Chapter One: Ar-Pharazon’s Choice
Miriel strode out onto the black marble balcony of the king’s bedchamber. She was weary, and she looked out upon the bountiful plains of Númenor with no hidden sadness. For years since her father, the rightful king of Numenor, had died, she had harbored a grief that nothing could now assuage. Her whole life was in ruin, her hopes and dreams cast away. If only she had inherited the throne, as was her right, things could be different… But she could change nothing now.
Ar-Pharazon, the Golden, High King of ancient Numenor, and a distant cousin of Miriel, had forced marriage upon her and stolen her right to the throne. She could remember bitterly all the false promises he had given to her and all the Numenorean people; promises he had to make to quell rebellion in the King’s city, Armenelos. The elders and members of the council were naturally against their marriage, which broke old laws and customs, and vehemently opposed it. But Pharazon had somehow produced enough followers to seize the scepter of the king by force and establish himself in the royal throne. He had done this by forcing Miriel, the true queen according to her royal bloodline, to marry him. Though she had possessed no choice in the matter, she prided herself in the fact that she did have one matter of free will that Pharazon could never control: he could not force her to love him.
Her lamenting was swiftly shortened when she heard the rapid, powerful footsteps of Pharazon’s proud stride. He paraded eloquently onto the balcony and put his hands on the rail, peering into the west as he ever did. There was no doubt about it, though he was close to a tyrant, he reflected the glory and splendor of Numenor. He had a powerful build, and yet moved with a grace that was almost cat-like. His face was proud and fair, and though his eyes seemed to be constantly searching for something he could not find, nonetheless they were the far-seeing, sea-grey eyes of a true Numenorean. Though Miriel despised him, she couldn’t help but admire his courage and might. And she knew that, though they might not love each other, Pharazon had grown at least affectionate for her. He often confided in her, finding her a patient listener. She did not mind his talk of battles, for she had nothing she cared to say in return, and she knew it would do her well to remain in the king’s favor.
“Ah, Zimraphel, I have much work to do.” Zimraphel was the name Pharazon used for Miriel, for he disliked Elvish names, and would not use them. She, however, abhorred this title and would have preferred to keep the Elvish name. She respected and admired the Elves and thought their language was very beautiful. “Now more than ever I wish I need not worry about my encumbering death. I held a council today; and the news is not good. Our ships have returned, and they say that Sauron is becoming stronger. He is threatening our outer provinces, indeed he has already taken some, and my captains say he scorns Numenoreans and claims himself the king of men.” His fierce eyes grew dark and angry.
“This cannot be allowed!” he thundered, slamming his powerful fist upon the marble rail. “This title should be taken by one more worthy of it. I have delayed too long, and allowed this Abhorrence to continue his destruction unheeded. Now we must strike out against him.”
Miriel knew Pharazon would want to claim the title “King of all Men,” but she said nothing of this. Instead, she gave words of caution. She found words of this nature were always accepted by the king and did not stir his legendary wrath. “Be careful, my lord, for The Abhorrent is cunning. He will seek ever to corrupt your heart and true motives.”
“My will is strong enough to contest him, Zimraphel, but I am glad of your concern. Now I take my leave. There is much to be done, and to plan, and our fleet is ever in need of new ships. Soon, soon I shall sail at the head of it, not to the West just yet, but to the east, to put down this unjust claim forever.” As swiftly as he had come, he left. Miriel could tell he was in a fiery mood, as he always became when he was passionate about some cause he thought honorable. That night Miriel began weaving elaborate golden swirls and designs into strong red cloth: these would go to the sails of the new vessels that would soon be built.