Tar-Miriel

And These Pearls That Were Her Eyes

1. Chapter One

   
Foreword: The last queen of Numenor, Tar-Miriel, is only mentioned briefly by Tolkien in the “Akallabeth,” but that mention is so poetic and haunting that she becomes one of the most unforgettable denizens of Arda. In this story, set during the day before and the morning of the Downfall, she reflects upon her unhappy forced marriage to her usurping cousin Ar-Pharazon and confronts her ultimate fate.


********

“My lady, the sun has risen. It is time for you to awake.”

Miriel opened her eyes unwillingly, blinking as the brilliant white sunshine poured across her bed and burned her eyelids. The handmaiden had flung open the shutters and drawn back the curtains, she realized, showing an ingrained carelessness about the wishes of her royal mistress. Since I do not recognize her, she must be another wench that Pharazon has set to spy upon me. Shall he never give me even a little peace? But she knew the answer already, for none who attended her now were of the Faithful; her husband and his chief counselor had seen to that, particularly since the theft of Nimloth’s fruit. She wondered hazily where Pharazon was at this moment; it had been thirty-eight days since he sailed to the West, to challenge the Valar and their ban. Maybe I will be fortunate and he will die and the rest of us will not pay the price for his folly. The thought was unexpectedly comforting.

She sat up slowly, propping herself up against the numerous and elaborately decorated pillows. They were the same shade of dusky plum as the embroidered silk coverlet she pushed away from her slender form, and all were stitched with beads and pearls. It was indeed a bed befitting a queen, particularly she who reigned over the most splendid realm of the Edain even seen in all of Arda. But the rich beauty of her bed’s trappings, like all the glories that surrounded her every day of her long life, left her cold and indifferent. What joy could she take in material things, when she was fading away? Even as she stretched and yawned, the daily chant that haunted her waking hours began thrumming in her mind.

All is emptiness and all is vanity, for am I not one of the Faithful who has utterly failed the Valar? Can you forgive me, my father, for not having the strength to hold on to your throne, for allowing Numenor to descend further into darkness?

“Your breakfast awaits you upon the terrace. We shall prepare your bath as you eat.”

Miriel nodded, not deigning to speak, and the handmaiden gave a submissive bow before withdrawing to the bathing chamber. She climbed out of bed, wrapping herself in a silken robe, and padded across the marble floor barefoot to step through the open doors onto the terrace. While standing at the railing, the Queen of Numenor surveyed the kingly city spread out below her.

Armenelos the Golden glittered in the sunlight, its towers and domes and minarets rearing skyward as though aspiring to exceed the Meneltarma itself. Their marble stones shone white, with colored mosaics flashing tiny rainbows everywhere. She could hear the city stirring, the voices of the women buying food in the market and of old men sharing breakfast drinks, the shouts of children playing in the streets. The orange and almond trees below the terrace wafted their sweet perfumes up to her, filling the air.

But the foul smell belching from the great smoke-blackened temple dome that dominated the hill in the middle of Armenelos hopelessly tainted the beauty of the scene. And yet, she thought with a shudder, the stench of those burning bodies sacrificed to Melkor is not half as poisonous as the smell of Nimloth’s wood charred . . .

She had tried desperately that day to escape Pharazon’s demand she attend the ceremony at the new temple. He would accept no excuses or pleas of bad health, threatening to have two or three of his biggest slaves carry her there by force. She submitted then, just as she always had, hating herself with each step she took in the procession that wended its way to the mount. But her husband could not make her look on the Lord Annatar—no, Sauron—with a kindly eye. She refused to even glance at Pharazon’s chief counselor; rather she stared straight ahead, her face frozen into a blank expression. No one could perceive how she was dying inside while the flames Sauron kindled licked at the wood of the sacred tree, consuming it and destroying with it the last faint hope that Numenor might be redeemed. Oh, Father, you foresaw this evil . . .

Her only comfort was her knowledge that the seeds from Nimloth’s stolen fruit surely survived, nurtured by the devoted hands of Elendil and his sons. She hugged her secret to herself with fierce joy, delighted she had succeeded in aiding Isildur without detection. At long last she had accomplished something worthwhile, though she often wondered what fate had in store for the little sapling. When she felt a smile creeping onto her face, she quickly steeled her features into icy immobility again, thankful her husband did not have the power to read thoughts.

She had expected that Pharazon would come to her chamber that night to punish her for her defiance as he so often had in their early years together. He had always enjoyed humiliating her by using her like a common strumpet from the streets, making her engage in the most perverse acts he could conjure up. But he left her alone, too preoccupied by his Great Armament and his mad plans to sail to Valinor to bother tormenting his seemingly ineffectual wife.

Miriel turned away from the rail abruptly, willing herself as she had for most of the past sixty-four years to forget her marriage and her husband. She hurried over to the breakfast table and sat down, determined to savor her meal, and that meant not thinking about Pharazon. She drank the sweet milk her herd of specially tended goats provided her, and slowly ate the delicate pastries and fruits, truly tasting everything for once instead of only eating the smallest amount needed to sustain her body. She was nibbling the last few crumbs from a particularly luscious cake when the servile handmaiden reappeared.

“What is it?” asked Miriel sharply, displeased at having her brief moment of pleasure interrupted.

“Your bath is ready, my lady, and the water will cool soon. Will you not come in?” Her bow was even more obsequious than before.

“Yes.” She stood up and walked deliberately to the bathing chamber, deciding on a whim to keep the woman in her bent posture as long as possible. Miriel felt a brief stab of shame that she would torment another as she had suffered, but it faded and was replaced by cool satisfaction. She approached the sunken pool and reluctantly allowed herself to be divested of her gossamer gown and robe.

“Please, my lady, do step in,” the chief handmaiden said anxiously.

Miriel slowly submerged her body in the warm fragrant water; several of her women bent towards her, their thin gowns billowing out as they gathered around and began bathing her. She struggled not to flinch at the contact with their flesh; how she loathed others touching her, for the slightest touch so often brought back the evil memories she had spent a lifetime hiding away. She took no pleasure in their ministrations or in the beauty of her unclothed form. Many poets extolled her exquisite appearance, hailing her as the only true jewel of Numenor, fairer than anything else known to the Edain despite her comparative lack of height. But her raven hair, grey eyes, and flawless figure inspired no vanity in her, for her beauty had only earned her an unwanted marriage.

One of the women cupped her breast gently for a moment as she washed it; a tiny flash passed through Miriel as the gesture made her recall the one time a man had touched her with any tenderness. Oh, Isildur! But revulsion overwhelmed that small spark as the hands traveled lower, forcing her memory further back, to what Pharazon had done to her, long ago. She could not control her mental journey, for every touch drove her further into the past . . .

Sixty-four years since the sceptre had passed to her, and how confident she had been that she could rule alone as Tar-Telperien had! She took the throne with dreams of continuing Palantir’s efforts to restore the ancient faith and loyalties, and therefore winning back the favor of both the Valar and the Eldar. The first six months of her reign were not easy, for there was much muttering against her policies, but when the discontent quieted to a dull murmur, she foolishly thought the worst was over, and even led a procession to the top of the Meneltarma in due course.

That selfsame night, she awoke to the naked form of her cousin and spurned suitor kneeling over her, his face contorted with mingled contempt and lust. She tried to scream as she arched her body up, but Pharazon clapped a hand over her mouth and laughed coldly.

“You think a guard will come? No one can hear you, my dear queen, for many support me, and those who do not have been bribed into absence. Since you chose to reject me when I offered myself to you freely, you have made me take the other path. I do hope you enjoy being raped.”

She wept in fear and disbelief as she pulled his hand away from her mouth. “No, you would not dare! I am Queen of Numenor still, and I will have your head if you take me, I swear it!”

He laughed again, a chilling sound in the echoing darkness of her chamber. “Fine words, Miriel, but we shall see if you truly dare to speak of what I do to you—I doubt you will.” He snatched up a scarf he had laid next to her and gagged her mouth, then he tied her hands to the bedposts with a length of rope as she writhed wildly. “Oh, yes, this is going to be pleasant, most pleasant. . .”

She struggled valiantly, but her petite figure was easily overpowered by Pharazon’s superior strength. She closed her eyes then, but she could not stop the sensations of the knee between her legs, forcing them apart, and the rough fingers invading her most secret parts, bruising the flesh and making her swoon. No, no, no, help me, please, not this, anything but this! When the fingers were replaced by the smooth head of Pharazon’s manhood, she nearly fainted, but he slapped her hard to keep her conscious.

“Oh no, you will feel this, sweet cousin, whether you will or not.” He grabbed her flailing hips, holding her for a moment, and then he thrust deeply into her with a groan as he tore her maidenhead brutally. A muffled scream was ripped from her throat as her head lolled back, her entire body and mind in agony. Why is this happening, why am I being punished, no, no, no . . . She willed herself to become numb as Pharazon prolonged matters for an unbearable time, riding her harder and harder until at last he gasped, his body trembling as he spilled his hateful seed into her; he did not move for a few minutes, but kept her pinned with his weight as the tears flowed down her cheeks and she prayed she would not conceive. He finally rolled off her with an animal-like grunt and untied her. He stooped down and hissed into her ear, “In eight days, I will ask again for your hand in marriage, and if you decline me, I swear you will discover that what I have done tonight is positively mild compared to what the future holds for you. Be warned!”

He left her weeping, his robe whispering in the darkness as he put it on and strode away. She crawled into her bathing pool as soon as he was gone, scrubbing her skin raw as she tried to banish his smell and touch. But nothing could blot out the horror of what she had endured, and she cried herself to sleep after collapsing on her bed. She stayed there that morning when her ladies awoke her, claiming she felt ill but refusing to see her physician.

She had been far braver in those days, though, and roused herself from her stupor after a few hours, determined not to succumb to Pharazon’s vicious blackmail. She bathed and dressed herself after dismissing all her ladies, and scribbled a desperate note to Amandil, sure that the lord of Andunie would honor her request for some of his men to be sent to her as a new guard even though she did not tell him why she needed them so badly. He had always been her father’s most loyal counselor, and leader of the Faithful; she wished now she had chosen to marry his older son when her father suggested it. She summoned the one rider she could trust and sent the lad galloping off to Amandil’s estate in haste, praying the Valar would grant her a miracle and that aid would arrive before it was too late.

The rider returned only a hour before Pharazon was due to have an audience with her on the eighth day, clutching a note from Amandil that promised her his son Elendil would soon be at the palace with a hundred armed and mounted men. She folded it and tucked into the bodice of her dress, the crackle of the parchment lending her courage as she endured her cousin’s florid proposal during their private twilight meeting. He stopped speaking and looked at her expectantly. She stared back, her head held proudly.

“No,” she snapped, “and you may remove yourself from my presence.”

Pharazon’s face was a study in disbelief; it would have comical if he had not also appeared so enraged. He pivoted on his heel and stormed out of the throne room, leaving her gloating silently. Ha! You thought I had not a scrap of our ancestors’ courage—now you learn that the blood of Tar-Minyatur runs true in my veins! She summoned her ladies and directed them to prepare a new bedchamber for her that night, and to keep its location concealed. She retired with a feeling of smugness, sure Pharazon would never find her in the great maze of the palace even if he dared try.

But she was wrong, for he awakened her in the depths of the night, his eyes blazing with venom as he attacked her afresh. This time he made sure he violated her thoroughly, using every orifice of her body to slake his lust. When he finished ravishing her for the last time, he kept her pinned again, this time on her stomach; the pain burned along her nerves as she wept at the unnatural invasion and her mind slowly shattered into a thousand pieces.

Pharazon chuckled, drew her hair away from her ear, and whispered in a voice heavy with threat, “Say no once more, my darling cousin, and not only will I do this to you tomorrow night, but a half dozen of my most loyal men will accompany me and watch as I do. Then it will be their turn to feast upon your charms while I enjoy the spectacle. Is that what you want? Hmm, perhaps you do. Have you acquired a taste for the more decadent pleasures of the flesh?”

Her nerve broke completely at that threat; she could endure no more, for she knew now she could rely on no one’s loyalty, not her ladies or her guards, and she was unsure when Elendil might come to her. She babbled, “No, no, not that, I beg you! Please, let me up and I shall say yes!” She sobbed openly, hoping to move him a little.

He eased away from her and let her turn over and sit up. “You will marry me, Miriel?” he asked softly, in a parody of real courtship. She fought off her nausea and nodded.

“Yes, I will marry you, but only if you pledge to never enter my bed again.” She wondered if she went too far in making such a demand, but he smiled mockingly.

“Fair enough if the sceptre is part of the bargain. You will announce it in the morning?”

“Yes. Now leave me, please,” she choked out, her throat thick with tears. He did so, glancing back at her in obvious triumph.

And so she proclaimed her planned marriage to her cousin that morning, ignoring the gasps of dismay from those of the Faithful who still advised her. She set the ceremony for the following afternoon; when Elendil arrived some three hours after her announcement, he immediately met with her privately and tried to persuade her to revoke her decision, reminding her of the ban on marrying kin that close in blood. She sat there like an insensible statue, his eloquence failing to register in her blank mind. She merely shook her head and whispered, “It must be this way—I am sorry, but I have no choice now.” He pressed her for an explanation, but she could not speak of her sufferings despite his clear sympathy and concern.

Elendil attended the wedding the next day, his eyes reflecting her own disbelief and grief at what was happening. He departed that evening, leaving her to the tender mercies of her new husband. And no sooner did he leave than Pharazon showed his true colors and broke his promise. . . I should have killed him in his sleep! Before she could indulge her fantasy in more detail, she became aware of her shoulders being lightly shaken.

“My lady, forgive us for disturbing you, but your bath is long finished and the water is cold. Please, allow us to dry you and robe you for the day.”

She listlessly climbed out of the pool; they carefully dried her, as though she were a child, and attired her in a dress with layers of blue and green silk, making her appear like a sea goddess. They tied golden sandals upon her small feet, and brushed her thick black hair until it shone with purplish-blue lights. When they asked what jewels she wanted, she did not hesitate.

“The most splendid of my pearls, all of them. Lord Ulmo’s gifts shall grace me well.”

“Is that wise, my lady?” The chief handmaiden lifted a thin eyebrow, her lips pursed. “The Lord Annatar wishes to meet with you soon, and he will not be happy at such a display.”

“I care not,” she said tartly. “Fetch them, if you please.”

They did so, draping her in strand after strand of the lustrous pearls Cirdan the Shipwright had sent to Tar-Telperien hundred of years earlier. She caressed them as they fell across her dress, admiring their shimmering pastel shades of cream, rose, green, and gold. It was a petty act of resistance to Sauron’s influence, she knew, but it was satisfying nevertheless, just like her humiliation of the maid. She felt a whisper of regret that she no longer possessed the loveliest strand, the violet-hued one, but at least they were in good hands; that too was a small comfort. The chief handmaiden cleared her throat and said, “When shall I tell Lord Annatar you will grant him audience?”

“After I hear my other subjects’ petitions, and after I attend to any other matters that need my attention, whatever they may be.” She dismissed the women with a curt wave of her hand, and walked to the throne room with measured pace, not particularly eager to hurry through her duties if that meant she would have to confront Sauron sooner rather than later.

She spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon listening to the endless petitions of her various subjects, both the high and lowborn, for it was a point of pride with her to hear the plea of anyone regardless of how poor he or she might be. She only stopped to partake of a leisurely lunch, and found herself hoping that Sauron had grown tired of waiting when the afternoon went on without interruption. But when her Lord Steward leaned down to whisper to her midway through a long petition from the fishermen of Nisimaldar, she realized with a sinking heart that she would not be spared on this day.

“My queen, the Lord Annatar says he must speak with you immediately. May I tell everyone to withdraw?”

She sighed. “Did he say what he wishes to speak of with me?”

“No, only that it is important.”

Miriel knew she was brought to bay. “Very well, then.”

The Steward stood up and called out, “Her Majesty Ar-Zimraphel must regretfully terminate this audience and ask you all to withdraw! Thank you!” She had to fight the urge to wince at the hated Adunaic name Pharazon had imposed on her when he claimed the sceptre. As the bowing, murmuring crowd departed, the Steward asked, “May I send the Lord Annatar to you now?”

“Not yet—wait a half hour. I need time to organize my thoughts.”

“Very well.” He bowed deeply and left her alone in the throne room’s vastness. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back onto the carved stone chair, searching her mind for a good memory she could use to arm herself against Sauron’s abhorrent presence. She irresistibly turned to the best memory of all, the night Isildur had come to her and they plotted to achieve his dangerous deed of defiance. Would that I had that kind of courage again, she thought sadly. Then I might be standing beside you and yours at this very moment, Isildur. Try to understand, my cousin, and remember my one night of valor, as I do.




This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

   

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Regina

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 01/17/04

Original Post: 09/14/03

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