1. The Last Queen
Introduction: I didn´t include this in my collection of vignettes because it is a fic on its own, even if it also belongs to the debris of my arc about different and shocking interpretations of Tar-Míriel/ Ar-Zimraphel. It shows yet another view on the Queen and her circumstances that has absolutely nothing to do either with my view of them in the vignettes or that of my larger fic. In fact, it is the only one of my writings that follows the more popular version where Ar-Pharazôn marries his queen by force. And furthermore: I was exploring a still darker view on Míriel/ Zimraphel´s participation in Númenor´s fall, so both her character and that of Ar-Pharazôn are utterly and absolutely corrupted and despicable (which is not my usual or preferred POV). Which, I suppose, turns this into darkfic.
Warning: This includes character death and strong tinges of rape.
Disclaimer: The character and basic situations belong to J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as the quote in italics at the very end.
The Last Queen
The room felt cold and empty as she sat, dazed by the smells of smoke and inciense that lingered on her veils. One of the windows was open, allowing the breeze of the night to sweep past the billows of translucent gauze. Through it, she had a glimpse of the setting moon, red like blood and surrounded by a halo of golden clouds.
Quietly, she listened to the voices, until after a while the sound of familiar steps drew close to her door. Her lips curved into a smile.
Earlier in that night they had both been to a ceremony, the most melancholy if not the most solemn in the King´s calendar. The first day of Spring had been the day when Gimilkhâd, the King´s father, had died an untimely death two years before his two hundredth year. Ar-Pharazôn had never reconciled himself with the Allfather´s doom, and his heart was filled with grief and fear as, year after year, followed by a train of courtiers and nobles in mourning, he visited his magnificent grave in the caves of the Meneltarma, wrought in gold like the tombs of the ruling Kings and Queens. There was nothing that could dispel the clouds in his brow when he emerged from the dark vaults, assailed by terrible thoughts of the weakness and frailty of Men, and even the Lord Annatar´s assurances that the victims sacrificed upon the tomb would well-dispose the Lord of Darkness towards his dear father, who had died before he could have learned or invoked his name, were met with nothing but a sullen silence.
Míriel knew why. Be it Eru or Melkor, Ar-Pharazôn the Golden did not suffer the thought of anyone ruling his fate. She knew it better than anyone, better even than Lord Annatar himself, as it was to her rooms that he always came whenever he was seized by the cold grip of despair.
The door opened with a faint creaking, and he strode towards the open window. Míriel watched him in silence as he breathed the fresh air, and pried the two halves of her thick mourning veil away from her face.
After a short while –he had never been known to engage in the same activity for long-, he finally turned back. A stormy frown was upon his face, still pale from his visit to the cave. The first signs of age were starting to push through his proud beauty in spite of his efforts to hide them; white hairs he could pull away or dye, but not so wrinkles.
Ironically enough, she, older than him by a year and sagging under the weight of a larger number of sorrows, had stayed unchanged, a radiant, pale-skinned monument of his own losses. Elvish witchcraft, the people of Armenelos whispered among themselves, before hissing a terrible curse, in the end, like her father, she will also die. Míriel had once found this ridiculous, as she had always known that she was fated to leave the world, but one did not joke with Death in Númenor those days.
The Queen of Númenor forced those idle thoughts away from her head.
"How much longer will you tolerate this?" she said to her husband. His eyes sought hers in surprise.
"What do you mean?" he asked, pushing his distress aside for a moment in order to adopt a carefully empty expression –oh, and she had seen that one as well, so many times, as he sat on his golden throne and watched the sacrifices.
"So much death. So much despair." She shook her head. "When will you claim back the Undying Lands that were once taken from us?"
Ar-Pharazôn failed to keep his mask, and his eyes widened. Míriel watched his movements warily, then braced herself to continue.
"Your father and mine already wander in darkness, their different beliefs leading to a similar misfortune. Are you waiting for it to happen also to you and to me?"
The King did not even seem to notice that he had begun to pace across the room. His voice was cold, but not even this could cover his obvious distress.
"You talk in this strain because you do not understand." he said, then attempted a laugh that rang hollow even to his own ears. "Do you think it´s that easy? To fight the Powers of the West and defeat them in their own lands, to brave Elven witchcraft and the Thunder Eagles? I will not bring the downfall of Númenor."
"The mightiest of all gods is on your side."
Ar-Pharazôn shook his head bitterly.
"The mightiest of all gods is on no one´s side." Now, it was her turn to widen her eyes slightly in surprise. "He will bless our lands as long as it will be to His advantage."
Clearly intending this to end the discussion, he walked towards her and laid a determined hand on her shoulder. Repressing a gasp, Míriel shook away from his touch. This, at last, succeeded into angering him.
"What´s the matter with you, woman?"
The Queen´s heart raced. She forced its beating to still, staring past the window. When she felt his hand for a second time, she suddenly stood up, so swift and unexpected that he did not have the chance to hold her down. Letting a glance of the purest contempt trail over his shocked features, she turned away and headed for the neighbouring room.
He stood up noisily, following her. She laughed at his expression of dismayed confusion, and with that crazed sound, the last shreds of the self-composure that she had sworn to maintain fled her spirit in a brilliant red blur.
"How have the mighty fallen! Where is he now, the golden general who never shrunk from a battle, be it with the Dark Lord of Barad-Dûr? The man who took me to his bed, seized the sceptre and defied the tyranny of the Valar is now reduced to hide cowardly from their servants, forsake the distress of his people and follow my heels like a battered cur! You disgust me!"
Now enraged, the King covered the distance that lay between them with the swiftness of a predator, and kissed her fiercely. She went limp like a corpse, refusing either to respond or to oppose any resistance, robbing him of his victory with the cunning of a woman.
Ar-Pharazôn pulled away immediately. The murderous light in his eyes halted her breath, but he regained his self-control a split second before he could fling her small frame against the stone walls.
Even then, Míriel did not stop. She felt like she was on a trance, the ardent pleasure of injury mingling in her soul with the lure of the precipice.
"Tar-Calion I name you, the second king of the Faithful." she spat. "But no, not even the Faithful can stand a comparison with you. What they do out of principle, you do out of cowardice!"
As in a dream, or a nightmare, the Queen felt herself be taken, and carried, and slammed upon the bed. His hands grabbed roughly at her shoulders again, and her eyes opened in alarm, fearing that he would throttle her, but his gaze was fixed on her beautiful features with a different kind of fire that she could also recognise. Once more, he lowered his head to kiss her, and this time she battled her deathly rigidness and forced herself to respond with as much ardour as she could muster.
When he pulled back, there was already a raw tenderness piercing through his faded fury.
"The Valar take you! Do you care so much for this?" he muttered, between ragged intakes of breath. "Would you risk both our lives, the land of Númenor, to achieve it?"
Míriel flung her arms over his back, and nodded tremulously.
"I am..- afraid." she confessed, in a low voice. "Both our fathers died young, and I fear... I fear that Death may not be too far away from us either. The curse of the Valar does not let me bear you an heir. They hold our fate in their hands, Pharazôn!" Her whisper was shrill, and she felt his proud body shiver involuntarily beneath her hands. "They will achieve their designs and end the bloodline of the kings of Númenor. This land will fall to ruin, and we will roam in darkness forever, with no descendants to care for our tombs!"
The King shook his head, his agitation visible in spite of his efforts to master his emotions.
"That will not happen." he said, between a renewed and fierce rain of kisses. "That will never happen, I swear! The might of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden is still enough to free this land and your heart from this fear and shadow."
Míriel´s dark eyes still mirrored her trouble.
"But, can you do such a thing? Can you face such a great malice, such a reckless power?"
The King´s hands disrobed her, rough and brusque as if trying to convince her, or himself, of his own strength.
"You will not have cause to doubt my power. No, you will not." he sputtered, while he entered her and she moaned in his arms. "You will live forever, forever beautiful at my side, the fairest jewel, Zimraphel!"
That night, as she slept in his stifling embrace, Míriel smiled, dreaming of death and destruction.
"Stay here." she repeated, trying to make her voice sound strong and commanding. The horse looked at her with half-mournful, half-crazed eyes and galloped down the path to Armenelos, fleeing her reach. She shook her head and turned back to her own path, a determined expression taking hold of her face again.
Rumbles of thunder and earthquakes had grown increasingly frequent, in the mad spiral of catastrophe which began the day that Ar-Pharazôn´s fleet set sail from Númenor´s coasts to invade the land of the Valar. Armenelos was in fear day and night, taken by rumours of the most fantastical nature.
So absorbed were they by the own tribulations, in fact, that no one had noticed her as she rode through the city to the slopes of the holy mountain of Meneltarma. Only Lord Annatar had spoken with her before she left, some inconsequential words about the last earthquake and its possible significance, and she had noticed that, for the first time since they had met, the Hostage´s eyes were filled with an overconsuming curiosity as he laid them on her.
Hours of hard climbing exhausted Míriel. Her frail constitution resented the efforts, but she did not stop to rest a single time, not even to drink of the scarce reserves of water that she had brought with her. A frenzied urgence was upon her, she needed to reach the holy place.
As the faint light of the sun that filtered through menacing dark clouds was already declining, she found herself face to face with a steep wall of stone, cloven in two by a winding path made of ragged peaks of rock. For a second, she stopped in dismay and an almost forgotten awe for the power of true Divinity. But soon she hardened her resolve, and bravely laid her foot on the first rock to grab a point of support with both her hands.
A rumble of thunder shook the mountain. Míriel lost her grip, and fell back on the ground dishevelledly. For the first time since she had begun her adventure, she felt a cold fear seize her. She had not contemplated the possibility that Eru would reject her.
Her glance trailed over the haunting heights, the length of the fall and the sharp peaks of rock, which would be waiting for her fall like cruel knives. Her courage faltered.
What would she do, now? Would she retreat? All her ancestors had climbed that mountain since millennia before she was born. They had knelt on the Silent Peak and spoken to the Creator Himself without fear, and yet here she was, trembling at the threshold of the holiest of altars. Was she so contemptible, so unworthy of her lineage?
Míriel cringed, closing her eyes as the earth trembled again under her fearful embrace. Images that she had always tried to choke under a fair and pleasant mask broke freely into her mind, threatening to overwhelm her thoughts.
She saw her father, old and wearied by grief, climbing step by step ahead of her. His hands were bleeding, forsaken by the Valar and ridiculed by his own people, but he still kept going on.
She saw herself waving a hand at her wedding, sagging under the heavy weight of silver, rubies and pearls, a trophy displayed in front of the people of Númenor.
... and the endless theatre of willingness and humiliation, of empty smiles, and pain, and unnatural pleasure in the darkness of a bed...
When Míriel at last realised what she was doing, she was clinging fiercely to a dark crevice of rock, her feet dangling precariously at a high distance from the ground. A strange trance had come upon her, and she did not feel pain or fear, grabbing wildly at whatever would help her in her ascension. But she could not escape the flood.
... the accusing faces of her friends, and the friends of her father, as they were brought to the altar of Melkor and thrown into the flames...
A black mass that smelled of fire engulfed her, and everything around her became night. She could no longer see her feet, and her hands carefully felt their way through the stairs of stone. Her limbs were frozen, but her chest burned.
...the White Tree, hewn in pieces and burned in the altar as people laughed at the last prophecy of Tar-Palantír...
Suddenly, she did not know how long since she had started to climb, her left hand touched a smooth surface stretching ahead of her. The notion that she had done it, that she had arrived, slowly sunk into her dazed mind, and she struggled up in triumph.
...her dreams of destruction, that night, in his arms...
With her last strength, the Queen of Númenor hoisted her body over the smooth surface, and lay there, face down among intent gasps. The black cloud gathered at her nostrils, at her eyes and throat, threatening to asphyxiate her.
"Eru Allfather." she prayed, in the High-Elven tongue which she remembered from her youth. Her voice came out so hoarse that she almost didn´t recognise it as her own, yet she still went on, feeling the oppression in her chest augment and turn to raspy sobs. "If You are all-powerful as my parents taught me when I was a child... if you know all and hear all, please, Holy Creator of the World, hear Míriel´s words now. Punish the insolence of the King Ar-Pharazôn, who, in his folly, has dared to break the Ban and attack the Undying Lands! Powers of Arda, strike down his proud mast, and scatter his bones upon the Forbidden Shores! "Halting for a moment, she struggled to regain her breath, wiping her face with her sleeve. The silence of the rocky inmensity was haunting, and for a moment she felt as if she was the only survivor in a land full of dead people. She fought her dread with pain.
Many Men from Númenor and Middle-Earth had died among horrible sufferings, and they had never raised a finger. Now, however, they would be attacked, hunted in their own lands, and the sword pointed at their own necks. They would do something. She swelled with pride; not even her father, for all his attempts to wring the feeblest response from the West, would have crafted such a scheme.
Ar-Pharazôn laid her over the dishevelled sheets, his hands –smeared with the blood of so many- roaming over her body.
"Soon, my dearest, I will bring you the spoils of my victory."
"Hear my words from your seats of Taniquetil, Manwë and Varda!"
A hollow clap of thunder shook the foundations of stone, throwing her to the side like a ragged doll. Above her head, the black cloud was ripped in two, and behind it she saw the sky, red like fire and blood.
Under the veil of her tears, Míriel laughed.
* * * * *
"And last of all the mounting wave, green and cold and plumed with foam, climbing over the land, took to its bosom Tar-Míriel the Queen, fairer than silver or ivory or pearls."
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.