At night, the corridors were shrouded in darkness, and a thickly woven cloak of silence. Zimraphel´s vivid imagination, as a child, had filled this void with rumours of footsteps, whispers and shadows that terrified her whenever she dared to leave the safety of her own chambers. As she had grown older, however, and listened intently at each corner for some noise, afraid of discovery, silence had become a blessing and a protection. Childhood terrors had subsided, while other fears that she had previously ignored had begun to take their place.
All those things flashed through her mind as she heard the footsteps approaching, with the steady and barely perceptible quality of her old nightmares. Caught between two worlds, that of the frightened girl and of the guilty woman, her legs froze in place, and she waited.
Pale moonrays that stole through the window revealed a face, with features that had been once proud and now had grown old before their time.
The face exhibited a carefully guarded expression.
"You go to see him."
It had not been a question. Zimraphel felt a crushing knot in her throat, and her own face blanched. All speeches, arguments and excuses that she had amused herself crafting in unguarded moments, -fancying that she would speak them in a firm voice if the time came-, left her mind in a rush, leaving only the confusion of shame.
"Father.." She swallowed frantically, trying to look past his closed features. "I..."
His eyes pierced her, and she fell silent. As the weight of the glance of Tar-Palantír fell over her, she felt explored in the darkest recesses of her mind, those that she did not even dare to unravel herself. Her secrets were weighted, and her shame pondered until she was not able to keep steady and looked away.
He sighed, a soft yet haunting sound.
"I will not go." she blabbered, forsaking reason and logic to fill the terrible silence with the sound of her words. "I will go back to my rooms. I will not see him", as if she hadn´t been betrothed for years behind his back.
He shook his head, and the mask fell from his features at last, revealing a weariness, and a deep, unfathomable sadness that made Zimraphel reel back as if she had been struck. Once again, she tried to open her mouth, but no words came from it this time.
"Go to him." he muttered, then snorted painfully at her expression of disbelief. "What, you are surprised? If I do not allow you, you will only love him more, and hate me. Like my people. I have seen many things in your eyes tonight, child. Alas for Númenor!"
Before she could answer he turned her back to her, and disappeared into the shadows. Zimraphel stared at the empty corridor for a long while of dazed silence. Finally, she walked back to her room in growing anguish, and lay in her bed without even taking her clothes away.
The following day, the King Tar-Palantír stayed in his chambers, afflicted by a mysterious illness that the wise of Númenor, lately perplexed by so many cases of fever and madness, could not recognise or name. A week later, he died, and Zimraphel, who had not set a foot outside the palace in all that time, received a sceptre where her unleashed fancy persisted in spotting faint traces of blood.
What had he seen that night?