"Why do you still torment yourself by going to Emyn Beraid to gaze at the past?" Yávien had asked when he left Annúminas. After the first year the tower was built, she had never come with him, though he asked her to accompany him here every time.
Now, as Elendil went up the winding stair that led towards the top of Elostirion, he could not help asking himself that question also. It was torment to dwell on what was forever lost.
It was well over a hundred years since the Wave had taken his home, but in truth, Númenor had been lost long before that. It had been teetering on the brink for many years, but Andor, the Land of the Gift, had fallen the day the first of its people had been dragged to Sauron's Temple.
And yet, despite the pain of remembering, there was an odd measure of comfort in coming here and gazing upon images of his home, even if it was grief and loss that he looked back on. Here, he was not the High King of Arnor and Gondor, as he would be again as soon as he stepped out of the tower to rejoin his escort. Here, he was merely himself, Elendil, son of Amandil, a man of Númenor, of Mar-nu-Falmar, his home-under-the-waves, exile from a land that no longer was.
And on what lonely coast did the bones of Amandil of Númenor lie, bleached white by the harsh light of the sun? Or did his father and his companions rest on the bottom of the cold, dark sea? Elendil had first used this palantír to gaze west beyond the range of the other Stones, in the hope that he might find how his father had fared on his journey, or even just to find confirmation that Amandil was dead.
As he entered the room that held the palantír, he attempted to clear his mind before he looked in it. Though this one was accounted the chief of the seven palantíri, it was surely the least useful, but he craved the clarity of hindsight. Perhaps in remembrance, he would even find wisdom, or at least some comfort. He needed both.
Elendil took a last step forward to the pedestal on which the palantír rested and took it from its casing. Taking a deep breath in preparation, he turned his gaze, and his full attention, to the Stone. It remained stubbornly black at first, then briefly flickered to a close view of the surface of the sea, before fading again to grey.
Was he too preoccupied with the present to control his thoughts enough to bend the palantír to his will? It would not surprise him overmuch. Lately, all that he saw at Annúminas and Amon Sûl was trouble, unrest. There was no sign yet that Sauron himself had survived the Downfall, but his creatures and servants were stirring; there were Orc dens in the Misty Mountains, and Orcs and Wargs prowled the lands to the north and east of Arnor. Though Orodruin was quiet, Isildur spoke of Orcs gathering openly in Mordor. While Pelargir and Belfalas sided with the Exiles, and accepted the rule of Gondor, Umbar still rejected Anárion's approaches, and remained aloof, holding itself the true heir of Númenor, refusing to treat with Elf-friends and rebels.
After he looked away briefly, and emptied his mind, the deep black of the palantír at rest quickly gave way to an image of the sea again. To the sides, the arms of a wide bay curved into the distance. The Bay of Andúnië. Under a sky of lead grey, the sea lay flat. As he looked further west, a breeze rippled the water, and at the edge of sight a thousand ships raised their sails.
A sunny day, the White Tree in flower.
Market day in Eldalondë, he could not determine when. Well before his time, though, for he could see a number of Elves among the people in the main square.
Meneltarma, its base shrouded in early morning fog.
The King's Library at Armenelos. Two men and a woman, talking. The woman was Míriel, the man next to her the King, her father. The other man, seen from the back, yet familiar... Yes, it was Amandil. Elendil remembered that his father had been deeply troubled when he returned to Andúnië; Tar-Palantír tried his hardest to turn the tide, but Gimilkhâd and his followers fomented unrest wherever they saw a chance, mocking and threatening those who openly returned to the old ways.
Armenelos again. Now overlooking the city towards Sauron's Temple, smoke rising from the building's central dome. Even in hindsight, it was enough to make him look away in revulsion.
When he watched the Stone again, the view had returned to the empty water, and he knew he was seeing the present.
A field of grain at harvest time.
Tar-Minastir's tower by the light of the moon.
Rómenna at dawn.
The cliffs in the north of the island.
A white beach near Andúnië, children playing in the water.
The Wave, racing towards Númenor, its white crest rising ever higher above the sea's surface.
Again, the King's Library, empty this time. No, there was a woman, trying to keep to the shadows, a hooded cape drawn around her, moving furtively as she took down books and placed them on a low table. He could not see who she was, but he did recognise the books. They had been in an unmarked crate that had been delivered to his house in Rómenna one night, and had thus been saved from the Downfall.
The Sea, sliding away below him, until far on the horizon a tall tower came into sight. Elendil gasped in surprise, and the image wavered as he nearly lost his concentration on the palantír. The tower of Avallónë... it was years since he was last granted that sight. He had seen the tower before in the palantír, both from Númenor and from these lands of exile, and once in reality when as a young man he had sailed a small boat out to see how far he could go and still see Númenor's shoreline. He had taken delight in the sea then, and he had gone out on the water for the joy of it, the feel of the wind in his hair, the play of the waves, the tug of the wind in the sails, the antics of a pod of dolphins as they kept him company. He had not intended to go as far west as he had, but it had been a clear and bright day, the wind favourable.
From the clarity and size of the image, Elendil knew that he was seeing the Tower as it was now, not in the past. He gripped the edges of the Stone's pedestal tightly as it struck him that he looked along the Straight Path to see Elvenhome.
Suddenly overcome, he blinked away tears of yearning for his own lost home, and the vision ended, the palantír fading to black as his concentration failed. He tried to regain the sight, but he now found himself too weary to do so. Trembling, he stood for a long time gazing blindly into the palantír's black depth.
At last he had recovered enough to step away from the palantír. He waited to return it to its casing, for his hands were still shaking. Instead, he turned to open the curtain on the room's west-facing window, then opened the window as well. He felt more than a bit unreal, and the fresh air might help to pull him back to the here and now.
Below, his men and the Elves who guarded the tower talked softly among themselves while they prepared their evening meal in the open air. Elendil's stomach rumbled as the smell of freshly baked bread drifted upwards. He was hungry; that was certainly real enough. He hoped there would still be some of that bread left by the time he came down.
He considered the men who waited below for their lord's return. Like all his household knights, they bore the star that was the badge of the Lord of Andúnië's personal guard; yet not one among the men of his escort had even been born in Númenor. Of course, that made them his match, as he had never been formally invested as Lord of Andúnië. He shook his head; he might find irony in details of heraldry, but the point itself should not be dismissed. The people called themselves Númenoreans, or Dúnedain, or Adûnâim even, yet ever fewer of them had stood on Númenor, to remember both its glory and its fall.
The towns and cities the Exiles built here in Endor were suitable tributes to lost glory, but they only spoke of stone, not of the deeds of living men. He felt keenly that, lest his people be fated to repeat the follies of the past, the story of Númenor's shame and downfall should be written so that it might not be forgotten.
Trying to put aside the thought for later consideration, Elendil folded his long frame into the window seat; he needed to think on what he had seen, and its meaning. He had come here to seek clarity, and he would leave with more on his mind than when he arrived.
Despite the sight of the Undying Lands, comfort eluded him, though perhaps he had found some wisdom after all. The palantíri did not grant foresight, but they were sensitive to their users' thoughts, and when the sights in them resonated with what was on one's mind, it was wise to pay attention. Likely, much of what he had seen was random, but no vision of Avallónë should be dismissed, and the sight of the woman rescuing those books – who had she been, he wondered; had she made it on to the ships? – was too close to his thoughts about preserving what remained of Númenor to be dismissed either.
Yes, it was time to finally put the tale of the Downfall of Númenor down on paper. There would not come a better time for it, that he was certain of. He had delayed the writing for far too long, always claiming lack of time or more urgent things that needed to be done first, and in truth, time was ever in short supply.
Yet he could not shake the feeling that if he did not start soon, he never would. He was standing, caught between past and future, on the edge of a wave that would break soon; change was coming, and though he did not know what that change was, the threats that could be seen beyond the borders both north and south were likely part of it.
His stomach rumbled again, and he stood up abruptly. He would order a review of both Arnor and Gondor's strength in arms, and start writing the tale of the Downfall, as soon as he returned to Annúminas. Now, though, he was weary from looking in the palantír, and hungry from the day he had spent up here. Tonight, he would look no further ahead than a meal and some rest.