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The Consuming Darkness
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
The Consuming Darkness

Another tremor rocked the palace; this one stronger than the first and Míriel could not bear to remain any longer. She no longer cared to temper her words and her emotions in the presence of the men who served the man whom she was forced to marry. Ar-Pharazôn, the Golden King, usurper of the throne of Númenor. It should have been hers by right. Should have been; but was not. Míriel had no time to bemoan her unfortunate lot in life. Not now, when she knew for certain the tremors were not just occurrences of nature’s fury. No one knew that she had her father’s gift of far-sight, and she knew without a doubt that Númenor was sinking. It had already begun.

And it was all Ar-Pharazôn’s fault.

The man was proud, unbending, and thought himself mightier than even her sainted father! He tolerated no counsel from anyone, no opinions, nothing that gainsaid his rule, except for Sauron the Deceiver. Evil and malice radiated from the being, but Ar-Pharazôn was blind, deaf, and dumb to it and to Sauron’s persuasion. Míriel could no longer hide her contempt. In his blessed absence, she would rule. Although, all she could do now was give a caveat for everyone to save themselves, to escape while they still could. Most would not heed her warning, she knew. Míriel would not waste her breath to convince them to go.

It didn’t matter now. Doom was at hand.

"Good people of Númenor," she announced, rising from her chair. Another insult she’d had to endure. The chair Ar-Pharazôn had proclaimed hers was naught but a spindly-legged wooden stool. The armrests were so low she could only place her hands on it. There was no back, so she was consigned to keep upright lest she disgrace herself by falling backward out of it. But she was their queen, and not one courtier would see anything except serene grace as she benevolently smiled upon them. "These tremors are not natural. They will gain in strength until nothing is left and our fair isle gone. I command you to leave now! Save yourselves and your families! For if you stay, you shall most certainly die."

"Why should we believe you?" someone spoke condescendingly from her right. With the king gone, some of the higher ranked courtiers thought she was naught but the dirt under their shoes. Míriel turned her head, sneered, and answered.

"It matters not to me if you believe my words or not," she bit out, gracefully walking down the stairs from the dais. "Stay or go. Live or die. The choice is yours. I have given my warning, I will not repeat it."

Another courtier had the gall to stand in her path. But this one wore a troubled look, and she knew he was one of the Faithful. "Are you certain, my Queen?" he asked. At her brisk nod, he paled and raced from the room. Others noticed and started to slip away.

When she reached the door, Míriel turned and took one last look at the throne room. Beautiful marble pillars and the grand golden throne that should have been her rightful seat were silent testament to the glory of Númenor. It pained her heart to know it would be gone forever. Suddenly, another tremor heaved. Everyone was tossed to the floor and loud pops were echoing from above. Dust and bits of marble fell to the ground, pelting everyone. Afterward, courtiers slowly got to their feet; a few even helped her, and dusted themselves off. It disgusted her to see that barely anyone left; only a few more of the Faithful made quick and quiet exits.

Míriel thanked her helpers and fled. Her pride had allowed her to be calm and collected in front of her people, but now fear overrode pride. The delay had taken far too long, and there was no time left. She had to reach her children, her son and daughter whom she had kept secret from their father. Eru and Fate had blessed her both times; she barely increased through both her pregnancies, and managed to escape Ar-Pharazôn’s iron-fisted hold to give birth away from the palace. Only her midwife, and their nanny Nessimë, knew of their existence and who exactly they were. They were the children of Ar-Pharazôn and Ar-Zimraphel, King and Queen of Númenor. Her son was the heir to the throne. But none of that mattered now. She had to save them, to get them on the ships of the Faithful that were hopefully still in the harbor. Elendil would surely take them aboard.

Wouldn’t he?

Her steps faltered at the thought. She wasn’t sure Elendil would accept her or her children. Even though she was Ar-Pharazôn’s queen, and therefore circumspect of her true intentions. In the course of her marriage, she had been forced to make decisions at Ar-Pharazôn’s behest, lest she be punished for it later. She had been forced to disappoint those whom her father trusted and had stayed loyal to her. Therefore, Míriel knew she could make no excuses, no pleas for them to continue trusting her word when she was compelled to do her husband’s bidding. For once, she was glad that not all of them had lost faith in her. Elendil and his sons among them. Yes. He would make room for them aboard his ship, and they would all be safe.

Racing down the streets, she passed many that looked askance at her. It was indeed a spectacle for the Queen of Númenor to be running madly through the city of Armenelos. While she kept her head high, Míriel paid them no heed; apologized not for those she brushed roughly past. Her children were the only ones who mattered now. She persevered, though her side hurt terribly. At long last, the small, non-descript home came into view, and she burst in without knocking. The nanny yelped in surprised, but quickly curtsied low. The children, Eru bless them, stood and faced her, their small faces startled. They were curious and concerned, but greeted her with tremulous smiles. Míriel went to her beloved children immediately, falling to her knees and taking them in her arms. Within moments, both tensed, and two small pairs of hands gripped her tightly.

They knew. Undoubtedly, her son had inherited his grandfather’s gift, and so had her daughter.

"I have their bags packed, my queen," the nanny said quietly into the silence. "I packed mostly clothes, Almarië’s doll, and Meldon’s toy ships. I did not know what else – "

"That is fine, Nessimë. You have done wonderfully. Have you packed your bags as well?"

"Aye, ma’am. And I also packed one for you."

Míriel nodded, but did not speak. There was an intense feeling of foreboding, one of darkness and doom, and it surrounded her, slowly closing in. With a final kiss and hug for her beloved children, she urged them to get their bags and their blankets. They left her to do her bidding and she stood. "Nessimë, I have a boon to ask of you,’ she began, but her throat tightened while she fought against the tears she refused to shed. This was not the time to fall to pieces. Controlling herself, she swallowed once, and again, before speaking again. "I will see you all to the harbor, but I will not be joining you."

"But, my queen – "

"No, hear me out!" she overrode the nanny’s objection, clutching at the girl’s hands and squeezing them. "There is naught but darkness for me. I am doomed, but my children – nay, your children – are surrounded by light and life. You have been more of a mother to them than I have; curse Ar-Pharazôn’s black heart and soul! I thank Eru that they know me as their mother, but you have had the gift of raising them. Nessimë, I beg of you, take my children as your own! Take them to Middle-earth to live a good, long life. I wish I could see them grow and marry and give me grandchildren to spoil…" her voice hitched with a sob, but she fought down her grief. "Please, Nessimë, do this last thing for me."

Tears rolled down the nanny’s dear face, and Míriel gently wiped them away. "You must be strong for them, now. They are no longer Prince and Princess of Númenor, but the young children of Nessimë. They love you dearly. I see it in their eyes when they speak of you. You are their mother, now and for the rest of their lives."

Two more great tears rolled down Nessimë’s face before she bravely nodded and collected herself. The nanny brushed briskly at her face and fled to the kitchen to wash her face and make sure no one knew she had been crying. Míriel was glad, for at that moment, her children came back into the room. They stood side-by-side, holding hands, looking so solemn and grave. Tears welled in their eyes, but none fell. Her children were being so brave. Going to her knees once more, Míriel beckoned them to her and fussed with their hair and clothes. Eru, how she wished they could have been with her. She felt bereft of their laughter and their tears already. Míriel realized she would miss watching them play and watching them sleep. Not that she had much of a chance before. At least she knew they were not been deprived of love, for Nessimë had given them all she had. Almarië and Meldon would accept her as their mother. They had already done so in their hearts. Míriel mourned for the fullness of motherhood she would never know, but it was too late now to rail against her fate.

Almarië’s tears finally fell, and Meldon hastily wiped his away, trying to look more adult than he was. Míriel smiled and caressed each little face. "My children. Do you know what is happening?"

"Aye, mother," Meldon answered. "Nessimë says we have to escape onto big ships. She says we will live in a new place where no harm can befall us."

"That is true," Míriel affirmed. "You must do as she says, as you have always done. You must love her and call her mother. She will take care of you, as she has always done."

"Will we like our new home?" little Almarië piped up. "Is it pretty there?"

Míriel had heard stories of Middle-earth, and while she had never had the chance to see the land herself, she smiled and nodded at her children. "Aye, my love, it is pretty there. There will be lots of room to run and play. You will have new friends to play with, too. You will like your new home."

"Are you coming with us?" Meldon asked quietly, and Míriel was momentarily saved from answering once Nessimë re-entered the room. The sorrowful expression on Nessimë’s face told Míriel she had heard the question, and the nanny quickly diverted Almarië away.

"My son. My beloved baby boy," she murmured around the lump in her throat. Meldon shifted, but did not protest. Míriel felt so proud of him: he was trying so hard to act older, to look older than his seven years. Sometimes he would take umbrage when she called him her baby boy, but now he did not. Míriel was glad for it. "You have a gift, inherited from your grandfather. You know of what I speak."

His little head bobbed once in acknowledgement, and then fell forward. "We will not see you again," his voice was naught more than a whisper. Without warning, he dropped his blanket and bag and threw his arms around her, his tears soaking her gown. "I love you, mama."

Míriel sobbed into her son’s hair. "I love you, too. I always will." Suddenly wishing to hold both her children, Míriel called for Almarië, who raced into the room. Collecting her daughter in her arms, she rocked them and cried with them.

The ground shook violently again, and Míriel clutched her children to her. The house groaned in protest, and somewhere something cracked. The walls trembled and thatching from the roof came tumbling down. Eru help them, the house was going to fall!

There was no time! They had to go. Now!

Meldon left her embrace and helped Nessimë collect their bags. Almarië clung to Míriel, refusing to be put down, and so Meldon handed up her blanket. Denying the urge to panic, Míriel and Nessimë carried the children out of the house and raced to the harbor. The ground continued to shake and heave as they ran, and they had to fight to remain on their feet. Once they approached the harbor, Míriel could see one last ship waiting: a longboat at the pier taking on more people. There wasn’t much time, and it seemed that room on the longboat was rapidly disappearing. Fearing they would not make it, Míriel and Nessimë ran full speed with the children. It was a miracle they did not stumble or fall.

"Wait! Wait, please!" Míriel cried. "There are three more for the ship!"

A young man turned and recognized her. "My queen! We thought you were already lost!" She recognized him as Anárion, Elendil’s youngest son. Blindly trusting her instincts, she ran to him and thrust a sobbing Almarië into his arms. She then turned and helped Meldon and Nessimë into the boat. Anárion held out his hand to her. "Come, my queen! There is room for one more and we have to leave now! Hurry!"

Knowing with a soul-deep sadness that she could not accept his offer, Míriel stumbled back out of reach, praying he would not dare to follow and waste precious time left to them. "I am already lost!" She shook her head at his protest. "My life, such as it was, is at an end."

"Mama!" Almarië cried, her little arms reaching out for her. Nessimë cuddled her close and sang a lullaby to soothe the child. Stunned looks from the people on the boat passed from mother to daughter and back again. And some looked at Meldon, their keen minds working to connect him to her. Tearing her eyes from her daughter, Míriel caught Anárion’s agonized gray-eyed gaze.

"We cannot stay," he hoarsely announced, reaching to untie the rope that held the boat to the pier. Oarsmen pushed the boat away and started rowing out into the harbor. "Eru save you, my queen!"

"Farewell!" she cried, racing to the end of the pier, waving madly. "I love you, my children!" She didn’t care who knew her secret now. Nessimë would do her duty and claim the children as her own. "Remember me!"

"Mama!" she heard Almarië’s anguished cry and tears of her own spilled down her face. "Mama!"

"Remember me! When you look upon the Star of Eärendil, remember me! I shall be on his ship, looking down on you. Be good for Nessimë! She loves you! I love you! I will forever love you!!"

Her toes curled over the edge of the pier. The pain of loss pierced her heart. She could not go on, and her children were floating farther and father away from her. Míriel’s heart and soul were empty, devoid of the precious things that had kept her sane for the years since their birth. Her eyes remained fixed on the vessel, standing still until it reached the closest ship. Knowing they were finally safe and sound, she lingered until the ship began to move ponderously in the direction of Middle-earth. Míriel was nearly tossed into the sea when the pier heaved with the force of another violent tremor, but she clung to the wooden boards she had fallen upon until it was past and she stood. With one last forlorn look at the ship that carried her heart and soul away, she turned and ran back to Armenelos.

There was one point on the whole of Númenor that might survive the destruction. If she could just make it to the top of the Meneltarma, perhaps she would live to see her children again. Míriel knew not to believe in such a false hope, however it was a small hope that would not leave her. Her feet carried her faster and faster; she paid no heed to the pain in her side, or to the people who now filled the streets, screaming in terror. Neither did she pay heed to the ruin and flames that wreathed the city that once stood so proud and beautiful. Armenelos, city of Kings, would soon be gone forever, only to be remembered by those who survived who would put their memories in songs and books.

Would they remember her, the Queen who should have ruled after Tar-Palantir, the last Faithful king of Númenor? Would they remember her, and how she would have ruled peacefully and prosperously for as long as she lived? Would her children remember her kindly and know she loved them with everything she had?

The land shook constantly, and with great effort, Míriel continued on. The Meneltarma was not very far, but water now came from everywhere. It sloshed around her feet, dragged at the hem of her gown. And it was rising swiftly! The currents were strong, tugging and pulling around her legs, as if it sought to topple her and drown her before she reached the safety of the Holy Mountain. Míriel fought it all, struggling with the will to live, to defy the darkness that threatened to suffocate her. She wanted to live, by Eru, and hold her children again!

But it was all for naught. A loud roaring noise filled the air, and Míriel had to cover her ears. It was no use, but she kept doggedly on. When she looked up, she gained her bearings.

She was so close! But not nearly close enough.

Her gaze went beyond the Pillar and focused on the great wave that rushed for them. The water around her was now up to her waist, and she was out of time. Still, she fought the water and pushed on. Hope died in her chest, and yet she refused to give up.

"Curse you Ar-Pharazôn!" she cried with all her power and might. "You usurped my rightful throne, you forced me into a marriage I did not want, and you beat me until I submitted to your will! I could not be a proper mother to my beautiful children. I shall hate you for eternity, and curse your name forever!"

The wave was closer, towering over … everything.

She could smell the tang of the seawater.
She could hear the roar of the water and the terror-stricken cries of her people.
She could taste their fear, and her own, mixed with the salty brine of the water.
She could see nothing for all was now enfolded in darkness, with no hope or escape left.

Míriel screamed one last time, just as the wave crashed down upon Númenor and she knew no more.

~~~

"And last of all the mounting wave, green and cold and plumed with foam, climbing over the land, took to its bosom Tar-Miriel the Queen, fairer than silver or ivory or pearls. Too late she strove to ascend the steep ways of the Meneltarma to the holy place; for the waters overtook her, and her cry was lost in the roaring of the wind."

The Akallabeth; The Silmarillion: pp. 279

My thanks to Rhapsody and Tarion Anarore who beta'd this for me. I'm not very versed in Second Age stuff, but this story begged to be written. Well, my muses begged me to write it. I guess that qualifies...


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