“But in the midst of the land was a mountain tall and steep, and it was named the Meneltarma, the Pillar of Heaven, and upon it was a high place that was hallowed to Eru Ilúvatar, and it was open and unroofed, and no other temple or fane was there in the land of the Númenóreans.”
—Akallabêth, The Silmarillion
The peak is tall and white, glimmering in the sunlight
—Once, long ago, what is now an island was the peak of a mountain so tall that it was called the Pillar of Heaven, Meneltarma. It is sacred; a place that was blessed by Eru, long ago the center of a glorious land, once called Elenna-nórë and Númenorë and Andórë, now Atalantë.
Elros has seen it from afar, and now he burns to climb it, to feel the limestone, the heat of the Sun, absorbed by the stone, scorching the soles of his feet.
—Only the King of Númenor could speak in this most revered of places, and he but thrice a year, at Erukyermë, Erulaitalë, and Eruhantalë and then only the words that should be spoken in this, the holiest of places.
I want to see what is on that peak, he tells his betrothed, Istarnië, and she agrees to come with him, thinking to steal time that they have so little of, now that they are in Andórë.
—Tar-Minyatur the first king and his wife Tar-Meldatári were wed here, and their wedding bed was, according to legend, the stone of the pillar. And though none afterwards given that grace, for Tar-Minyatur was beloved of Eru and to him alone was granted this favor, many were betrothed in the shade of Meneltarma, on the winding path to the summit.
The path to the peak has not been cut yet, in the chaos that still has not been properly tamed, so they prepare for a week-long trip, for the rock face is, at the top, sheer. Elros relishes in the fact that it will be a hard journey though both he and Istarnië are good climbers, for, though he loves his people, he has recently begun to feel like he will go mad, busy with work and with no time for leisure. The time he will have to spend with his betrothed and the physical exertion after mounds of paperwork and meetings is a breath of sorely-needed fresh air.
—Tombs lined the way to the peak, tombs of kings and queens, holding secrets that were not meant to be unlocked.
He was right; the journey to the summit is arduous. But once they reach the top, the long climb is worth it, for Númenorë is spread before him like a jewel, revealing its wonders, and he rues the fact that he cursed the climb liberally before.
—The tombs were the dwelling-place of ghosts, the souls of later kings who could not bear to leave Númenor, and it is not known where they have fled to, now that Númenor is gone.
The first thing Elros sees are three great Eagles, servants of Manwë, descending on them, their piercing amber eyes holding his gaze threateningly. Half expecting an attack, he steps in front of Istarnië, reaching for a non-existent sword out of instinct born of long years of war, but the Eagles hover in mid-air, dipping their heads in obeisance before flying up again to circle the peak.
—Some say that Sauron took the spirits into his service. But the wise known that the spirits are not evil and would not have joined him, for the Eagles of Manwë guarded the peak of Meneltarma and would let no thing of Darkness set foot upon the mountain.
A silence has descended on them. Neither Elros nor Istarnië speak, both aware, that this is the holiest of holy places, though they do not know how they are aware. The very air seems to kneel in reverence to Eru.
—Even in the reign of Ar-Pharazôn, no evil dared to visit that high place, and none defiled it. But some say that the Faithful, in secret, would trudge up the winding paths at night, to give thanks to Eru. And the path to the summit was the one place they could meet without fearing to be overheard, for none visited Meneltarma who served Sauron.
They stand there, hand in hand, staring at the land spread before them—their land, to rule and order, to make beautiful and fruitful.
—The land of Númenor was said have arisen around this peak, and Meneltarma reached to the center of the earth, past the rivers of fire to the hard iron center.
Suddenly, Elros speaks. This land was the gift of Eru, he says, and I was allowed to be king. But there was no queen. Today we will wed, and there will be one.
—But never was fire lit on Meneltarma, or blood spilled, except once, and that the fire and blood of love.
Istarnië looks at him in wonder, for they both know that Elros’ Elven heritage is strong enough that the first person he enters will be bonded to him until his death. She loves him, yet she cannot comprehend how he can give such a gift to her.
—And that love was a love strong enough that one who had the choice of eternal life chose to shorten his lifespan so that he could have the woman he loved. (So say the legends. But others say that it is not so, and Tar-Minyatur forsook the life of the Eldar knowing it to be a curse and not a blessing)
But Elros presses her against him, and slowly, they kiss. Slower still, they divest each other of clothes, and then, with the world seeming to hold its breath for them, Elros enters Istarnië.
—But Tar-Minyatur was also one of the few great Children of Eru who could look at life everlasting and say no to it, and for that, the Elves whispered long ago, Eru loved him and blessed his land and marriage.
And when Elros climaxes, taking Istarnië with him, he sighs and removes himself from his bride. As he slides out, some of his seed and her blood slips with him, splattering on the white ground.
—But whatever tales are whispered about Meneltarma, this is known: Númenor has always lived in its shadow.
It is done, Elros says. Númenor is blessed. But his voice is not his, but a voice far greater, and Istarnië shields her eyes.
—And the shadow of Meneltarma protected Númenor until the hearts of Men were blackened and the land withered from within. Then Ar-Pharazôn ruled in Armenelos and the black temple of Gorthaur was built.
Then he sighs and leans against her, and he is himself again. Their Songs have bonded, and soar together, entangled. But below them, Númenor seems to glow in a light that spreads slowly from Meneltarma, and Elros and Istarnië know that the light will be there as long as their descendants live in these lands, their hearts uncorrupted.
—When Númenor sank beneath the waves and became Atalantë, still Meneltarma lived and guarded the land beneath the waves, and still it lives if you look with keen sight and see the unseen.