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The Gift of Men

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Zimraphel wondered, as she tried her best to climb Meneltarma, what had put the daft idea in her head. She could not hope to escape the coming storm – she had no delusion that the Powers would not wipe Númenor off the map – and yet she climbed.

Himring. That was it. Elendil had once told her about another wave that had near wiped out Middle-earth, long years ago, and how its lord Maedhros who had thrown himself off some cliff. Was that into fire or water? Zimraphel remembered a great fall when a hero tried to carry a treasure away from danger, and a miraculous rescue, and a transformation beyond all hope into a great white bird. Had that been Maedhros or someone else? Zimraphel had never had much of a head for history.

She had thought it a good plan at the time, climbing Meneltarma, but now Zimraphel knew she was too late. Horribly, horribly late, and in more ways than one. The child growing within her seemed anchored to the valley below; it strove to anchor her to the valley below. Three times since Pharazôn had taken her to wife her moon-cycle had come late, and three times the apothecary had given her the herbs to cast the child from her womb. He had been a friend of Elendil's, once upon a time, and so he had helped her at no small risk to himself because of the conviction they had shared. Ar-Pharazôn should not, could not, produce an heir.

This time, though, she had been taken with child just as Númenor's fleet had sailed west to make war on Valinor. At that time none of the old places seemed safe, and she knew well how Annatar longed to spill her blood on Morgoth's altar. Murdering the king's heir would give him just the pretext he needed. Ai, how her heart had raced in her chest! So she had put it off too long and then after, when she could have perhaps fallen from her horse and lost the babe by chance, by then she'd felt him kicking inside her and she had not the heart to destroy him.

Now, she climbed as best she could, first by foot and then as the slope steepened on hands and knees. She had ridden like the wind from Armenelos, ridden until her horse could no longer find a sure path and then had continued on her own as best she could in her condition. How far might she hope to get? She had wanted to live, for her child and for herself. She had hoped against hope. She had managed that much, at least.

Whatever the minstrels might say – she laughed at that thought; minstrels! – whatever they might say of her motives, Zimraphel had not flown from Armenelos thinking she might escape all Númenor's fate. Meneltarma was no cliff that she might jump from and cast her fate into the hands of the Powers. It was a mountain like any other and if she threw herself down she would but land on the rock. But it was also a holy place, where her forefathers went to offer their first fruits and thanksgiving gifts. She had squandered the first-fruits of her youth, and she did not know what she could be thankful for, all things considered. This, though, was all she could think to do. It seemed fitting, somehow, that Tar-Palantír's child should strive for this place at last.

As the Wave roared behind her Zimraphel knew she would not reach the holies. She had hoped for salvation against all odds, for her and all those within and below, but she knew now no help would be forthcoming. That was the trouble with miracles; they could hardly be counted on, by their very nature. And Death was a gift, the Powers had once told her folk all those years ago. 

This was a gift? 

Yet Zimraphel was a queen through and through, and she would never be named niggard. She had no thanksgiving to give to ones such as those Powers, nor to the One who looked down over all and saw the children and goodwives cowering before His Wave. But if this was her due, so be it. She would not hold herself back. Ar-Zimraphel, Tar-Míriel who was, mustered her courage and laid flat against the mountain to face what came.