1. The Queen's Fool
As the crown settled on the brow of Tar-Anarion, the throng cheered. The Sceptre was passed on- it was a day for feasting, and of song, and of laughter. The fires were lit on the walls, the streets rang with merriment, and it is said even now, all these long years later, that all of Númenor rejoiced.
I, however, know differently. As the crown settled on the brow of Tar-Anarion, I noticed that one face turned away from the new King, that one pair of eyes suddenly filled with tears and were no longer to be seen.
As the coronation party moved away from the throne room to the feasting hall, I detached myself from the group and hung back, trying to spot the owner of that face.
She wasn't hard to spot- tall and grey and proud, she stood out like a swan among mallards- the new King's mother, Tar-Ancalimë...
The old Queen.
She noticed me, but that was no surprise- she was the only one who ever noticed me, the only one who ever considered me more than just a servant, the only one who ever looked past the cap and bells and saw the man within.
"What is it, Fool?"
That voice had lost none of its regal edge in all its years of ruling, I mused, and would probably never do so before the Ending of the World. An edge of iron it had, hidden within a velvet scabbard- learned from a mother embittered by a world that had betrayed her, and from a father too proud to admit his mistakes.She had never turned that edge on me, look you, but still provoked the same respect in me that it had so many dukes and earls and noble men over the years.
"Your majesty is unhappy?"
She regarded me with cold steel eyes.
"I am no longer Queen, fool- you need refer to me as 'your majesty' no longer."
I shrugged, a movement that set my bells a-jangling.
"You may no longer be Queen, your majesty, but you still were a Queen, and as I am, have been and ever will be naught but a Fool, I see no reason that I should change how I address you."
She smiled for the first time that day, and jerked her head at one of the corridors that led away from the great golden coronation hall.
"Walk with me, fool. I would talk to someone."
I did as I was bid. Her long legs made it a struggle for me to kep up, and I assume that any who looked at us would have been reminded of a wolfhound followed by a mongrel puppy, but I kept up nonetheless, and not just out of duty to my old Queen. As I have said, she had been the only one to look beyond my cap and bells- the only one who did not see a capering midget, but a man, and a man of Númenor at that.
The corridor wound its way through the palace for some way, and eventually (my breath catching in my chest) we found ourselves looking out over the city, looking out over the plains and on towards the Meneltarma, shrouded by cloud as it so often was. We took seats on two low stone benches there on the balcony, and gazed out in silence over the vista for a while.
It was only as I gazed that I noticed the old Queen's eyes were fixed not on the great, flat-topped mountain, but instead on the shadows beneath it. Then my heart shuddered involuntarily, for I knew what lay there- Noirinan, the Valley Of The Tombs.
My shudder must have been greater than I had thought, for the old Queen noticed it.
"Why do you shudder, fool?"
I shrugged, the jangle of my bells seeming almost sacrilegious in my mind.
"The wind is cold, your Majesty, for one so small as I."
She nodded in answer, and gestured at the far-away shadows.
"Soon I shall lie in Noirinian, fool, and then I shall be far colder."
I had never known the Queen like this. All her long years she had been known throughout Númenor for her wit and laughter- for the long years before I had been her fool and even for the few since. It was like looking at a cloudless sky that was suddenly turned grey and ominous- and I liked it not. I went to speak, but she cut me off.
"Soon I shall lie there, and my son shall rule on his own. No mother, no father, no-one."
Thunder rumbled somewhere, far away, and the old Queen stood and looked at me, towering about me as the Meneltarma towered over the plains. I stammered to find words.
"Your majesty, he… he has his sisters, does he not?"
The old Queen sniffed disdainfully.
"Spineless cowards, the both of them. Long shall they remain lonely for their misdeeds."
I shuddered again- the only misdeed I could think of that the Queen's daughters had committed was their steadfast refusal to follow in their mother's footsteps- but said nothing. Thunder rumbled again, closer this time, and the old Queen's eyes softened again.
"Will he be a good King, fool?"
The question pinned me more surely than any blade. What could I say that would appease her? Those ancient grey eyes burned deep into me, and my mouth gaped like that of a gaffed fish for a few seconds before I was able to answer.
"He is a good man, your majesty, with you for a mother that is for sure and certain, but that is not necessarily-"
She finished my sentence for me.
"-the measure of a good King."
She turned away, turned her gaze back to the Valley Of The Tombs.
"I want to know if he will be a good King, fool. I want to know if he will be remembered kindly by history. I want to know if I, as his mother, will be remembered kindly by history. We live a long time, and the Elves live even longer, but memory is the only thing that lives forever. What will he bring to the world, this poor, poor boy of mine?"
I kept silent. It was the only thing I could do- all the answers I had to her question sounded... foolish.
In all my years as the Queen's fool I had never heard a kind word from her about her husband- but I kept my mouth shut. She continued.
"For all his faults, he should have lived longer. Then maybe..."
For a second the old Queen faltered, and for a second looked every one of her four hundred and seven years. If it would have been appreciated, I might even have felt sorry for her.
"What will my son do, fool, to be remembered when he is gone? Will he only be remembered as a footnote- as an accident of birth, as I was?"
Again I kept silent. She turned and looked at me.
"What do you think, fool?"
Thunder rumbled again, and I knew that silence would not be answer enough this time. Clearing my throat, I went to speak- -and was interrupted by a cough from the doorway.
Turning, I saw the King, standing there, wringing his hands.
"Mother? I, that is to say, they- the people, the..."
Her gaze was on him as cool and clear as it had been on me, as it had been on the Meneltarma and the cold and lonely Valley Of The Tombs below it. He squirmed beneath that inexorable dragon gaze like a worm on a hook, and she smiled thinly. Every inch of her was her mother's daughter in that moment, and in it I- a midget fool- pitied the new King.
"I was saying farewell to my fool, my son."
He nodded, looked at me. She spoke again, the wind on the wings of the oncoming storm whipping at her fruitlessly. It was as if she was carved of stone. "I shall be but a moment."
The King nodded and left us alone once more. I turned and looked at the old Queen, and saw tears in her eyes. It was probably but dust, but I wonder about it to this day.
"Even Kings and Queens have need of friends, fool, lest they become them."
"Be my son's friend."
They were the last words she spoke to me- with a flash of whirling cloak, she followed the new King to the feast.
I never saw her again, but for on the funeral day.
In the years that have passed, I have become old and weary, but I have kept her words in my head ever since.
And I have tried to do as she asked.
Tar-Ancalimë was the first Ruling Queen of Númenor, and the history books record that despite her faults she ruled that land justly and kindly for over two centuries.Her son, Tar-Anarion, ruled for less than half as long.
History does not record what happened to the fool.
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.