unwelcome connection, Indis. For the sake of our strange tie I will do what I can to help you find peace for your family,” Míriel offered calmly. “I say your family because, although our children indeed shared a father, neither my son nor any of his children remain to worry about. So the only family concerned, at this point, is your family. Not mine.” Míriel had turned her steady, direct gaze upon Indis, but her words were neutral, seemingly devoid of anger or resentment.
Indis understood. She is curious about my purpose, she does not see any remaining connection between her fate and mine, she thought.
Indis answered, “That is also true, Míriel. If you are willing to help me I will be most grateful to you. It is for the sake of my children, and my own peace of mind, that I have sought to unravel the coil of misunderstandings, falsehoods, and hard feelings that were woven into the very fabric of my marriage to Finwë.”
“And you believe that I was the instrument of that deception?” asked Míriel.
“No!” Indis hastily replied. “I know that you were not. It was Finwë himself who deceived me. I have lived with that knowledge for a very long time, for he revealed it before his death at the hands of Melkor. More recently I have come to understand that I, too, was not fully honest with myself, nor with Finwë, and so I bear some of the responsibility for the tragedies that descended upon our house”
“If Finwë deceived you, Indis, I cannot help but feel that it must have been inadvertent. Finwë would never deliberately lie. He has surprised me a few times since we first met, but I know him well enough to know that.”
“No … I agree that he would never deliberately lie, to anyone. His dishonesty lay in a failure to share certain facts with me, information that would have changed the course of our relationship had I ...” Indis wavered. The conversation was heading in a direction she had not intended.
“Did he fail to mention to you that he had loved me truly and deeply, before he loved you?” Míriel’s eyes had narrowed and in their depths a flame sparked, the white-hot glow of challenging scorn that Indis had seen all too often in Fëanáro’s eyes.
But Indis was not cowed. “Not at all. In truth, Míriel, he did not need to tell me that, because his deep love for you was clear to all in Aman. I was fully aware that you held his heart before he opened it to me.” Indis sighed. “I am sorry. I knew that I needed to see you, and yet now that I am here, and you are willing to speak, I find myself at a loss for words.”
Míriel said nothing for a moment, but the challenging gleam departed from her eyes. She seemed to relax a bit, and said, “Indis, I have no quarrel with you. If you are afraid of what you might hear from me, know at least that I have no accusations to lodge against you, and I hold you blameless in what has passed. I know that my son held you responsible for my fate, but I, of all people, know that he was wrong.”
Indis looked wide-eyed at Míriel. “In truth I am amazed and most grateful to hear that. Very well, then. I will try to come to the point.”
She took a deep breath. “Shortly before his death, my lord Finwë revealed to me something that he should have told me before we wed: that before you were summoned to answer Manwë's questions, before you had learned of Finwë’s plan to sever his tie with you so that he might take me to wife, it had not been your intention to remain forever within Mandos.
Míriel seemed to draw into herself. “Yes,” she answered shortly.
“This discovery was the cause of the breach between me and my husband, who had been your husband before he was mine. Had I known that Finwë’s love for me, and our wish to wed, were what led you to ask to remain in Námo's halls for all time, I would have broken with him. I swear to you that I would have, Míriel.”
Míriel’s gaze was distant and sad. “How could you have known, Indis? And what would have been accomplished if you had parted with Finwë, and refused to marry him? My final choice was made in an instant, and only Finwë and I knew why. Once the Valar issued their ruling, none of us could undo it.”
“Finwë could have spoken up before Manwë announced his decision,” Indis protested.
“Yes, he could have. But he did not,” Míriel replied, somewhat impatiently. “I fail to see what you think you could have done to alter the course of my fate.”
Indis persisted. “He should have told me. Instead he kept it from me and in so doing he made it almost certain that Fëanáro would be alienated from me and my children.” Indis’s voice grew low and bitter, “For we lived a lie, everyone who believed that your choice to abandon life was perverse, without cause. But Finwë knew the truth. And Fëanáro intuited it. And I … I should have been perceptive enough to realize that you must have had a reason to leave.”
Míriel turned her head to look sharply at Indis. “My choice was wholly voluntary. My reasons for doing so were mine, and of concern only to me, Finwë, and Fëanáro. The fact that Finwë did not choose to tell you the truth about what passed between us when I was summoned before Manwë is not something you will be able to resolve by speaking with me,” she said crisply.
Indis pressed on. “Be that as it may, since I cannot take it up with Finwë himself, I seek to understand what happened, what led to your departure from life. But I also seek your forgiveness, Míriel, for I should not have presumed to judge your reason, since I did not even know what it was.”
She continued, “I feel as though I never really knew Finwë, that my marriage was built on an illusion. Yet it produced four children whom I love dearly. I have been torn for many long years. My children, and your son, suffered because of Finwë’s deception, and because I would not see any reason to doubt that I should marry Finwë, once the Valar had allowed it.” Indis raised her hands in a helpless gesture.
Míriel turned her eyes back to the tumbling water for a long moment. Then she lifted her unflinching gaze once more to meet Indis’s beseeching eyes. “Very well,” she said. “I cannot see how this will help you, but since you have gone to all the trouble to find me and ask, I will tell you how I came to seek release from life.”
A wave of excitement and apprehension passed through Indis. For so long she had wondered, and now Míriel herself was about to explain her choice. “Thank you,” she replied in a hushed voice.
Míriel rose, with her toes just at the water’s edge. Her eyes grew distant again, as she appeared to summon her thoughts before she began her strange tale. “You are not the first to question me about my choice, but it may be that, apart from Finwë himself, you are the only one who might actually be able to understand me. At any rate, you are owed my best attempt, and so I shall make it now.
“My marriage to Finwë was a happy one, and we took great comfort and joy from one another. You of all people must know the power and allure of Finwë’s character. He makes others wish to know him and, perhaps more importantly, to be known by him. I was not at all like him in that regard, as you might have observed when we had occasion to meet, so long ago. I am reserved where he was outgoing, and while his enthusiasms were always infectious and drew others in, mine are more solitary and internal. Yet we made a good pair. Finwë would have an idea and I would see it to its fruition.
“We wed before the palace in Tirion was constructed, and this you might recall, since your folk had not yet moved to dwell on Taniquetil. Finwë, having seen Manwë’s hall, was inspired to build something as beautiful for himself and his people. I always had the sense that Ingwë and your people were offended by that ambition, as if the Noldor were reaching too far by trying to imitate the achievements of the Valar.”
Indis pondered this. “Yes, there might well have been that sense among my brother and his chief counselors, although I would not say that it was actually offense,” she allowed. “Perhaps puzzlement at what seemed like an unnecessary undertaking. But since my brother eventually built a palace for himself that rivaled Finwë’s in Tirion, ultimately he did not pass judgment on the Noldor for their efforts. But at first, yes, I think he was taken aback by their ambition.”
“I had always wondered about that,” Míriel commented with a small, wry smile. “But once Finwë had settled upon the idea of building a stone palace, nothing could dissuade him. Indeed I did not seek to change his mind, and instead set about helping him to realize this wish.”
“My chief talent has always been working with textiles, but I have some skill in drawing, too, and thus I oversaw the planning of the construction of the palace that Finwë wished to build. It was the first time the Noldor had attempted to build on such a scale and it required considerable planning and the coordination of hundreds of hands. If the main vision was Finwë’s, its execution was mine. Finwë had not the patience to attend to the small details of his undertaking. But he had the charisma and energy to inspire his folk to partake in his ambition, and without that, all of my planning and drawings would have been for naught.”
Indis nodded slowly as Míriel spoke, observing to herself, “no wonder, then, that I always sensed Míriel in that house – it was itself her handiwork!” Aloud, she asked, “I wonder that your part in its construction was not widely known, for indeed I remember coming with my brother to see Finwë’s palace as it was being built. I remember watching him as he oversaw the stonemasons and carpenters. He had such energy! I do not recall seeing you there, or knowing that you were involved in the building of it – it seemed to be Finwë’s creation entirely.”
Míriel shrugged. “That is ever how it was between us; neither Finwë nor I made a distinction between ourselves when it came to our joint undertakings. That the credit for things such as the palace went wholly to Finwë mattered not a bit to me, for my motivation had never been to gain the approval or admiration of others, but rather for the simple pleasure of the task itself and the greater pleasure its completion brought to my husband. Finwë brought me into the warmth and light of our people, for without his charm and strength to support me, I tended to shy away from all but my closest companions.
“Between us I would tease him at times when he referred to his palace, or his crown (which was also of my design). And at such times he admitted freely and with good cheer that such accomplishments were indeed ours and not just his. That this was known between the two of us was all that mattered to me. Our partnership was mutually satisfying, as our needs and our strengths were complementary.”
Indis digested this for some moments, and then offered, “yet some things were indeed yours alone – such as the fine tapestries you wrought which adorned the walls of the palace. Surely Finwë had no hand in that?”
“Indeed, no, my needlework was entirely my own, in both inspiration and in execution. Likewise I can take no credit for Finwë’s qualities as a leader. Neither of us was fully involved in all of the other’s undertakings, but more often than not we supported each other in essential, if unseen, ways.”
Míriel paused, and her words became more hesitant, though Indis could not tell whether it was out of reluctance or uncertainty. “When we decided to conceive a child … at first it seemed that, as ever, we would together produce something that would bring us both pleasure and pride. … But once the seed was planted, Finwë’s ambitions for the child began to grow to wild proportions: our child would be the most glorious child ever born to Elven kind, he would be the personification of the combined strengths of his mother and father – the most creative, the most insightful, the most beautiful, the most charming, the strongest, the quickest …” Míriel’s gaze was again distant as she paused.
“He was many of those things,” Indis said softly.
For the first time Míriel looked uncertain of herself. “Yes, perhaps…. In fact, Indis, I should say now that, when I was unhoused in Mandos, I was not wholly unaware of the kindnesses you showed to Fëanáro, and I thank you for that.”
“You have nothing to thank me for, indeed it was my duty; in marrying Finwë, how could I not embrace his son?” Indis answered simply.
“You persevered longer than most would have, in the face of his resentment and ingratitude. Yes, Fëanáro might have embodied many of his parents’ strengths, but he also inherited, from me, stubbornness, perfectionism, and indifference to the opinions of others.”
“… And from his father?” Indis wondered aloud.
“Ah, if you truly love Finwë, then you love him in spite of his flaws, and to do that you must know what they are. I never thought my husband was without his faults, and I have long known the weakness that came to my son from his father – are you saying you never saw it yourself?” Míriel raised an eyebrow at Indis, the hint of a mocking smile dancing on her lips.
Indis was silent for a moment. Of all the pains she had endured over the years, the worst were the doubts she felt about her husband, whom she had once adored with every ounce of her love and will. When she learned of his appalling betrayal of Míriel, Indis came to question how well she had ever known Finwë. Yet, she still loved him. Until very recently her response to this quandary had been to suppress such thoughts. But, having come to terms with her own complicity in the unhappy events in her past, Indis found that she was able to view her husband more clearly than she ever had before – for better and for worse.
She answered slowly. “… I suppose … the inability to see other truths besides his own … yes. Finwë was wise and kind and gifted in seeing to the heart of the matter when disputes arose between his folk … but when it came to his own family, to things close to his heart, he was ever blind to any perspective but his own. He expected us – me and our children – to understand and accept that Fëanáro must always come first. Not long before his death I learned why that was so. But it was never fair, and in fact it was not wise. And Finwë simply could not see that. In that, Fëanáro was like him, wasn’t he? I am sorry to say that your son’s terrible selfishness and stubbornness are usually attributed to you.”
Míriel laughed sadly, “Yes, I who now am called Firiel by my people – I know that I am a sad, strange mystery to them. And who can blame them for connecting my son’s weaknesses to my own? I am stubborn, and ever have been so. But it is a particular fault of Finwë that, the stronger his emotions, the less able he is to consider another’s perspective on the matter. And it was that which drove me to flee to Lórien."
Míriel continued her story, “As the child within me grew, my worries did too. A part of me was as eager as ever to see Finwë’s dreams realized, and indeed I poured all of my strength into the child, so that he might be as strong and as gifted as my husband wished him to be. Finwë’s hopes for Fëanáro were innocent, as all of his ambitions ever were, and that they involved his pride and self-importance should not be held against him. The fruits of his ambitions hitherto had always brought good things to his people. He had never had to choose between what he wanted and what was good for others, as the two were always one and the same.
“But in the conception of Fëanáro, Finwë’s failure to distinguish between himself and me, and also between himself and his son, had terrible consequences. My strength was sapped in carrying and bearing Fëanáro, but Finwë simply could not recognize how much it had drained me. He seemed to believe that, as with some of our other endeavors, this creation of a new life had been a truly equal undertaking – and he himself was not in the least bit tired! In fact, he was very eager to have more children. His own delight and excitement at Fëanáro’s birth blinded him to the cost that I had paid entirely from my own strength.”
“And yet,” said Indis, “he took great pain to make sure with me that I was not too taxed in bearing children. And each time we decided to have another child, he went to great lengths to be certain that it was what I wanted, and that I had the strength for it.”
“I am glad he learned that lesson, at least,“ said Míriel. “And indeed, perhaps you were better suited to bear children than I was, for your children are undeniably strong and good, yet you were able to deliver four to my one.”
“I love my children with all my heart and love none better than I love them,” said Indis. “But I can admit in all truth that, in native talent and raw power, none of my children could match their half-brother.”
“And yet, that is not all that mattered in the end, was it?” Míriel returned sadly. “Even now I wonder if I had remained in life, would Fëanáro’s character have taken a different shape? Would his faults have dominated him as they did? Would he have done such terrible things?”
“In seeking to answer these questions, you and I share a purpose,” said Indis.
“I don’t seek to answer them. They are my regrets and I have learned to bear them. We cannot undo what has passed. I don’t see what good could be served in answering them,” Míriel sighed.
“And yet, if I may ask, did you not foresee some part of what was to come with your son? Is that not why you left?” asked Indis.
“That is difficult to answer, but I will try. To do so I must return again to my relationship with Finwë and his ambitions for our son.”
Indis nodded. “It is curious that Finwë was so certain about what Fëanáro would be like, so convinced and unrestrained in his ambitions … because he did not express such definite hopes for any of our children. Neither our sons nor our daughters. In fact, he was careful to withhold predictions about what any of them would be like. In moments of doubt, I confess that I feared that perhaps he was reluctant to do so because he thought that no child of mine could compare to your glorious son, so his expectations were lowered,” said Indis.
“I think, rather, that he had learned the other thing I once sought to convey to him – that he was unreasonable to expect that our son would fulfill his ambitions,” Míriel responded.
She continued, “to me, Fëanáro would be what he was; that he would be great was clear to me, too, but I was troubled by the extent to which Finwë was consumed by his enthusiasm for our son’s greatness. Fëanáro was not a palace, built to Finwë’s specifications. But in the weeks and months following Fëanáro’s birth Finwë crowed with unfettered delight, as though Fëanáro’s every movement and sound was a precursor of greater marvels to come. Though I reminded my husband that our son was but an infant whose fate was yet to be revealed, Finwë was fixed on the visions of glory that he had for our son, and for the other children he wished us to have.”
Indis commented, “I remember his joy at Fëanáro’s birth. He commissioned a beautiful cup to be made – I believe it was wrought by Mahtan – which he had delivered to my brother. To commemorate his first-born. Ingwë was delighted for Finwë; indeed I think all in Aman shared in his joy,” said Indis.
“All but me,” Míriel observed.
“Yes. I learned that you were ailing a few months after the birth. We sent fresh figs and water from the spring on Taniquetil with the hope that they would help restore your spirit and strength.”
“Did you? That was very kind.” Míriel looked surprised. “I was in a haze of exhaustion and sadness, and took note of little besides my son and my husband. The exhaustion I think is easier to understand than the sadness. You have wondered why I chose to abandon my life. It came down to this: Finwë was so consumed by his vision for our son, and for a larger family, that he was oblivious to the fact that we were no longer of one mind. He simply could not grasp that I would want something other than what he wanted. And he was equally blind about our son.”
Míriel sighed. “What chance did my small son have to grow and flourish, if his father overwhelmed him with expectations? At his birth I, his mother, did not perceive fully where Fëanáro’s talents would lie, and I knew that Finwë did not possess such foresight, either. So his ambitions for our son were premature at best. Yet he was so adamant. There was no gainsaying him. Fëanáro would be a builder, he would become Aulë’s premier pupil, the Valar themselves would marvel at the things Fëanáro would create.”
“But he was right, Míriel, those things did indeed come to pass,” Indis pointed out.
Míriel shook her head. “But that matters not. Was it chance, a lucky guess on Finwë’s part? Did he push Fëanáro in that direction, perhaps unwittingly? It happened much as Finwë had hoped, but at what cost? I looked down at my tiny son and foresaw terrible sorrows. But my husband would not hear my worries. He only saw the glory that Fëanáro would bring to the Noldor.”
“Yes,” Indis replied, “Finwë could not, or would not, hear me when it came to Fëanáro. Although I have long believed that his blindness where Fëanáro was concerned was born of guilt.”
“That might have contributed to it,” Míriel agreed, “but the obsessive ambition was already there. And after three years I could endure it no longer. Finwë was wearing me down, and I felt that I might soon capitulate to his wish to have another child just to placate him.”
Indis frowned, “I cannot believe that Finwë would ever have forced you to bear another child.”
Míriel shook her head, “you misunderstand.” She sighed and gathered her thoughts for a moment before continuing. “Finwë was a loving, attentive husband. He worried over my lingering weakness and my disinterest for any of the things that had occupied me before Fëanáro’s birth. Yet, at the same time, he was bursting with enthusiasm and ambition, which he was unable to reign in. We had endless discussions, which wearied me all the more. After we would talk, for some days or even weeks afterward he would seem to understand – about my need for rest and peace, my lack of interest in having another child, and my concerns about his boundless expectations for Fëanáro. But, inevitably, he would break the confines of his new-found restraint, and I would have to explain myself all over again. Each time it took longer and more of my energy to convince him of the need for patience.”
Indis nodded slowly, “yes, he was always quite steadfast in his beliefs.”
Míriel shot Indis a sidelong glance, but did not respond to her remark. Instead she continued her tale. “Eventually I could bear it no more, for not only was Finwë persisting, but Fëanáro was growing, and he too required my energy. I wished I could give it to him, but I was just so tired.” Her eyes grew misty as she reminisced, “how I loved him. To my eyes he was the most beautiful child in all of Arda. I delighted in touching him, and holding him next to me. His first word was ‘light,’ which he uttered while pointing at the glow in the window from Telperion.”
“Is that so?” asked Indis in surprise. “Finwë told me that Fëanáro’s first word was ‘Mother’.”
Míriel laughed. “That was the first word Finwë heard him say. I’m sure I told him when Fëanáro said ‘light,’ for it was a few days, at least, before he said, ‘Mother.’”
“Perhaps in his grief Finwë only remembered the first word that he had heard from Fëanáro’s mouth, which would have seemed all the more significant once you were gone,” Indis suggested.
“Yes, perhaps.” Míriel’s reply was unrevealing.
They sat in silence for a few moments, and then Míriel spoke again. “So I thought to seek rest in the gardens of Lórien. I thought that if I spent some time there, in peace and solitude, I would regain my strength sufficiently to better curb Finwë’s excessive and heedless enthusiasm for an enormous family that would gain the admiration of the Valar themselves.”
Míriel sighed, “I did not intend to be away for too long. Perhaps a few months at most. I was sorry to leave my son, and my husband too, but I knew that I could not go on, exhausted in spirit and in body as I was at the time.
“Finwë objected strenuously. I should have known that he would, but I suppose I hoped that he would recognize my need. He did not wish to part from me. He worried about Fëanáro. And he was also concerned about what our people, and the Valar, would think if I sought refuge, alone, in Lórien.
“When he saw that I would not be swayed by his pleas to remain in Tirion, he determined to escort me to Lórien himself. I did not wish him to do this, because I just wanted to be alone for a while. And also because I deemed it would be better if he remained with our son. But he insisted … and once we reached Lórien, he would not leave my side! He was distraught and anxious about my well-being, and demanded that the Lord of Lórien do all in his power to restore my strength.
“Many months passed. Finwë journeyed back to Tirion twice during the time that I lived in Lórien, and when he departed the second time, I retreated, at Estë’s invitation, to her island in the middle of Lórellin. When Finwë returned to the gardens, he could not reach me, for no one may come to her island without Estë’s permission. But he sat on the shores of Lórellin and pleaded for me to return. He sang songs for me. When I think of it now, it touches my heart and I feel such pity for him. But at the time he drove me further into despair, for it seemed to me that my husband would not listen to me, would not allow me to have a need that did not suit his wishes.”
“He loved you greatly,” said Indis. “I think he truly did not understand why you left, and when I first met him he was desperate to regain you.”
“Yes,” Míriel nodded. “I know. I knew that even then, but it just wasn’t enough. It seemed that no matter where I went, Finwë would follow me and insist that I return with him. So, after more than a year had passed, I left my hröa on Estë’s island, and my fëa entered the halls of Mandos. And at last, I found peace.”