This chapter is long and probably should have been done better, too. But then again, this whole part was as problematic as it was necessary. Thanks to the readers who have come this far.
Hannon, Valandil, Artanis, Alissha and Melkorbazer are mine, the rest are Tolkien´s. If you have any questions about my take on things, know that you are very welcome to ask them!
The trip was long, and unlike anything that Inziladûn had ever experienced. As soon as their horses left Armenelos behind, glittering like white, red and amber gems over the slope of Meneltarma, he already felt like he had entered a new world. Gone were the gardens and streets, the jeweled temples, the markets. In their place, large fields stretched out of his vision, their flawless green barely spotted with small houses painted in white, people who toiled in colourful yet simple clothes, and now and then a village where everybody abandoned their duties for a moment of open-mouthed amazement as they passed by.
This trip was a novelty because of the unusual time of the year and the larger retinue, Valandil told him matter-of-factly on the first day. Inziladûn nodded, still uneasy at the lack of a more grieving reaction for the reason that had brought them to travel. That night, as they both shared a somewhat doughy stew that had elicited a bitter set of complaints from Hannon, he could not help but profit from his old teacher´s absence to satisfy his curiosity. Valandil did not seem offended at his blunt questioning in the least, and, like a man who finds pleasure in satisfying the impertinent queries of a child, he explained to Inziladûn that his family believed that death was no curse, that it brought rest and healing to those that needed it, and that the spirits of the dead crossed the Circles of the World and reached a better place.
He was not able to prove the truth of any of those points to Inziladûn´s satisfaction, but the young man was fascinated by them nonetheless. Later, while he sought a difficult sleep in an alien bed, he thought that the mere belief of a blissful afterlife could, at least, make the lives of Men much more blissful, independently from its proved truth or falsehood. The problem was that nothing but a proved truth would be able to convince a doomed soul to abandon its fears. And yet, those people...
As the journey followed its course, Inziladûn´s curiosity grew even further. During their long rides on horseback, so exhilarating for a man who had been caged in a golden palace for his whole life and so stimulating for the boy who had always been attentive to the smallest novelties, Valandil was silent, watching his enthusiasm with a small, grave smile. But at nights, with or without Hannon, he became a pleasant conversationalist, able to arouse their interest on any subject and habile to avoid any controversial topic. The sullen Council member seemed to have been nothing but a ghost created by Inziladûn´s imagination.
They will try to entice you with their charming manners, his father had said, warning him against the dangers that would assail him in this journey. And yet, the longer he travelled with Eärendur´s heir at his side, the more a genuine feeling of respect and liking grew inside Inziladûn´s heart. He liked that elegant gravity, so different both from the noisy exuberance of the people of Armenelos and the coldness of his father. He admired his natural ease at everything that he did and his conversational skills, though a strange feeling of outwordliness assaulted him at times when he realised that nothing was able to make the light in the man´s eyes burn more intense.
On the noon of a beautiful day, their horses trod over the dust of Andustar for the first time. Inziladûn´s wide eyes drank in every single detail of his beloved mother´s childhood home, from the fertile and mysteriously deserted fields of the South to the rocky, ragged peaks of the North, where birds of many kinds built their nests. Valandil´s eyes still did not change, but for the first time Inziladûn saw something similar to a faint glow in them as they rode side by side through his lands. He told his young companion that the Southern lands were deserted because many of the people who used to till them were now in the East. He revealed that the birds who nested on the Northern peaks were friends to his family, and that the Lords of Andúnië also lived on a nest of their own.
This was an enigma for Inziladûn, until they came to border the coast towards Andunië. Their path had been carved in the rock of a cliff, narrow and as dangerous as steep was the fall. A slight misstep of the horse would throw it together with its master to the roaring waters below, so Valandil advised Inziladûn to have everybody step down and continue on foot, including a dismayed Hannon who had probably not walked in his entire life. Experienced as the Western party already were, they also dismounted out of courtesy.
"This is a natural fortress." Inziladûn commented as they made slow progress through the impressing heights. He could not help thinking a bit further: if his father ever made war against them, he could certainly not bring an army by land to attack their capital. In this case it would be their bay, which had brought them such renown in the past, what would become the cause of their ruin.
As they reached the uttermost extreme of the Southern Cape and the bay came in view, however, Inziladûn´s calculations made way to sheer astonishment. For a while, he thought that his eyes had to be deceiving him, but when he asked Valandil if this was the famous bay of Andunië, he received an affirmative answer.
"But the bay of Andunië is no bay!" he exclaimed. Valandil stared at him, half-curious, half-amused.
"Your eye is truly keen, my lord, as they say."
Inziladûn merely nodded, too absorbed at the amazing sight in front of them to pay heed to compliments. Between the Northern and Southern cape, which brought safeguard from the might of the waters, there were three smaller cavities. Those on the left and right extremes held nothing but rocks and water, but the one in the middle was almost entirely covered by a giant stone construction stretching from one of its extremes to the other.
It was a great dock, wrought in stone to build an artificial bay under a cliff that was even steeper than the one they were treading now. Above it, a city was perched on the cliff with its grey stone towers, reached by winding flights of stairs carved on the rocky landscape. To the sailors that came in their ships from afar, it would have seemed at first that there was no life in the place, until they sailed closer and the shapes of city, stairs and port began to draw themselves under their awed eyes.
"This is the Bay and City of Andunië, my lords." Valandil announced, with a fond smile that took a measure of sadness as he turned towards them again. "Once, it could hold five hundred tall ships at the same time."
Indeed, while he began to recover his wits from his shocked and avid exploration of the place, Inziladûn realised that this was what contributed the most to blur the lines of the impressive human buildings, until they seemed naught but shadows over the grey of stone. There was no activity in the docks, nor a single ship in sight.
That same evening, they reached a small pier where they left their horses in the care of several, not very enthusiastic looking men –the people of Andustar had never liked horses, Valandil told Inziladûn with a sigh- and were taken by a fleet of small boats towards the Bay. Upon reaching the place, Inziladûn saw that the tall ships of old had been exchanged for humble boats, where fishermen struggled with nets and prepared for the night capture.
"The King has graciously allowed us a fleet of this size." Valandil answered his unvoiced question. The even, pleasant look that he had shown during their land trip was back on his features, and Inziladûn kept his silence.
The stairs were a renewed matter of complaint for Hannon, who muttered to Inziladûn several times that which kind of forsaken Elf-friends would build cities with such poor access. The Prince´s heir, however, was fascinated. Steep as the ascent was, it allowed him to have a magnificent view of the location, where stunning works of engineery battled for dominance with natural marvels.
When they reached the gates, word of their arrival had already reached the place, and many townsfolk were waiting to welcome them. Inziladûn was not used to be so close to the multitude, and a part of him almost expected hostility from that strange Western folk who kept Elvish traditions and names in defiance of the Kings. His sea-grey eyes and sharp features, however, passed remarkably unnoticed, though his companions were regarded with badly dissimulated suspicion as they came in behind him. He heard a whisper in a language that he did not understand.
The palace of the lords of Andunië lay at the highest point of the city. Inziladûn had never seen such a place before: its gardens were outside and around the house instead of inside, and bloomed with a vegetation unknown in Armenelos. They had a delicate quality that the species of the capital lacked, like a softer colouring, and grew in a gentle disorder that reminded him of his own garden.
Falling into spontaneous silence, the party walked a winding path among small trees with silvery leaves that rustled in the breeze. Inziladûn felt a strange unease and a knot in his throat, not unlike the one he felt when he passed by the White Tree in the courtyard of the royal palace. It was almost with relief that his eyes finally distinguished the shapes of Valandil´s family standing at the threshold of the house.
Tall and dignified, the old Lord of Andunië advanced a step to welcome them. Valandil advanced as well and bowed, while Inziladûn stood in place, slightly abashed at the unfamiliar surroundings. But Eärendur bowed, and took him by the hand with exquisite courtesy.
"Welcome to my house, my lord Inziladûn. These are my grandchildren, Númendil and Artanis. We all wish to offer our deepest and sincerest thanks to you for coming here on this grave purpose, and hope that the men of your company will find their stay satisfying. Brief as it might be." he added with a look at Hannon, who wore a haughty expression that hid his own unease.
Inziladûn nodded in silence to his mother´s uncle, while Valandil kissed his children on the brow.
"Mother could not come. One of us had to stay in Armenelos." he told Númendil, a youth some years younger than Inziladûn himself who received his father´s words with an uncommon gravity.
"It was kind of the King to allow you to come." Artanis, a pale young woman of full cheeks and slight frame bowed to him, as if he had had something to do with the decision. Slightly dazed, he nodded back to her and offered her a greeting. Her voice had a strange accent, ethereal yet charming. "And it was kind of you to come as well, my lord."
"It is my duty, and my pleasure to offer the comfort of my presence to my kin in an hour of sadness." he replied, years of training finally surfacing in his mind as he recovered from the feeling of stupour.
"Gracious words. But now, let us enter!" Eärendur invited, waving at him cordially. Inziladûn nodded, and climbed the marble stairs after him. That place was much smaller and less impressive than the Palace in Armenelos, but the details and ornaments in the doors, columns, windows and archways were minutious, an imitation of Nature of skilled and graceful lines. A feeling of elegance pervaded the spacious, sparsely furnished halls, and Inziladûn had the strange feeling that everything, even the book that had been carelessy thrown on a chair, was exactly where it was meant to be.
Forcing himself to banish those haunting thoughts –was he falling into his father´s webs of suspicion?- he saw to the accomodation of all the people who came with him in spite of the polite dismissals of his hosts, and prepared for dinner. As he arrived to the dining-room, a curious place with a large table,around which the whole family sat together, he was offered the seat of honour, which he firmly refused in spite of Hannon´s glare. He felt like little more than a child, face to Valandil´s grave dignity and Eärendur´s lordly welcoming mood.
During the meal, many things were discussed, including the crop on the still inhabited fields of the South, the adaptation of large-scale fishing trade and the incidences of their trip, but no politics. To Inziladûn´s shock, they talked about the dead woman´s last days and smiled fondly at the things she had said. The feeling of unreality, briefly quenched by their warm welcome, arose again as he heard them talk, with voices that, he realised in a sudden flash of insight, were not their own.
What was happening?
"Honourable priest of the Great God." Eärendur made a signal to a servant, who filled both his cup and that of Hannon. "Would you have a drink with me?"
The fat, round-eyed man nodded, a bit mollified by the treatment, though he waited until the Lord of Andunië took a first sip from his cup to do the same to his own.
"I must admit that this wine is excellent." he said. Inziladûn swallowed forcibly, wondering why the scene brought him such unease.
A minute later, his tutor suddenly fell over the table, motionless. In a heartbeat, he bolted from his seat, searching for a knife to be used as a weapon.
Nobody else around him moved.
"He is alive." Eärendur reassured him, with the same tone of voice he had used to tell him that the salad was especially good. Inziladûn stared at him in stunned disbelief, then reacted and sought for the unconscious man´s pulse. Soon afterwards, he found it, but this did not bring him much relief.
Now, he could understand everything. That feeling... it had been a warning, that something unnatural was creeping over him. But instead of following his heart´s advice, Inziladûn had been irresistibly drawn towards the alien world, seeking to pierce it and discover its secrets, courting danger like a moth drawn to the flame.
"Please, follow me, my lord."
Inziladûn retreated a step from Eärendur´s beckoning gesture. As if they had been waiting for an unspoken signal, Valandil and his children stood up in silence and abandoned the room, leaving them alone with the sleeping Hannon.
"If you want to kill me," he hissed, "it would have been much easier to poison my drink as well."
"Please, listen to me." said Eärendur, still unmoved. The lack of feelings in his features was becoming disturbing. "You are my kin, and I have no wish to harm you. If this is not enough for the son of Gimilzôr, however, I will add this other reassurance- if I killed you, I would sign the death sentence of my whole family."
"Then, what do you want? To take me hostage?" Inziladûn insisted. His mother´s uncle shook his head calmly.
"I want to talk to you. It would have been impossible for me to say a few things that need to be said, with your father´s spy standing at our side. Now, would you please follow me, my lord?"
Inziladûn did not allow himself to relax at the reassurance, though deep inside, a doubt was beginning to arise.
They are good people, Inziladûn. Listen to what they have to say... do not be like your father.
His mother, who loved him more than anything, who had embraced him on the night that he left Armenelos, had said those words to him. Wouldn´t he trust her?
Listen to what they have to say...
But, what would they have to say? Finely-crafted words to persuade him to their cause, like his father had feared? What reasons would they give, which further secrets would they reveal about the events surrounding his birth and childhood?
Hadn´t he come for this, to find answers to his questions? a small insidious voice whispered into his ear, that same voice that had always tried to lure him to dark places and unknown dangers. The same voice for which he had braved the heights and the risk of discovery, the night before he left Armenelos.
Still wavering in doubt, the young man performed his ultimate test. Locking Eärendur´s eyes with his own, he looked inside him, searching for signs that would reveal his hidden motives.
There were none. No attempts to flee, nothing to hide, nothing but the same, unwavering patience as he waited for him to make his decision.
"I will follow you." he said, putting the knife down and entrusting his life to the hands of an enemy.
"What is it that you want to tell me?"
Maybe it had sounded afraid, or still worse, childish. Inziladûn bit his lip, forcing himself to stay calm as Eärendur led him downstairs, through a dark tunnel and finally into a spacious chamber whose every wall was covered by piles of dusty scrolls. Curious in spite of himself, he tried to take one of them and decipher it, but Eärendur pushed him gently towards a low wooden table with two seats. Before his eyes reluctantly abandoned the exploration of the document, however, Inziladûn realised two things: the written lines were not Adûnaic, but some form of Elvish, and the parchment was old.
Out of an irrational impulse, he sought in his pocket for the Hand of Ashtarte, and pressed it while he muttered a prayer. But if Eärendur noticed his gesture, he gave no reaction.
"Sit, please." he invited, with unflinching politeness. Inziladûn obeyed, feeling more and more unsettled by his calm.
"Thanks." he muttered. "But, lord Eärendur..."
"What do you remember about your mother?"
The beginnings of a complaint died in Inziladûn´s throat as the soft-spoken question was voiced at him. Astonished, he stared at his host, considering its implications.
"You knew." he said at last, more as a vague, all-encompassing affirmation than a question. For the first time a real emotion, slight as it was, crossed the features of the lord of Andunië, some sadness mingled with – was that guilt?
"Indeed, I do remember her. I saw her the night before I left on this trip. Yes, I did." he nodded proudly, as the older man frowned in surprise at his revelation. "I climbed all the way to her terrace and met her in her back quarters. There were many –sordid questions regarding my birth that I wanted to ask before I undertook this travel to meet her mother´s kin. She told me that you were good people and that I should listen to you. "Slowly, the flow of his words was giving him back some of his confidence. "You have her to thank for my decision to follow you here."
Eärendur´s features were suddenly veiled again. To read him like he did others was almost impossible, but now Inziladûn could not help but wonder if he could be feeling attacked.
It was only after a long while of silence that he opened his mouth to continue, his gaze lost in the distance.
"Your grandmother –my sister- Lindorië... she was born in exile, like me." Inziladûn nodded, encouraging him, somewhat unnecessarily, to continue. Nobody had told him anything about his mother´s kin before. "She was fair and gentle, yet there was strength inside her, like there is for all of us. In spite of the hardships and of everything that we had lost, she never lost her smile. Your mother - inherited this trait from her."
Inziladûn nodded in silence. For a moment, a joyful grin in tired features gripped at his imagination, and he swallowed with effort.
"Your grandfather was Melkorbazer, kin to the King in Ar-Zimrathôn´s time." Eärendur continued. "He was governor of Sor, close to Romenna, and as such he came to visit us on the King´s orders. He fell in love with her."
Not a single sound could be heard when he paused, except for the faint creaking of the flames on the hearth.
"This Melkorbazer was a priest of Melkor, but he was very different from the one who is sleeping upstairs." he continued matter-of-factly, and without the slightest sign of disdain. "I must admit that it took me a long time to accept that he was a good man, since those long years of conflicts, suspicions and misunderstandings have hardened our hearts to such a degree against one another. I thought that nothing good could come from one of ...them. "He chuckled, a strange and unusual sound. "But he truly risked his life, to marry her and have the King lift her ban so he could take her with him. Ar-Zimrathôn took away his governorship and did not allow him to lay a single foot on the Palace for a very long time. Isn´t it revealing? Before he married Lindorië he had been trusted by the King in spite of the fact that the Lady Alissha had been his kin. After the marriage, he was no better than a proved traitor."
Inziladûn took a sharp intake of breath. He had heard that story before –how Alissha and Adunakhôr had battled for the throne a long time ago, in a war that had brought the ruin of the Elf-friends.
"Lord Melkorbazer was suspected of many things, among them of allying himself with us to obtain revenge for his grandmother´s sister. After all, he would maybe have been King if things had turned out differently. I feared for him, but there was nothing I could do. And one day... news came to me that he was dead."
"He was killed?" Inziladûn could not hide his horror at the veiled insinuation. That his mother´s father could have been killed by his father´s kin was almost too revolting for words- but Eärendur just shook his head reassuringly.
"I did not say that. I must admit that I had my suspicions at the time, but now I feel that he simply became sick from despair. He was being robbed of everything that he had always cherished and toiled for, and suspected unjustly. His friends and acquaintances shunned him, and he was forsaken by all." He made a gesture with his hand, as if to abandon those sad thoughts. "Lindorië and your mother fled to Andunië, where they were allowed to live in quiet retirement. My sister had the comfort of her daughter and her strong spirit, but there was a moment where grief became too much for her. She blamed herself for her husband´s death, and living alone in those abandoned lands, fallen to decay while her family languished in exile... "His lips pursed in a firm expression. "Your mother was left alone, with no kin until the decree of Ar-Sakalthôr brought us back. And, not even a year after she ran the twenty flights of stairs to meet us at the harbour, she was taken away to marry a man who did not love her."
The sadness and guilt that Inziladûn had perceived before in his great-uncle´s expression became clearer, starker in a shocking breach from the man´s usual composure. A moment later, however, it was already gone, and Inziladûn felt again unsatisfied.
"Was it really necessary?" he asked, a bit harshly. "Or did the Prince –my father force you to give her away?"
Eärendur shook his head again.
"It was- part of a negotiation." he replied, shortly. "And it was necessary, Inziladûn. Do you understand? It would be our last chance to have a Prince of her bloodline. To fight the shadows of fear, suspicion and superstition that have run in the veins of the royal line like a venom for centuries. It was our last chance of being heard."
Inziladûn stared at him, trying to understand the implications of those words.
"I am that prince." he finally muttered, before his forehead creased in suspicion. "So you want power, after all?"
The Lord of Andunië did not even flinch at this accusation.
"The power to save Númenor, yes. But not for me. For you."
Inziladûn took breath, forcing the buzz of his thoughts to still. So, it had been this. There was no sordid secret in his birth anymore. No enigma in the sufferings of his mother.
Had those people have been driven mad from desperation, as they wasted away in the lands of the East? Such a fantastical scheme- so much suffering, suffering that could kill a person, and all for what? For the mad idea that blood would one day hear the distant call of blood and forsake its other loyalties?
What did those people want? What was so important as to sacrifice their own kin for it? Eärendur had spoken of saving Númenor –but was it power what they wanted, like his father used to say? Vindication for their family? Had they been bewitched by Elves? Or did it have something to do with their beliefs?
He forced himself to find a grip.
"Very well, lord Eärendur." he said, in the steadiest tone that he could muster. "I am the future King that will listen to you. "Never be like your father, she had said. "Now, tell me everything. I want to know what drives you. Why you want this power, and its purpose. Why you would suffer for it and have my mother and I suffer for it as well. Because there is more to all this, and I will hear it before I listen to treasonous words any longer."
A belated awareness that he had said something very offensive crossed his brain, but still he kept his intent expression, waiting for an answer. Eärendur looked at him gravely for a long time –and then, to his great surprise, he smiled.
"You are so right." he said, then sobered up and returned his gaze. "Very well, let us begin. Son of Inzilbêth, what do you know about Elves?"
Inziladûn did not have to think for a long time.
"They are immortal beings of a great and terrible power. They are Men´s enemies since the beginning of times, since a prophecy told them that they would take their place one day. As such, they fought three great wars against Men and their King, the All-Powerful Melkor, and thought they lost the two first, in the third they allied themselves with the Demons of the West and He had to sacrifice himself to defeat them." For a moment he could not help but chuckle, a way to relieve the pent-up tension. "I am sure that you have a different tale to tell."
"I do." Eärendur replied. He stood up from his seat, and walked towards one of the pile of neatly stacked rolls of parchment. For a moment, he fingered through them with almost religious care, and took one of them in his hands. "Do you know what this is? It is the library of the kings of old, from the times of Elros Tar-Minyatur."
Inziladûn stared at him in incredulity.
"The oldest scrolls in Númenor date from the reign of Ar-Adunakhôr." he said, but even while he was still pronouncing those words, the intent left them and caused his voice to trail away in involuntary hesitation. The lines drawn by the teachings of his preceptors had always been so arbitrary. "Did you... steal them?"
"I took them away before the King destroyed them. They were hidden here, and stayed undiscovered for all our years of exile." the lord of Andunië said while he unrolled a piece of parchment over the table. In spite of himself, Inziladûn stood up, and leaned over it avidly.
How many times had he wanted to know more, to read about ages past, ancient kings and the reasons for things, only to be told that those records did not exist, and that the things that he wanted to know were nothing but myths and legends! And now, they were all here, at the reach of his hand...
It was too good to be true.
"I still do not know if I should trust you." he muttered. But as his knowledgeable eyes studied the parchment´s fabric, he found no immediate grounds to doubts its ancient origins. It smelled, felt old, older than Ar-Adunakhôr even... how much older, he could not even imagine.
And still, the words were written in Elvish script, spidery letters that Inziladûn could not understand or make sense of. A part of him felt overcome with frustration, that he would be so near to a source of knowledge whose scope he would never have imagined in his wildest dreams –and still unable to read a single word.
As if he had guessed the young man´s thoughts, Eärendur unrolled a second scroll, whose Adûnaic letters said "Translated records of the Letters of King Elros Tar-Minyatur", in an ancient dialect that even well-read Inziladûn could not locate in time.
"Adûnaic and the Elvish tongues have existed together in Númenor since the founding of the kingdom." the lord of Andunië explained. "The Line of Elros always used Quenya in ceremonies, and Sindarin at home until the land was first shaken by the corrupted beliefs of those who had lived in Middle-Earth under the growing shadow of Mordor. The Merchant Princes of the colonies introduced dark cults, and mistrust for Elves grew in time. A change came upon the land of Númenor, and the ancient wisdom was forgotten and shunned. The Kings used twisted myths to assert their power in their struggles for the Sceptre, and they even forgot their Elven blood."
"Elven blood?" Inziladûn had the instinct of watching his own hand warily, as if the blueish veins on its palm could be hiding a terrible venom. Then, he shook his head and snorted defensively. "This is ridiculous!"
"Read the letter." Eärendur pressed him gently. Inziladûn obeyed in spite of his agitation, though the lines took an unusually long time to sink into his brain.
Elros Tar-Minyatur, King of Númenor, to his brother Elrond Half-Elven...
With a gasp of dismay, Inziladûn let the document fall back on the table. A thought crossed his mind that it would be the time to turn back and leave and forget about this whole conversation –and still the need, the accursed need to know was somehow stronger than his dismay.
"Tell me everything." he demanded again, sitting down. "From beginning to end. I will be here all night, if I must, but do not leave anything out."
Eärendur bowed slightly, and sat down in turn.
"In the beginning" he said, "as you already know well, there was Eru, Father of All. And He created two generations of children, the Firstborn, or Elves, and the Secondborn, or Men..."
For long hours, nothing else was heard in that room but the soft voice of Eärendur, unraveling the tales of the Beginning and the First Age of the world. Inziladûn listened, shaken with alternate emotions of shock and enchantment, to the story of the corruption of Melkor, the Awakening of the Elves at Cuiviénen, and the marvels of the land of the Two Trees. He was told of the making of the Silmarils and the rebellion of the Noldor, the war of the Jewels and the coming of Men to Beleriand –Uldor, Beren and Lúthien, Húrin the Steadfast, Tuor and Idril, their son Eärendil, and their twin sons, Elrond and Elros. He listened to the account of the plea of Elves and Men to the Valar and the War of Wrath. The expulsion of Melkor, whom Elves and the Men who fought alongside them called Morgoth, and the reward of the Secondborn –the Land of Gift.
"You look so pale." Eärendur remarked, the first interruption since he had begun the first of the legends. "Do you want a drink?"
Inziladûn shook his head in automatic denial. He saw everything around him in blurred lines.
For all his life, he had been taught to repeat and honour each and every one of Melkor´s exploits. He had stood in the fumes of his altar, filled with religious awe, until his mind grew sceptic and sarcastic about the poor logic of the tales of priests. And then he had been told that those were the myths of the populace, and that the Truth had to be protected and tended like a delicate flower. But what had this Truth been? Had it been a terrible secret, too dark to be unravelled?
Inziladûn had never been satisfied with the scarce tatters of the past, the confusing explanations that he had read and heard. And now that it was all laid in front of him, with a terrible beauty that could not help but pierce his heart, the beliefs ingrained in his brain for all his life were not explained but challenged, distorted and threatened without a chance for conciliation. He had an awareness that he should be feeling something, but instead all around him was numbness, seeping inside him and leaving him to wonder in a daze.
"And that is why we do what we do. "Eärendur concluded. "You dream of it as well, do you not? The Wave... the Downfall."
"How do you know that? No one, ever, could tell me...!" Inziladûn´s voice came out so hoarse that he would have felt ashamed of it if he had been able.
"Because we all have that dream in my family. You inherited it from us, Inziladûn. It is a warning of what will come one day, if we forsake our heritage and inflict pain over others in our pride. We alone were granted this vision, and that is why we will sacrifice anything to save the island of Númenor, its wisdom, and its beauty. Do you understand our motivations now?"
Did he? Inziladûn had been absorbing information for hours, and now his mind was reaching the breaking point. He tried to put an order in the swarm of thoughts and ideas, to reach the ultimate meaning of everything. He wondered if he was being enthralled with carefully wrought lies, yet his heart told him that it was true. The Wave was true.
The Downfall was true. He saw it every night. And they didn´t.
He shivered. The wish to run towards the door and flee this archive of ancient and dangerous memories became strong, almost to the point of overpowering every other consideration for a brief instant of anguish. Fortunately, he was able to master it and keep the barest threads of his composure together no matter the pressure, as his tutor Maharbal had taught him to do since his earliest childhood.
What would the old man think if he saw him now? Which scolding, or advice, would he have to offer to him in this situation?
He sought Eärendur´s glance.
"Please, let us leave this subject for tonight." he asked, as politely as he could manage. "I am tired and unable to profit from our exchanges anymore. And... there are also many things that I must think over carefully in the solitude of my chambers. If you will excuse me."
His great-uncle let his eyes trail over him in appreciation. A warm smile graced his features after a moment, and Inziladûn surprised a glow of pride in his glance.
The Prince´s heir stood there, shaken to the core by this not least than by anything else. Pride was something that he had only seen in his mother´s face when she looked at him. Hannon and his circle were as pompous as they were insincere; Maharbal thought that praise would make him grow self-complacent and vain. His father´s features were always veiled by mistrust, and the King – the King had shunned him on the day of his birth.
To be proud of himself had been Inziladûn´s only respite until now.
"You are incredibly strong, son. You have surpassed my greatest expectations. "the lord of Andunië said in a soft, vibrating voice." Now, go and take your rest –I will wake you for the funeral ceremony tomorrow."
With a mute nod of thankfulness, Inziladûn stood up, and staggered towards the door.
It was not towards his chambers, however, that his errant footsteps carried him, but the gardens. The cool, salty breeze of the sea helped him to ease his dizziness, and for a moment he just stood at the gate with closed eyes. There were drops of sweat upon his brow.
After a while, he finally felt recovered enough as to walk a bit through the place. The silence was eerie, only broken by the distant rumble of the sea. He tried to bathe in the soothing balm of the beautiful plants that covered his path, but there was something strange about them, an uneasy feeling of light and mist- was it a whisper?
Holding his forehead with his hands, he tried to come back from the spell. He felt lost in an Elvish enchantment, ensnared by a greater power who would destroy him as soon as he lowered his guard. At the same time as he had that thought, however, he recalled Eärendur´s tale, and the weight of what had just happened finally sank on his mind.
People of the Stars... deliverers of evil.
Inziladûn sought for the comfort of the Hand of Ashtarte. He pressed it against his hand, but it felt cold and strangely unresponsive. Distressed by this, he let it fall back on his pocket, and turned away from that inviting yet distressing beauty.
I will find no rest here, he thought. Images haunted his head as they never had in the insidious, luxurious security of Armenelos, of a dark wave falling over their fragile peace and engulfing everyone that he loved. Cold spirits of the West, a fallen god– his grieving heart still wanted to believe in the love of the Queen´s sweet face, but what if she was nothing but a fair creature of men?
What, indeed, if it was true? Would there be deliverance? He remembered his disgust that one time, when the city of Armenelos celebrated the massacre of an indefense tribe of Middle-Earth under the fumes of Melkor´s altar. Now that He is not there, we must protect them as He once did, he had been told, but hadn´t they just been robbed of their food and riches before their misery brought them to war? And he had justified it in his heart, but could he live with the knowledge of those stories of the past, and of proud beings who had fallen to the whispers of the Shadow while they were at the peak of their glory?
As he was having those thoughts, Inziladûn realised that he had got lost in a place that he hadn´t seen before. The garden had stretched into a clearing, where a circle of trees gleamed under the light of the moon. Astonished, he stopped in his tracks to admire their mysterious magnificence, and saw that the leaves in their outstretched branches were the colour of silver, holding fruits of pure gold.
Was this an Elven tree, then? If so, Inziladûn thought, nothing indeed in the world of Men could compare to the beauty of the Firstborn. He tried to imagine the forests of Doriath, where Beren, his ancestor, had lain in an enchanted dream with the most beautiful creature to ever exist in this world...
A soft sound of footsteps interrupted his thoughts. Still shaken, he turned back with unaccustomed violence, and his eyes met the pale figure of a maiden, walking towards him with a slight smile. The billows of her white dress stirred under the breeze.
Inziladûn swallowed a knot on his throat, and slowly came back to reality. She was no Lúthien, but the daughter of Valandil, who stared at him with warm and clear sea-grey eyes.
Behind her, yet more footsteps disrupted the quietude of the clearing, as her brother followed the same path. They both looked quite similar, pale and grey eyed like Elves, but his features were softer and shadowed by a strange, dreamy expression .
"Malinornë." she said, looking at the trees. "Great-Grandmother´s favourite tree."
"She used to come here everyday and stay for hours, doing nothing but stare at them." Númendil recalled with fondness. "I hope there will be trees like those beyond the Circles of the World."
"Or else she might come back and complain." she joked, with a chuckle.
Inziladûn stared at them, once again taken by the unreality of their exchange. Their Adûnaic was accented, and beyond this their every speech, their every show of emotion seemed tightly measured, somehow always falling short from the full emotions of a man. There were never full laughs for those people, or anger, or an unleashed sadness. He wondered whether this was the bearing of an Elf, or of an outcast hardened by necessity.
"I am disturbing your mourning." he muttered, unsure of whether this was even the most adequate wording for it. But he felt the need to leave them to their business.
"Oh, no, please!" She bowed. "It is us who are disturbing you, my lord."
"And we would wish to disturb you for a little longer." her brother added. Surprised, Inziladûn cleaned his face roughly with his right hand, and took a deep breath.
"What do you want?"
"Sit with us." Artanis said, pointing at the soft grass at her side with an inviting gesture of her chin. "Please."
After a moment of hesitation, Inziladûn did what he was told. He had no valid reason to refuse, and those people were his hosts.
Still, when Númendil began to stare at him, he could not help but feel slightly incommodated.
"Yes?" he asked. The younger man smiled, a bit shyly, and looked away.
"He is jealous of your beard." Artanis informed him, combing back her mass of black hair. Inziladûn´s puzzlement augmented for moments.
"You must be the only one, then. It is... not very popular in Armenelos." he added cautiously, then had the urge to smile at the bemused frowns of the siblings. What strange people, he thought. "But you could also grow one, if you like."
Númendil shook his head, mournfully.
"Alas! I have tried."
"The Elven heritage runs strong in him." his sister explained. Inziladûn nodded slightly, tense again at the remembrance of his earlier anguish. To his surprise, both Númendil and Artanis seemed to notice his unease, and they exchanged grave looks that soon turned to compassion.
"I am sorry." she apologised. "You have just... talked to Grandfather."
"Never mind." Inziladûn muttered. He was not used to be pitied, and even less to be read. Was his guard so low after the night´s emotions? "Do you also dream of the Wave?"
Artanis´s expression darkened a little, as if she was remembering something unpleasant.
"I have the dubious honour of being the only member of this family who sometimes gets to drown." Númendil added, with some forced cheer. "Do you?"
Inziladûn shook his head. In a way, and in spite of the gloom of the situation, it was comforting to be able to talk about it with someone for the first time. He even felt compelled to talk about things that he had never disclosed to anyone before.
"I see a woman drowning sometimes, however." His voice lowered, as his glance became lost in the glimmer of the silver leaves. "I think it might be my mother."
A long silence welcomed his words.
"Do you think that it would be so near? That... Downfall, I mean."
Númendil shook his head vehemently.
"No. The Creator loves us still. He has to give us a last chance to redeem ourselves. That is what I believe." he added, turning to his sister for confirmation. She nodded.
"He only has to wait for a while longer. When you become King, things will change."
Inziladûn felt a knot on his throat again, as those sea-grey eyes –so similar to those of his mother!- were set on him in boundless faith.
"Many things might still happen yet." he mumbled. "I am only the King´s grandson." And I am not even sure that I will not wake up tomorrow and see reality.
Fortunately, the mysterious and erratic sense of tact of the siblings did not press the issue any further. Instead of this, Númendil fumbled with his clothes, and took out a bunch of folded papers.
"Here." he said, presenting them to Inziladûn with a look that reminded him vaguely of the cheekiness of a young boy. "An apology for disturbing you, my lord."
Curious, Inziladûn unfolded the papers, and looked over the first one. The writing was Adûnaic, but the letters were clumsily drawn, as if by the hand of a child who was learning to write.
"These are the Princess of the North´s letters to Grandfather." Artanis explained, leaning over his shoulder to take a better look.
"Her written Adûnaic was not good at all." Númendil commented, doing the same. "But she spoke it far better than me, or so Father loves to tell me whenever he has the opportunity."
"This..." Inziladûn´s voice died in his throat, as he felt a strong emotion grow inside him. His mother´s letters... the words that he had never been able to hear –that she had never been able to tell him in the loneliness of her exile. He forced his voice to come out steady. "Thank you. Thank you very much."
"According to Grandfather, they are full of accounts on the marvellous progresses of baby Inziladûn." Artanis commented with a chuckle. Númendil patted him on the shoulder.
"If you ever wondered why there is a Palace clerk who stares at you in a funny way, be sure that this was the one in charge of reading her letters before they were sent." Belatedly aware that he was being teased, Inziladûn blushed a little. He could not be angry at people who had given him such a valuable gift, however, so he merely shook his head with vague indulgence.
He thought of Eärendur, and the shadows of guilt behind the mask of his composed expression. A gift, or an apology?
A stronger breeze rustled over the brilliant leaves of the Elven trees, wringing from them an unearthly concert of chimes. As he listened to them in wonder, a distant feeling came upon him, as if everything, his home in Armenelos, his father and brother, the altar of Melkor and the tales of the remote past were so far away from this place that their lines were blurring in his sight.
He was tired... so tired...
"Lay down here, my lord." Artanis´s soft voice penetrated the haze of his mind. Her face leaned over him, and he saw his mother´s eyes looking at him in loving concern. "We will wake you when the time comes –we promise."
Feeling bereaved of the strength to protest or suspect an Elven spell, or even of feeling repelled by the idea of sleeping outdoors, Inziladûn did as he was told. Soon afterwards, his eyes were closed, and he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
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.