Míriel first met Nienna when the Valië came to speak with her brother in his halls. She was on her way out; walking along the high-vaulted hallway where Míriel sat working at her loom, as sedately and gracefully as a ship across still waters.
And Míriel could not stop staring at her.
Nienna had a beauty that was almost painful to behold, like the hurt from loving a mortal, or the burn in your muscles from strenuous riding: it ached but it was worth it, so completely worth it. Míriel could not look away, not even when the Valië approached her and stared at her with her deep rich eyes, and that interminable sorrow within them made her own terrible grievances both more prominent and less painful.
Míriel Þerindë was overwhelmed.
Her sobs began and would not stop, but they were not the sort that needed to be stopped: her tears were a balm against all the pain she had suffered; all the hurt she had put herself through, the worry for her son, the regret, the guilt. Oh, all that guilt.
Hands, as strong as moving mountains but as gentle as raindrops in spring, stroked her hair and held her shoulder as the tears washed over her ceaselessly, washing away the malevolent pain and enriching the pure.
“Sweet child of Eru,” the Valië said and Míriel’s tears stopped to wonder at the deepness of her voice; deep and pure and powerful as it was, and filled with such a sorrow that Míriel could not fully comprehend it.
“Your grief is well-deserved,” Nienna continued, in that entrancing voice; “For you have loved so deeply and so powerfully, and feel so strongly that to not grieve as you do now would be an impossibility.”
“My lady,” Míriel said, gazing into those rich glistening eyes; “How is it that my grief is now so much more potent within me since staring at you, and yet also has lost its virulent hold over me at the same time?”
And then the most wonderful and world-changing thing happened: Nienna, the Valië of Sorrow and Grief, smiled.
It was a smile that stole over her entire face, her entire being even. Those eyes, so deep and so rich, lit up and the sorrow, though still there, was ignited with a joy and kindness that Míriel thought could never be real. And yet it was.
“Míriel Þerindë,” Nienna said, and the sound of her name coming from such an omnipotent voice sent shivers down her spine. “Your grief is your power. All that passion and fire you had has been tempered by it, and now you are stronger than any darkness. Time will give you the courage to face it, and the wisdom to embrace it.”
Míriel had nothing to say to this, and could only sit gazing up at the most merciful of the Valar in wonder. Nienna’s smile softly faded from her face but Míriel would never forget it.
“Your smile…” she began, but could not think of any way to express what she wished to say so trailed off into silence. Nienna stared at her intently, as though she knew what Míriel had wanted to convey.
“You are beautiful,” Míriel said eventually, but the word was not enough. It was too small, too shallow, too… average. So she tried again.
“You are beyond anything I have ever experienced,” the elf said; “And your smile… it is… it is everything…”
Her words were faltering and imperfect. They were flawed and unable to describe the feelings she felt and the mighty Valië before her, but Nienna understood. Of course she did: she was made for understanding and compassion and mercy; it was the world and time and hurt that had turned her sorrowful.
Sorrowful and mighty and beyond comprehension, that was the Lady of Tears.
But when she smiled; Míriel thought to herself and knew that the Valië must know her thoughts, for she stared so intently with those entrancing eyes: when Nienna smiled, Arda knew only joy and love and spring eternal.
And Míriel Þerindë was healed of even her most severe pain and regret.