8. Chapter 8: Finduilas
When the decision is taken the weight melts. The air is lighter, the night clearer. The jewel still weighs in the folds of your tunic, but you do not care. You have severed your spirit, and at least for a moment, you do not feel the fracture. The truth is, you are not whole: you are maimed. But wholeness was lost long before this moment, and even this pain tastes like relief.
Faramir's eyes rested on mine, and at their bottom he saw my answer, without need for words. Carefully he came even closer, as you would do with an animal you do not wish to scare away. Without taking his glance away he took my hand, and I felt the roughness of his glove, the strength of the fingers beneath. The world was sharper that night, a clarity on the edge of grief.
Slowly he kissed my fingers, and I closed my eyes. That same gesture, an age before. Another wood. Different stars. But the cut was done. I could not look back. My body felt heavy. Poets do not lie when they say the simple thought of leaving, sometimes, is enough to close your throat like a fist.
"In my dreams I would see this moment. But never had I believed it."
I raised my eyes again on the mortal shape that had taken all that remained of me. No, I could not imagine going away, I could not conceive being far. Not now. He was fragile and strong, transient as tree and rock and Elf are not. He lived in the moment before Time closed his hand to crush him, and leaving him for a moment would have meant losing him forever.
Lost to you from the day he was born to sustain mortal doom…
The words were true, their wisdom should have led me. Many tales are told of the love of the Quendi and the Atani, and none of them are free of pain. But as the Captain embraced me all that remained of this knowledge disappeared, and what I had been before was lost to harden into a new resolve. This path I had chosen, this path I would follow. To its bitter end. Bitter it would be, I knew it then, his arms around me, his heart beating under my ear. Never had I felt the future more clearly. And yet I stayed. The Eldar have no freedom to choose their destiny, that is a gift the One gave to Men alone. But even not choosing, accepting the road that opens before us makes us free.
When we detached my eyes sparkled with fever. The joy I read on his face soothed my foreboding, the trace of his warmth on my skin erased my doubt. When I spoke, my voice was clear, and strong.
"I will tell my people. Then I will come back."
"Do not be late."
My assent was a gesture before I turned to go. Yet again he kept me. Our first kiss was light on the lips, its taste was sweet. A summer fruit was this love, to ripen and die in too short a time; what came before the end was ours. The life of the Edain, their haste, their despair, I had learnt to recognize; in that kiss, I took them as mine.
At the top of the stairs I turned once, looking back. Faramir stood on the edge of the pool, the sadness that encircled him for once dispelled. Men can deceive themselves, Men can believe in happiness. But that is the one art that after a life ages long Elves cannot learn.
My talk with Lord Gelmir was not long. He did not try to persuade me, he did not speak of Legolas, not again. I was afraid of what he could have seen in my eyes if he had, the contradiction showing in them, my maimed spirit naked. Perhaps he guessed. He only talked of Finduilas.
Her tale is a sad one to tell, the tale of her life in times long past. She loved an Elf of her city, secret Nargothrond over the river, but he was taken from the Enemy and enslaved. He was freed by Tùrin, one of the great Men of old, and when they went together only Finduilas in her love recognized the returning Gwindor. But the Man lingered with them, and however unwilling Finduilas gave her heart to him. Tùrin did not see it, Tùrin could not save her when Orcs conquered Nargothrond and captured its folk. She died in pain, whispering his name.
Finduilas was noble; her fate was loving without being loved, a lot that is often drawn in Arda marred. But if Elves can feel such pang on their own, if Celegorm the Fair desired Lùthien to his madness, Finduilas suffered a penalty far greater: that of wishing for a law inlaid in stone to change, and for a mortal to be wed to her when her wisdom told her this could not be, and far greater purposes would be served by others in pursue of such love.
I knew the story, and what my lord was telling me. Long I was silent after he had ceased talking, and at length I said: "The future speaks in my thoughts, and I know well what I am walking to. And yet I cannot walk in any other direction, nor heal in me the wound that has been opened, even if that were my only desire. And it is not, for for many seasons now I have been desiring things different and strange."
His eyes were fixed on me for a long moment. At last, he spoke: "Elves of our kind were gifted with simple desires; and yet such passions can be deadly. I wish for you that you may find strength to follow the path you chose, if indeed it was laid for you in song before the making of the World. And yet I grieve, for I wish I could bring you back, and among my people see you smile again. There is no more counsel that I can give you, but only my blessing and my wish that we can meet again before the end."
I made no answer to this, and took his hand one last time in pledge of fealty to his lordship, even if I would not follow him now. My parting from the others was silent and swift, glances exchanged, not many words to be uttered. All my possessions fit into a sack, and when I reached the limit of our territory I did not look back. The shadow took form when Acharn stepped forth, his face sad.
"I am remaining here, my friend."
"I feared as much."
He was taller than me, and he bent to kiss my forehead.
"May the forest protect you. A war lies ahead of you, but a war ahead of us as well. Take this, and may its blade never grow blunt."
He put in my hand his hunting knife, whose thin point had slain many a Orc. Leaf was its name, for it was beautiful to look at, and inlaid with branches of a green tree. To remember me I gave him a belt that he had long admired, made in the resemblance of braided grass. And when the moment of parting came, I took from my tunic and put in his hand the jewel Legolas had sent me.
"To no other would I entrust this, companion of many hunts. Will you give it to the Prince, when you see him?"
For a moment he hesitated, but eventually he shook his head.
"Many things can be refused and given back; but some only by those who receive them. It is not on me to tell the prince this. When you will see him, you will do it."
"Your words are right. And yet – "
"When he will not see you with us, he shall know. And now take your leave, Mìriel, my sister and friend, before a good farewell turns to the bitterness of longing and pain."
I took my leave. I felt his eyes on me as I went, but when I turned to the line of the trees I saw nothing but shadows under the pale moon.
Thus began my life with the Rangers, and I did not come back to watch my people leave, nor to visit the houses again forsaken. And yet I felt it when they went, for Ithilien grew sad at their departure, and the sky cried for it with tears thick and cutting. Then the severance was complete, and my land remained all that I possessed, and my love a reason to fight for. Pain fortified me, and I embraced my path completely.
I was given a place among the Men of Gondor in the secret chamber under the peak, bedding made for me in a secluded corner. They were surprised to see me come, and soon guessed the reason for it; for even if Faramir never showed his love with acts in their presence, yes it was clear in his eyes when he looked at me, and in his light step when, as we had always done, we went together for a walk forsaking sleep under the stars. But because they loved their captain and knew his sadness, they were glad to see him smile, and of the skills and knowledge of the Elves of the Wood they could make good use.
Scarcely a month had passed, and one night, holding me gently, Faramir whispered to my ear: "My lady, Minas Tirith has called."
I closed my eyes. I had feared this moment, the moment when questions would be asked, and I would have to answer them in the presence of the Steward. Much I had guessed in the silence where Faramir grew dark, of this Man whose name was always uttered with reverence and a hint of fear by the Rangers. Now the time had come to face him, and make myself accepted in the ranks of his soldiers. But perhaps what I feared even more was watching into the time and place that had born the sadness that ever haunted Faramir's eyes.
I took his hand into mine, and kissed it.
"And we shall answer."
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