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We Weren’t Born to Follow

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The sky was dark and clear which made the stars appear to shine even more brightly. But the huge celebratory bonfire provided the light for her to recognize him. Her brother and his friends never tired of talking of Finwë. They told tall tales of how the Huntsman came to ask to speak with a delegate of the Tatyar and their clan chose Finwë as their chief for that purpose. Her brother always explained at that point in the story how the Tatyar had no leader like Ingwë’s followers did. He would go on from there to insist that neither were they feckless hero worshippers who needed someone to look up to, like those who loved Elwë, carrying on about how he was crowned by starlight and other fanciful descriptions.

Míriel herself had silver hair which picked up the light of the stars in near darkness or glowed red or gold when lit by the cooking fires. That gave her no special qualities or authority beyond those which she had earned by her industry, intelligence, and skill. She remembered Elwë well. He was strikingly handsome—a strapping man, broad of shoulders, deep of chest, with a voice that carried above others when he sang. And his people did love to sing.

But there stood Finwë in front of the fire, after such a long absence, handsomer by far than either Ingwë or Elwë, and, when he exposed his dazzling charismatic smile, he was all the more charming because he was unconscious of his beauty. Unlike his almost peers, Finwë was confident in his competence, but not at all vain. He raised one hand high above his head to gain their attention. The people quieted and stopped to look at him, waiting near breathless for him to speak.

She, inappropriately at that moment, remembered the stories of her big brother about how Finwë could seduce any woman with that smile. That was a blatant exaggeration no doubt, but, as a woman grown, she could understand now how there might be more than a grain of truth in the tale.

Her brother glanced at her and grinned warmly at her reaction to his old friend. “The uncanny eyes are new,” her brother said, wonder in his voice, although his own eyes were still twinkling with merriment at her reaction to Finwë. He never missed an opportunity to tease her.

The tales of a strange light which the three travelers had captured in their eyes in that land across the great water reminded Míriel of scary stories of witchcraft or sorcery invented to frighten or amaze children. Supposedly that faraway land was lit with a light equal to that of a thousand times a thousand stars, that there were no shadows or darkness hiding dangers and inexplicable horrors. And, that the three representatives of the Quendi to that land now carried that light in their eyes.

The Tatyar disapproved of the mystification of knowledge, calling it witchcraft. They even less liked the idea of confusing children with nonsense stories made up out of whole cloth. They claimed that truth and knowledge were more beautiful than any fantastic tale. One of their few basic principles was that refusing to share knowledge was the greatest of evils.

They detested the practice of so-called sorcery. They believed that one could find an explanation for anything if one tried hard enough and explored every possibility. Finwë’s unusual eyes, which indeed could charm any woman, had no place in her memories of the tall good-looking boy who had been one of her big brother’s closest playmates in their youth. But there was something unusual about his eyes. Being a Tatyar through and through, Míriel was sure there must be an explanation beyond magic and fireside tales of some distant godlike Shining Ones whom they had met and spoken with across the Great Sea. One need only look hard enough in the right places and ask the right questions.

Looking away from Finwë, she caught her brother watching her. He smirked encouragingly again, nodding in Finwë’s direction. He would love to see her set her mind upon attracting Finwe’s attention. It bothered him that she a never chosen a mate.

She hated the idea of casting doubt upon Finwe’s honesty, even in her own mind, but she smelled a trick beneath these tales. There was a method here. Perhaps they wanted to convince the peoples, not just the Tatyar but those of Ingwe and Elwë as well, that they proposed a necessary action or venture, perhaps a very dangerous one, and yet they thought it required a fabulous tale to convince their peoples to undertake such an upheaval of everything that they had ever known or done before. This was not the method of the Tatyar; but Finwë was not acting alone any longer. Perhaps an explanation would be forthcoming later.

As time passed and Finwë stuck to his story, Míriel, however, could not stick to her intention of not submitting to his charms. In fact, truth be told, she ended up being more the pursuer than the prey. But once she had won his heart, she had convinced him that should he dally with another, or even think of it, she would not welcome him back.

“Consider carefully, Bright Eyes,” she had said. He always smiled at the name she called him. Personal nicknames had power and he respected that.

“No one has had a special name for me since I lost my mother.”

She smiled back at him. “Be vigilant then, Bright Eyes, lest you should lose me also.”

She grew accustomed to, although she found it unsettling, the unusual accent he had acquired from those so-called Shining Ones, not soft and homelike, but foreign and harsh, sharp and bright as the glitter of swords.  But the accent softened again as the strange clothing from across the sea wore out and was replaced. But he was determined to pursue the harebrained and impossible scheme of taking all of the people across the mountains and plain, rivers and more mountains again, until they reached the sea. He put his not inconsiderable energy into convincing all to make the trek—to a new life, a wondrous new land. Had anyone but Finwë proposed these things he would have been lucky to have escaped with all his limbs, but Finwë was respected and trusted, and something more, had a new power about him that she did not wholly understand.  

Sometimes he teased her, “Seeing is believing! Come with me and you will see for yourself.” It made her laugh. Oh, he definitely had charisma!

“Don’t ever believe that I’ll give you up!” he insisted. “I will fight for you. Don’t for a moment think I will leave you behind. And leave I will!”

The arguments among the Tatyar continued and, as time passed, grew more bitter. Not that Elwë fared much better. Finwë came home from gatherings to discuss tactics and their strategy for this great migration with reports that Elwë’s people fought less than the Tatyar, but their numbers shrank, as though his followers melted silently into the forest. Ingwë who had unanimity from the beginning was anxious to leave and wanted the others to agree. There would be greater safety in numbers he insisted. Finwë delayed in admitting what he knew in his heart of hearts, and voiced with great sorrow to Míriel under their furs one night. He would never be able to bring all of the Tatyar with him.

He sighed with sadness, taking her face in his hands. “We must leave soon, Little Star,” he said. It was a recent name he had finally given her, an overworked reference to her silver locks, but she liked it coming from him. “If I wait much longer, there will be a full-scale revolution against me and I will bring far fewer with me than I have now. Will you at least come?”

“Don’t be silly. I couldn’t let you leave without me, no matter how little I like this plan. Do not waste any time on regret. You must do what you want to do. Remember the Tatyar are independent and stubborn. It is no reflection upon you to encounter differences of opinion. We weren’t born to follow. Those who come with you, however, will do it out of conviction.”

“Except you, and who could be more stubborn than you. Except you do it out of love.”

“A foolish reason perhaps, but an undeniable one for as long as it lasts.”