4. Chapter Four
Miriel bolted upright, her eyes widening with shock as she saw the massive eagle lazily gliding above Armenelos. She heard it give another resounding cry before flying off into the west. An Eagle of Manwe . . . oh no . . .
The day of our judgment has come at last!
She rolled out of the makeshift bed, speeding down the twisting halls that led back to her chambers, her robe billowing behind her. One thought and one thought only was pounding through her mind, the final faint hope she had to cling to.
I must go to the Meneltarma and pray, prostrate myself before all the Valar and beg them to intercede with Iluvatar to spare us. Her own life meant little at this point, she believed, but she bled to think of all the innocent lives that hung in the balance between Pharazon’s gall and Iluvatar’s wrath. Or maybe, she reflected, I should be honest and admit that I am not quite ready to die after all, now that I know what it is to feel love. But if the price of Numenor’s salvation is my life, then I shall pay it willingly. It is time that the Queen truly served her subjects, for I have failed in that until now.
Miriel rushed into her quarters, and for the very first time she failed to bathe, only splashing cold water on her face. She only paused to stand at the balcony rail and cast her sight to the west; she could see again her husband's troops gathering for the attack upon the Valar. She gasped in fear and scooped up her used clothes from the floor, not willing to take any more extra time. She had just finished dressing when the first of her handmaidens arrived. They stared at her in surprise.
“My lady,” one asked nervously, “what means this? Do you not require our help? We should brush your hair—”
“No need for that, because there is no time!” She stomped her feet into riding boots, and grabbed a thin cloak from a wardrobe.
“But where are you going?” protested another. “You cannot ride without an escort even within the city! Please wait, and allow us to prepare ourselves.” They gathered in a tight knot around her, and some ventured to reach out and hold her fast.
“I need no escort, for I ride to the Meneltarma, and none of you dare follow me,” Miriel snapped.
The women grew pale with fear. The oldest stammered, “But that is forbidden—what will the King and Lord Annatar say?”
“I care not!” Miriel snarled the words as her frustration built over the stupidity she was forced to contend with. She shook off their restraining hands and pointed at the sky. “Are you all so blind? An eagle of Manwe flew over at dawn, and that means the moment of truth has come to all of us whether we will or no! I go to pray, and you should too, that my entreaties do not fall on deaf ears! Now stand aside, or I swear I will knock you to the ground!”
The women shrank back with stunned expressions as she swept out of the chamber and hurried down the endless flight of stairs to the stables. The stable boy mercifully gave her no argument, and she was soon mounted on her favorite mare and galloping through the streets. She could hear brief snatches of conversation as she passed, full of open shock that the Queen would appear before them in such disarray. Little do they know! She bent over her mare and urged her to even greater speed; soon she heard nothing but the whistling of the wind in her ears, though she thought for a fleeting moment that she heard the clear ringing of trumpets sounding a battle cry.
But while the wind blotted out much, it could not stop the constant parade of images spinning through her memories, fragments of the past that came careening back to both haunt and comfort her. She remembered the day her father had gifted her with Telperien’s pearls as he spoke of his pride in her. She saw herself taking the sceptre, full of hope she could continue Palantir’s work of repentance, and then she recalled the slow torture at Pharazon’s hands that had crushed her spirit and doomed her people. And finally Isildur swum up before her inner vision, his face full of compassion and love, his lips and hands reanimating her, but only after it was long past mattering.
Her heart clutched up, and she shook her head to clear it. No! I do have time for the past--the present is all that I must think of now! The galloping pace soon wiped away all other thought, and she focused on the words she needed to sing in order to stave off disaster. When she arrived at the foot of the Meneltarma, Miriel flung herself off her horse and dashed to the long-unused stairway that led to the holiest of all shrines, the sacred Hallow of Eru Iluvatar. Please, please do not let me be too late! But as she placed her foot upon the first stair, she heard it—the noise that told her that all was lost. It was like nothing she had ever encountered; it was if the earth itself was screaming in pain, a pain beyond anything known to mere mortals.
Miriel whirled around, her heart pounding as she looked down, disbelief etched in every line of her being as she beheld the utter destruction before her.
The whole island had broken apart, the fissures widening as the sea rushed in to engulf everything in its path. Tall towers and splendid mansions, moldering tombs and regal statues, beautiful flowers and glorious art—everything was tumbling into the all-swallowing maw of the ocean as the waters consumed all in their path. The earth beneath her feet trembled uncontrollably, and the Meneltarma shook as fire erupted from its peak. She stumbled and fell as the world rocked crazily and swayed around her.
As she sprawled weeping upon the ground, she could hear—even over the howling of the wind and the roar of the sea—the screams of the men and women and children as they drowned, all of Numenor vanishing in the blink of an eye, even unto the tiniest babe in arms. She struggled back up and stood sobbing as her far sight fell on the foul Temple. There she saw Sauron laughing on his dark throne, head thrown back in gleeful mirth at his triumph. No! He of all beings cannot be allowed to live! But even as the thought came to her, the Temple collapsed and fell, disappearing into the cold abyss of the ocean. She laughed in turn, her delight in Sauron’s doom overriding all other feelings. At last! And does this mean I shall live?
A fresh roar gave her the answer to her question.
She gazed numbly upon the huge wave that surged up from the sea, a vast wall of water that grew and grew until it seemed to blot out the sky entirely. She could see the feathery plumes on its top, the debris carried in its awesome wake. And she could also see that it would submerge everything in its path—even the Meneltarma.
An animal-like scream erupted from her lungs as mindless terror seized her. She began scrambling up the stairs, panic propelling upwards to her possible salvation. No, not this, Eru, have mercy . . .
But even as her prayer formed, another thought in her head whispered, Why? Why should you be saved? What have you ever done to deserve redemption? It was your cowardice, your weakness that brought Numenor to this pass. If you had not yielded the sceptre so easily, this evil would not have come.
She thought again of Isildur, awaiting the worst on his ship, and his courage when faced with death the night he came to her. Shall I be a coward again? Or shall I finally prove myself a true child of Tar-Minyatur’s line, one who can embrace her fate without flinching?
Miriel stopped and swung around. The great wave was nearly upon her now; she could see the chill pale-green depths and pearly-white foam. She stood straight as a wand and flung her arms skyward, ecstasy flooding her as she sought release.
Take me into your arms, Lord Ulmo, if you will. Turn my bones to shining coral and my eyes to glistening pearls so that I may grace your halls with my beauty throughout all eternity. Give me peace at last, I beg of you.
The wave crashed over her, wrapping her in its icy fingers and caressing her like the tender lover she had never possessed. The shrieking wind floated her dying cry to the birds overhead, who heard nothing but despair; but if any of the race of Man were there to hear, he would have heard the joy in her voice.
* * * * *
“In an hour unlooked for by Men this doom befell, on the nine and thirtieth day since the passing of the fleets. Then suddenly fire burst from the Meneltarma, and there came a mighty wind and a tumult of the earth, and the sky reeled, and the hills slid, and Numenor went down into the sea, with all its children and its wives and its maidens and its ladies proud; and all its gardens and its halls and its towers, its tombs and its riches, and its jewels and its webs and its things painted and carven, and its laughter and its mirth and its music, its wisdom and its lore; they vanished for ever. 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.”
--“Akallabeth,” The Silmarillion.
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