Chapter II


Miriel woke up late in the afternoon. It felt like a big deal to get out of bed – her whole body ached. She came close to the mirror and could not recognize herself. Who was that pale creature with swollen lips and tousled hair? Airen entered the room, her face troubled by friend's condition. Carefully, girls recalled their adventures on the festival. It was difficult for the princess to discuss her escapade; she had to hide some things. She had cursed her “May groom” a hundred times and even burst into hysterical tears. All the memories and the pleasures experienced yesterday, scattered like mist in the late morning, and she was left with wounded pride and resentment of her abnormal appearance. "Why didn't I listen to Dad?" ­ Miriel suffered late remorse.
She would not have agreed to the request of her father to go down to the reception hall and greet guests: Pharazon and Arfest ­ but she just needed to know what is being said about the flight of the chosen Lilac royals. Uncertainty tormented her. "What if everyone knows in the city!" ­ she  wondered. Without changing into ceremonial dress – its splendor would be not flattering for her “sick” appearance – the weary beauty appeared on the veranda, where guests were sitting. At first she did not notice anything special, as the shadow of grape leaves concealed the  faces of those present, and then it was too late. She saw  Yunier, and her heart leapt to her throat, and then pounded hard and fast in her chest. "What's he doing here? Did father know?" ­ she panicked.
- My sweet cousin, let me introduce you to my best warriors – Pharazon said, coming out to greet her. Yunier and Lafer bowed low to her. Lafer lowered his eyes, but Yunier boldly stared at her. In response to their greetings she barely nodded.
- Good that you're here, my daughter ­ said Tar­Palantir; he stood up and looked at everybody strictly ­ now we will discuss some serious matters. ­ He made a sign to the servant, and in a moment a tall, blonde elf was brought in.  Everybody gasped. Yunier and Lafer winked at each other. Arfest raised his eyebrows in surprise. Hatred distorted Pharazon’s face. 
"Another surprise" ­ thought Miriel annoyed as she recognized yesterday's stranger in the elf. Now he will say: "Oh, I wanted to ask why you had climbed that rope ladder yesterday, when there was a perfectly good front door?" And I'll say, "That's not possible, but then again, anything can happen if one has a fever." The elf smiled, maybe he had read her thoughts. And she smiled in response.
- Let me introduce Dorian The Glider to you ­ Tar­Palantir addressed his audience. ­ I was expecting him tomorrow, but Dorian is a fast walker. His arrival this morning was a joyous surprise for me. ­ For several generations the language of the elves  had been banned on the island, but Tar­Palantir reintroduced it, and the sound of elven speech sounded like music in the palace.
- And do ships from Valinor still come into your harbors? ­ asked Pharazon dryly in Númenorean.
- No, ­ Dorian shook his head – they don’t. But I'm friends with the Faithful for many years, and this land is my home, so I do not want to leave Elenna.
- Your time has passed; soon all of you will be saving your lives by fleeing into your reserve. Elenna and Middle­earth rightfully belong to men. 
- By what right, Pharazon? – the  king frowned. ­ Before any of ours had been formed, great elvish kingdoms had been founded in Middle­earth. 
- And what was the use of them? Sauron sucks the last juices out of the skinny lands and incites orcs to attack our fellow human beings. If elves are so noble and skilled in knowledge, they should come up with a plan to overthrow the dark king. But they are cowards, they hide away and tremble for their eternal flesh. Only my boys lay down their lives to protect the poor people of Middle­earth ... 
- Taxing them with no small tribute – noted Dorian ­ people only choose the lesser of the two evils. 
- Oh, really? Why don’t elves fight the greater evil as they see fit? 
- The great enemy Morgoth was overthrown. 
- If not for Eärendil*, son  of Tuor, who called the Valar for help, Morgoth would be ruling our world! 
- Eärendil's mother was Idril, the Elf, ­ objected Dorian. 
- Enough! – commanded Tar­Palantir. ­ Do not list the virtues of our ancestors. History is proud of them, but will there be a reason for our descendants to remember  us? Do not you see that you live in the age of greed, envy, hatred? And for me, it is no secret, Pharazon, that Númenóreans in Middle­earth are feared just as much as the ugly servants of Sauron. And your popularity is bought by stolen gold and promises to immortalize people. The Valar long ago turned away from us;  our time on Earth decreased*. What Ilúvatar didn’t give us voluntarily, cannot be taken by force! We lost our minds because of pride. Remember, as soon as our outrage exhausts the  Valar's patience, Númenor will die. Before it is too late, we need to see reason, to make amends for our mistakes with great deeds. Teaming  up  with the elves, we will declare war on Sauron and destroy him. 
- No, ­ said Pharazon. 
- Why, ­ Tar­Palantir sounded surprised ­ do you not want the fall of Sauron? 
- We can destroy Sauron without elves' help! 
- But you do not do this, Pharazon ­ shook his head, Tar­Palantir, ­ for many years the army is fighting the effects of, but does not touch the cause. Are you waiting for a direct royal decree? I do not think  so. I believe, you enjoy benefits from not touching such an enemy as Sauron, because if he disappears, then under which pretext will you collect tribute from the peoples of Middle­earth? 
Pharazon jumped up: 
- Do you want a fight, Uncle? Why slander me and portray me as the accomplice of our worst enemy?! 
- I do not wish to quarrel, Pharazon ­ sighed Tar­Palantir wearily, ­ I'm just expressing  my opinion, I want you to know my point clearly. 
- So criticize me as much as you want, when we are alone, but there is Miriel, your daughter, here and so are my warriors! Why are you making me look bad in front of them? 
- Only a weak man is afraid of the truth, ­ objected Tar­Palantir. 
- Well… well… well,  uncle ­ muttered Pharazon through his teeth and sat down, nursing a grudge. 
The king felt sadness. All his good intentions met a wall of misunderstanding. Probably, the gap between humans and elves was too great, and they never would become friends again. 
- I ­ suddenly sounded the voice of Yunier – have nothing against elves. They are knowledgeable and far more reliable than many people in Middle­earth. 
- If you could live forever, ­ thinly smiled Arfest ­ then you would know a lot more. 
- Eternal life can be tiring, ­ said Yunier – I like the one I have.
- Yes, ­ sighed the king, ­ it is better to die than to spend age after age watching bloody feuds, seeing how everything created with love over years is getting collapsed in a few days. But let us not lose heart, it may be that we still manage to come to agreement. Tomorrow I will make public my plans, and see if people hear my call. Pharazon, I guess, you are not convinced? – the King addressed his frowning nephew. 
- No, why not, ­ objected Pharazon – with my mind, not my heart, I understand you, but I would like to know the details of your plans. 
- I am willing to share ­ agreed Tar­Palantir ­ let's go to my chamber, it is getting too hot here. 
Miriel did not want to participate in political battles; she had long waited for the right moment to disappear. The princess tried to follow serious conversation, but her thoughts were occupied only by Yunier. How unlike the others he was! So confident, fearless and...unpredictable. Her heart was drawn to the rascal. She caught his intense look and blushed. It's better to leave soon.
- You disappoint me, Miriel! ­ said  Tar­Palantir. – Are you not interested in what's going on in the world? 
- The world disappoints you as well. And, generally, I'm getting tired of politics. – the princess shrugged her shoulders lightly. 
- Well, get some rest, ­ sighed the king. Miriel went out into the hall, where she washed her hot face at the fountain. "Why is dad so unhappy and tired all the time­ she thought – does it really mean that to  be a king is to wither with grief?" The girl put her hand into the water to drive away the small fish. 
- Maybe it will be better for my men to leave, my king? ­ asked Pharazon. 
- No. I like your soldiers – protested Tar­Palantir. 
When they all went to the royal chamber, Yunier took a moment and went to the fountain. He quietly crept up to the princess and touched her hair with his lips. She shuddered. 
- You? What do you want? ­ Miriel tried to calm her racing heart. – You ought to treat me with proper respect! 
Yunier was amazed. 
- I do respect you ­ he said. ­ And I am crazy about you. Admit it, your former suitors gave you roses and kissed the edge of your dress, afraid to approach, waited for the  call of their goddess. I do not care whether you are a princess or not, I want to hold you in my arms. Miriel, get ready for more entertainment. The whole city celebrates the festival of love. Come with me. You will not regret. 
She hesitated: no one ever touched her soul in that way before ­ but pride would not let her to admit it even to herself. 
- Do not fly so high ­ frowned Miriel ­ you were my groom on Lilac night, do not hope for more! 
- What will you do in a castle? – Yunier refused to relent. ­ Do not be stubborn. Or will the experience of one Lilac night be enough for your entire decent royal life? 
- Hold your tongue! 
- So what, agreed? Two hours from now, at Silmaril Square? 
- Well, ­ descended princess – there is a chance that I will come. Go now! 
– That's wonderful!  –  Yunier’s  eyes shone with happiness. The damaged pride of the princess finally got a gift. Of course, she will not go anywhere; let him look for her in the square as much as  he wants. Miriel hurried to her room, and Yunier went to the chamber of Tar­Palantir. 
­ Can you imagine how audacious he is! – she told Airen. – He knows who I am and still hopes for something. My ears are burning, when I remember the night before. That miserable soldier! 
* * *
Night was falling. Miriel crept forward the narrow street, trying to stay in the shadows of houses, afraid of being recognized. She was dressed in a simple, colorful summer dress and had a scarf on her head. Every now and then she ran into passers­by  and heard: "Look out!" or "Move it, doll!" 
One could get to the Silmaril square straight from the main street ­ the royal avenue, wide, deserted, with rows of white magnolia trees on both sides ­ it started right from the palace. Miriel chose a different route. She walked through the craft areas, the street of tailors. Never before had she been here. Signs were filled with bird names: "Dazed Cockatoo", "Swan Song", "Paradise feathers." It was not difficult to find her way: crowds of people eagerly floated in one direction. 
Only once she stopped, perplexed. At the crossroad stood a man with a bunch of purple scarves, and people readily snapped them up. Miriel asked why would they need those garments and was told that  without one  she would not be allowed to the Mirror Cave. Induced by the seriousness of a possible loss, she bought  a scarf for herself and another for Yunier. Without further incidents she got to the "Blackmoon Leap." The bridge over the Moon Trail (a small burbling river), built  with smoky quartz and black marble, was named after her beloved horse. 
Entering the square, Miriel stopped in hesitation. The square resembled a vast living flower bed, buzzing like a thousand bee families. "How can I find Yunier here?" – the princess was confused. But then one of the peonies popped out from the colorful crowd: 
- My goodness, how are you dressed, Miriel!  I barely recognized you, ­ laughed Yunier. ­ Take off that ­ and he pulled off the scarf from her head. 
- If you will be rude, I will leave, ­ warned Miriel. 
- Come on, stop being sulky! ­ Yunier handed her a bouquet. ­ Those forget­me­nots are for you! 
- And those rare scarves are for you ­ Miriel presented her gift. 
Yunier grinned. ­ We have already started to take care of each other! ­ He also had scarves for both of them.
Initially Miriel felt uncomfortable, but Yunier was so gentle and helpful. Soon she sprinkled with laughter when he passionately whispered in her ear a wild mixture of compliments, jokes and hilarious improvisations. 
- Did you know that they are still looking for  us? ­ he asked suddenly, when the princess returned her serene disposition. 
- Who? 
- Lilac night is a very ancient festival, ­ explained Yunier, ­ and it has laws  that  we have violated. The choice of the couple is done by sorcerers. This couple is needed to keep life in balance for  the following year. We broke this balance, so sorcerers foretell bad weather, plagues, and other calamities, even the death of Numenor. 
- Are you kidding? ­ Miriel cringed inside, staring inquisitively at her "May groom." 
- No, I'm serious, ­ Yunier shrugged his shoulders apologetically. ­ I've heard enough talks. 
- But why did they choose us?! ­ exclaimed Miriel. 
- Oh, this is not dependent on them, they choose those who are glowing. Normal people cannot see it, but those who know divination, they will notice. 
- I also see that, Yunier, let's get out of here, we are glowing even now! 
- We are ­ agreed Yunier ­ but do not worry. The people are not looking for us, only sorcerers. 
- That’s a consolation! 
- No, you better listen! People do not like sorcerers and don't want anybody to spoil their festival, so they chose new Lilac kings and today they will honor them. We will watch the performance! 
- I do not want to! This is too dangerous. 
- Come on, honey. Let's thrill through the night. Do not be afraid. We start with the carousel! 
- Yunier ­ said Miriel softly ­ Let's get out of here. Find some private place and spend exciting time together... Just two of us...­ she tried to tempt her reckless friend. Suddenly she felt sick. 
- So gullible, ­ said a hoarse voice, ­ and what if I am a sorcerer  myself? – Yunier’s face broke and turned into a dark, evil mask. A look from behind the mask was piercing her with hatred ­ Yunier is already dead, lying with the shrunken star of love in his bloodless hand. 
Miriel fainted. 
She awoke in the tavern. People were fussing all around her. She was lying on Yunier’s laps. He gently rocked her in his arms. "Sweetheart, my dear girl, what happened?" ­ he wondered. His face shone with kindness and love. He gave her some punch to drink, and she calmed down. 
The noise of drums and timpani came from the street. 
- What is it? – people bustled and many ran out of the tavern. 
- The procession of the  Lilac kings – someone said happily, and then everyone including Yunier and the princess,  jumped  out into the street. They could see nothing because of the crowd. 
- To the roof! ­ shouted Yunier and the guests of the tavern responded to his call. The owner himself was the first to climb up, and when he decided that there were enough spectators on the roof, he started to push aside  those who climbed later. Then the scene captured his attention, and he stopped the  fuss. The procession was approaching. Ahead, on horses, was the chosen couple, gold banners floating around them. People excitedly ran up to the kings and showered them with flowers. 
- This year will bring us a lot of  gold ­ said the innkeeper approvingly – look, how many yellow tulips, lemon lilies and gold daffodils they through. 
- This year will bring us a lot of  blood ­ responded the cracked voice. The speaker ­ a skinny slouching aged man ­ surprised Yunier. "How did this one manage to climb here?" ­ he thought. 
- Aghh… you are one  of those! ­ the innkeeper hissed contemptuously – croak and croak, useless people. 
At this time, the king and the queen were already at the tavern. It was difficult to see their faces: the king had broad­brimmed hat on, and the queen ­ veil. A girl of about thirteen poured poppies out of the basket. They got to the king’s golden cloak and snaked down as trickles of blood. The queen turned for a moment. 
- She looks like me ­ whispered Miriel in amazement. 
- Here she is! Here she is ­ there was a sudden shrill cry. Down at the tavern was an old woman; she pointed her crutch to Miriel. 
- The princess! ­ she hissed, ­ mingling with the soldier, slut. 
Miriel was stunned. 
- Let’s run, ­ whispered Yunier ­ but she did not move. The old man, too, studied her and then suddenly rushed forward. 
- Hold her, Terlock! ­ the crone screamed. The oldster tried to grab Miriel, but Yunier was on high alert, and he pushed him away. 
- You will burn, stupid, on royal flesh! ­ he threatened. Terlock fell from the roof right on the old woman. 
- Shut it, harpy! ­ someone laughed. Wasting no time, Yunier and Miriel jumped from the other end of the roof and ran with all their might. 
- You will not run away! You are glowing, traitors, ­ the vixen screamed after them. It all happened so fast that nobody had time to recover. 
- Everything is somehow weird this year ­ sighed innkeeper, climbing down from the roof. 
Yunier literally pushed  the princess into a small coach. It seemed for Miriel that an unknown vortex carried her forward with exorbitant speed, up to the sun, and then she closed her eyes in fear and fell down into a deep abyss. 
- What was it? ­ she asked Yunier, who was flying beside her. 
- The Dragon Ride, ­ he said calmly, ­ we're going to the Mirror caves. ­ And that was true. Soon they slipped on to the smooth floor of the Mirror caves. 
"It's strange – princess thought ­ so many people headed here, and we seem to be alone." They moved slowly through the long corridors, the magic mirrors fascinated them. Miriel gazed at one of them and, to her surprise, she could not see Yunier, instead of him her companion was a great white beast, a giant wolf. She herself, in a sparkling silver dress, climbed up the stairs to the altar of Eru on top of Meneltarma. She seemed to be older, and confident, possessing the power. Her reflection grinned, waved its wand, and a sudden flash blinded real her. Then she saw a different vision: she was lying on the rocks in the desert, it felt so bitter, so unbearably painful, as if she had lost a loved one. A grey shadow quickly swept past, and out of her chest came a hoarse plaintive cry: "Blackmoon!" And the echo repeated heart­breaking cry: "Blackmoooon!" She was laying as if she were dead with her face turned grey. Again the white wolf came and licked her hand. 
The visions made Miriel excited, she did not only see, but felt everything. The puzzled girl looked at her wrist, which was  just touched by the rough tongue of a mighty beast. The last thing she imagined was a huge crushing wave, which closed over her head, but Miriel did not feel drowned. "We're going home" ­ she thought. 
- What have you seen, Yuni? ­ asked Miriel. Her beloved’s face was more sad than amused, meaning that his visions were not joyful either. 
- I'll go to the mountains ­ sighed Yunier ­ where there is only snow and there is no spring. 
He did not finish. Suddenly they were in  a large hall, full of the blinding light, and Miriel blinked. Astonished, they tried to distinguish what lies ahead, but could not see anything. 
- Well, now we met – an insinuating voice came from nowhere. ­ Why, daughter of Tar­Palantir, did you run yesterday from the Lilac Crown? 
- I thought it would be better if more deserving girl gets it ­ snapped Miriel. 
- Why did you go to the festival where you did not belong? 
- Certainly not for the crown! ­ muttered the princess. 
- Well, Yunier Unknown, why did you escape? 
- I had to lie in ambush for some elf scout, away from the festival meadow. But what right have you got to question us? ­ asked Yunier irritably. ­ That's not fair, you see us, and we do not see you, come out. 
- Not required ­ calmly replied the voice, ­ I will be your invisible sentence. You will die! 
- And why is that? ­ rebelled Yunier and Miriel in unison. 
- Judge for yourself, can there be two royal couples?! ­ exclaimed the sorcerer. ­ You ran away, missed your chance; the people elected other idols, and you should be removed to keep the balance. Your union is too strong ­ the sorcerer was relentless. 
- Do not listen to him, run, Miriel! ­ whispered Yunier in her ear. 
Miriel did not wait for him to repeat it, and they rushed as fast as they could through a narrow corridor. Light immediately disappeared. It was slippery, and the girl fell on her stomach, helping herself with her hands, moved into some dark tunnel, where she was promptly whirled with her head down. 
- You won’t go away! – she heard. After landing, Miriel rushed to the exit. She was stopped by the guard: 
- Show me a scarf,  girl ­ he ordered ­ I know your kind; you want to look at the mirrors for the second time. And you are not allowed to. 
- Now, now, ­ she began to fuss, untying the  knot ­ that is, take it – I would have preferred never look in your mirrors. 
Finally, she was released and hurried to get lost in the crowd. "Run! To the palace ­ she thought feverishly. ­ But Yunier? Where is he? Was he caught?" Without him, she could not leave. "Will it be better to be caught also?" ­ she panicked. "I will wait for him" – she moved closer to the cave.  Suddenly she heard a familiar smooth voice. From the out of the cave emerged the sorcerers, wrapped in long black cloaks. "Is everything lost!"? ­ Miriel thought, mesmerized by the view of three old men who looked to her as one person. But then the rough sound of the horn resonated across the square, and the crowd parted. The proud rider approached the caves keeping another horse, in which she immediately recognized Blackmoon. 
- Make way for the king's messenger! – a loud voice not taking any objections blocked the roar of the crowd. – Mount the horse, princess ­ appealed messenger. Miriel saw the hands of the elders went up all at the same time, and realized that they  were weaving a spell against her. "Yaroh­osty" ­ suddenly unknown words left her lips, and the sorcerers  withdrew their hands. Taking advantage  of their confusion, Miriel mounted Blackmoon, and the horse carried her out of the crowd. They went to the palace. Halfway Miriel remembered to thank her rescuer, but the rider had disappeared. 
When she approached the palace, her heart trembled with bad feelings. It seemed that all the people are gone, extinct, so empty it was around. Blackmoon’s hooves pounded on the plates. There were no guards at the entrance to the palace. "What happened? Where is everybody?" ­ the princess was worried, she patted the horse's neck for support from a friend, and then her whole body felt that the horse was  hard and cold as a corpse. Miriel dismounted and ran to the palace. She was anxious to meet at least one living soul, and finally learn what happened. Fear hung over her. "All people are either gone or dead?" ­ Miriel thought. Then she heard a moan, a groan of a  man. She determined that it came from the chamber of her father, and after a moment, opened the heavy door and entered. The king was  lying on the couch, all in white, and looked at her with his dying eyes. 
- Father! ­ rushed to him Miriel, grabbed his hand and hugged him. The king smiled weakly. 
- What happened?! ­ asked the princess. ­ Where are the people? 
- All of them left me ­ sighed Tar­Palantir. – And now I'm leaving you. 
- Do not say that! – Miriel was outraged. ­ You cannot do that. You're full of energy, and I am still.... a child. 
- You have blood of Eärendil in your veins, ­ said the king. ­ You're brave and strong hearted. I know that I can leave my people to you. 
- I beg you, do not, ­ sobbed Miriel ­ I'm alone and scared. Do not die. 
- You are the only hope  of Númenorean people, my dear girl. Consult the Faithful, you will manage together. 
- Nonsense, I would not understand  your politics. Why are you going, when things are so confusing? You could teach me, get me married ... It is early! 
- No. I have to go ­ sadly looked at her Tar­Palantir. ­ Your mother came. 
Miriel turned around. At the window there stood a tall woman in a long dress with seaweed in her flowing hair. The whole room filled with soft green light. The woman looked at Miriel with tenderness and compassion. 
- Feorena! ­  exclaimed the king, and Miriel saw how Tar­Palantir easily separated from the sofa as if he had no weight. Feorena went to her husband and gave him her hand. 
- Nothing will separate us from now on – her charming voice rang out. She hugged the king, and they walked slowly to the window. 
- And what about me! ­ screamed Miriel. ­ I want to go with you. 
- It is still early ­ sadly looked at her Feorena – There are so many disappointments, losses and sorrows waiting for you, but even more love. Do not be afraid. I will guide you. 
They were gone. And she was left alone. However, was she? 
She could not stay longer in the room; she opened the door and ran. Away from the palace! Suddenly her feet felt like weights. Only using all her willpower she could move them. The front door was locked. No matter how much she tried, she could not open it. Sticky horror ran along the veins. "What is it? Can I not leave?" There was something wrong in the throne hall. She looked back and saw grey shapeless spots, surrounding her, and all her being felt their hatred. The ring was  closing. "To my room!" ­ flashed her thought, and then she ran upstairs, higher and higher, knowing somehow there was a salvation. The spirits did not lag far behind and she felt their breathing behind her back. "You will not go away ­ they hissed, ­ because you are ours!" The door to her room was also closed. She helplessly pounded with her fists. The spirits pulled their fleshless, grey hands to her. And suddenly she felt the force coming from nowhere, turned angrily and said: "Shiar!" Her voice  was strong and confident, and the spirits shriveled, as if they were thrown back to the stairs. Then, putting her hand to the door, she said: "Mirat coonoor." The door opened and she was thrown inside. Falling down, the girl hit her head and fainted.... 
When she woke up, it was already getting dark. Miriel stood up off the floor and looked around in surprise. The door was locked. After a while, she heard a quiet insistent knocking at the window. Slowly she drew back the curtains and saw ... Yunier. 
She hurried to unlock the glass shutters,  her rushing fingers refused to obey, but finally the way for him has been opened. Yunier jumped into the room, and Miriel threw her arms around his neck. "Finally, you came!" ­ she whispered. Yunier looked stunned, but he first pulled her to his chest, and then asked: 
- I cannot understand  you,  my charming princess, in the morning you were reluctant to  see me, and now meet me as the most ardent lover. Just a knock on your window, and you – you are all here for me! 
- Oh, Yuni! ­ cried  the princess. ­ after all we went through in the Silmaril Square, how can I behave any differently? How did you manage to escape from the clutches of wizards? 
- What are  you  talking about? – Yunier was surprised. ­ What did we go through in the Silmaril Square? I was stuck there all alone, waiting for you, but you never came! So I decided to take a chance and came to you myself. 
- Ah! ­ Miriel clasped  her hands. ­ They took your memory away. How sad! Were you tortured? Tell me, do you still love me? Have you not forgotten that? 
- I love you, but you seem to have gone mad. I beg you, do not shout as you can be heard in all corners of the palace. 
- There's no one here, Yunier ­ princess sighed. ­ We're the only ones  living around the palace. There are only evil, hungry spirits behind the doors. 
- You puzzle me today, girl, – Yunier looked totally baffled. ­ Tell me all about it, maybe I'll remember something. 
After listening to the passionate story of Miriel, empathizing with her and showering her with kisses in the most critical moments, Yunier sighed. 
- You do not believe me! ­ she said, looking at him searchingly. 
- I envy you, ­ said Yunier ­ you had so many adventures. Now listen. The palace is not empty; on the contrary, it is crowded. Tomorrow is the scheduled discussion of state plans of Tar­Palantir, and all the ministers and generals have arrived.  The Faithful will join the Council in a few days. Elf is leaving for them today. While I was climbing to you, I had a look at some of the windows. Believe me, everywhere the people eat, drink, talk, but mostly get ready for bed, as it is too late. Then, I was at the Silmaril Square. No one remembers us, and, of course, no one hunts us. There are no Mirror caves in town as well. However, the new couple really was chosen. And everything else in your dream ... was some nonsense. 
- In my dream? – the princess gradually returned to reality – Impossible! 
- Of course! ­ said Yunier. ­ The fact that I was bewitched by some lovers’ hunters is more likely. So what do you think? All the city bought purple scarves, and you drove to the palace on a dead horse? I have never heard of such an entertaining truth! 
- So, is my father alive? ­ she  looked at Yunier with her eyes shining. They sat on the bed facing each other. 
- Yes, of course ­ grinned  Yunier ­ your father is alive. And his lazy daughter  slept through the entire afternoon, while her unfortunate lover paced through the huge square, deceived and feeling rejected amongst the indifferent crowd.
- Never have I woke up so happy ­ smiled Miriel. 
- Is it true? ­ Yunier  moved closer to her face and looked into her eyes. She suddenly felt dizzy and scared at the same time. 
- So what? ­ Yunier chose his words slowly, ­ now that you know  that we have not experienced all those exploits at the Silmaril square, will you banish me? 
- No, ­ barely breathed Miriel. 
Who has the power to describe these happy moments, when two hot young passions meet? Thanks to Yunier, the girl forgot her bad dream; he dispelled all her doubts with his jokes. They fell asleep early in the morning, tired and happy. 
They had no chance to rest: the commotion started in the palace ­ apparently, something went wrong. They ran out of the  room. The palace resounded with cries and  lamentations. Miriel grabbed the maid by the hand: 
- What happened?
The maid looked fearfully, then dropped her eyes: 
- The king is killed ­ she said softly. 
- No. That cannot be, ­ Miriel paled. Frantically she ran down the stairs. Everyone silently parted, giving her way. Miriel entered the chamber of her father.
Tar­Palantir was lying on the couch with dark wounds in his chest. His face still bore some confused expression ­  death had caught him by surprise. Someone attacked him when he was sleeping, when, exhausted by the  negotiations, he was having a rest for, as it turned out, the last time. 
The room was full of people, and everyone was silent. Miriel was not noticing them. She kissed the cold hand of the king,  and wept bitterly. "Daddy, my dear ... how can it be. If only I believed in the  dream! ­ she wailed. And the thought that she could have prevented his unfortunate end, protect him, take him into her room, guard his sleep over the course  of the entire night, tormented her. ­ Then you would have survived. Oh, if only you were alive!"
She stroked king’s forehead and his beard, but that would not bring him back to life. He had gone forever along the unknown road of dead, and she was orphaned. 
In a small room adjacent to the chamber, Miriel sat in a chair, staring into space without seeing anything. There was nothing left, absolutely nothing. She did not know who brought her there, what  was going on in the palace. Pharazon was pacing in front of her, trying to convince her passionately to do something, but she did not hear what he was saying. 
- I know how hurt you are, Princess. After all, it is a great loss for everybody here. But we cannot temporize in confusion over the remains of our lord; we must hasten to punish the murderer! Do you understand what I'm saying? It was a conspiracy! 
Miriel did not understand. "I killed him," ­ she thought. However, her silence didn’t stop Pharazon: 
- Dorian killed him, an elven scout! A scoundrel under the guise of friendship entered the palace at the behest of the Faithful, but his intentions were dark. The vile cobra  stung Tar­Palantir to death! Your father, like a child, believed in the good intentions of the Firstborn, but all they want is power! Oh, princess! You are now the queen. If the Faithful destroy you, it will be easy for them to  establish  their reign in Númenor. We need to take action! Give an order to send the royal army to defeat the Faithful. 
By the apathetic facial expression of Miriel, Pharazon realized that she was not listening to him. He paused, took out a paper  and handed it to her, "Your royal signature." Miriel automatically signed it. And Pharazon nodded gladly and left. 
After some time, the  course of which completely ceased to hold Miriel’s attention, Airen burst into the room. 
- What have you done! ­ she screamed. On another occasion, Miriel would be surprised at her friend’s state. The always calm, balanced Airen was furious, but Miriel did not pay attention to that. 
- Miriel! – Airen almost yelled. ­ Are you crazy? You signed ... you sent everybody  to war. Pharazon kindles anger against the elves in our soldiers. Don't you realize that they have nothing to do with it?! Elves are not evil! I was there when king and Dorian bid farewells, I myself saw him off. When he was gone, the king was alive! ­ Airen spoke haltingly and came close to tears, but Miriel paid no more attention to her than to Pharazon. ­ I must warn the Faithful! Give me Blackmoon otherwise I may not have enough time. 
- Fine. You can take Blackmoon­ Miriel said blankly.
"What's going on in the world? Why, all of a sudden, has everyone became so fussy, so anxious? After all, when my dad was alive, everything was so peaceful. Will he really never come again and put things in order?" ­ thoughts raced and did not stop for too long. 
- You cannot be like that, my darling! ­ suddenly she heard Yunier. He put his arm around her shoulders. He wanted to comfort her. How is that possible to console when the loss is so huge and unexpected? He slid down and sat at her feet, hugging her knees.  His touch brought her back to life. Miriel sobbed. 
- You think, you grieve for him, ­ said Yunier, ­ but there is nothing horrid about death. We are afraid to die, just because we do not know what awaits us there. We do not want to break with our loved ones, friends, habits and passions. Still, we should hope that on the other side of life it will be better. Otherwise, Iluvatar would not give us such a short life. Remember your dream! After all, the king was happy because he reunited  with his beloved wife, he followed her. Right? 
- Yes, ­ nodded Miriel. 
- Well, then who do you pity? You feel sorry for yourself. You've lost a loved one. The whole load of royal authority fell on you! Right? But feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t help. Do you agree? 
- I don't ­ sobbed Miriel ­ I am alive and hurt, and unhappy because of all that happened. I want it to be different! I hate being alone. 
- You are not alone. I will not leave you, my love, our paths will not part anymore. Do you trust me? ­ he gently  stroked her, and Miriel cried and cried. And yet she felt better when she expressed all her sorrow, and cried enough on his sturdy shoulder. 
- Well, now have you stopped pitying yourself? ­ Yunier smiled. 
- A little bit ­ she sighed. 
- You would not let hundreds of people be killed today because of your misery, would you? ­ inquired Yunier. 
- What? – Miriel didn’t understand. 
- You signed the order to start the  war­ reminded Yunier. – Pharazon already gathered his troops and soon they will attack the  Faithful and the elves. And Tar­Palantir believed that elves were allies, and urged his daughter to seek their support and assistance. 
Miriel just realized what she'd done. 
- What shall I do? ­ she asked in confusion. 
- Carry out the will of the  king, ­ suggested Yunier. ­ And correct your mistakes. You must stop this war, which is not easy. Pharazon had incited soldiers with his ideas; the soldiers are burning with hatred for the "murderers" of the king. The  Faithful are in need of your protection. Only if you yourself go to the battlefield, we may be able to save the day. 
- Airen left on Blackmoon, she will warn the Faithful of the danger ­ Miriel reasoned. She couldn’t delay any more. Due to the fact that she had not held strong, a disaster was about to happen. Father would have been very upset with what she did, but she was going to fix everything. 
- Find us some good horses! – she ordered. 
- You bet! ­ assured her  Yunier. Then she hastily changed into a suitable dress, and they ran out of the castle. 
And now, the two riders hurried forward, because the fate of many people depended on them. 
Pharazon’s army, fuelled by the passionate speeches of their commander, faced the Faithful sooner than expected. 
Amandil, Elendil and a dozen of their men left Romenna some days before and  climbed to the top of Meneltarma, to the sacred altar, to honor Ilúvatar. 
Few visited the place  in recent years; people turned their hearts away from Eru. They found him to be unfair and insensitive God, indifferent to their needs. He became an exclusively elven Lord. The Faithful continued to honor him, but tried to do it secretly, so as not to provoke quarrels. 
On the way back the  group met Dorian, who informed them about the meeting with Tar­Palantir and his call for the Council. His story had encouraged Amandil. He admired the king, and did not expect any tricks: the king was honest and reliable. But still one should be careful, the Faithful had enough enemies, especially now, when the king's nephew, Pharazon, was in Númenor ... Amandil consulted with friends and decided to return to Rómenna to take more people rather then go to the palace immediately. To insure themselves just in case, although Tar­Palantir promised to give them protection. 
Suddenly riders heard the distant sound of a horn. 
- What's that? ­  asked Elendil, a tall knight with dark grey eyes. – Are the Númenoreans hunting? 
- Maybe ­ his father shrugged his shoulders ­ we better hurry, so as not to get under their arrows. 
At that moment the black horse flew into the road and the rider slipped down. Airen fell on the ground, she could not manage to stay in the saddle any longer. The Faithful reined their horses and stared at her in amazement. Dorian was the first to react. 
- Airen ­ he rushed to pick her up ­ what happened? ­ Airen leaned on his elbow, bestowing a grateful look. 
- You are in danger! ­ she said, panting. 
- What do we fear of? ­ Elendil grinned at awkward girl. Airen sadly looked at him, her words sounded gravely. 
- The king has been murdered. Dorian is believed to be the killer. Pharazon leads his army into Rómenna. They're close, they will be here any moment. 
- Is Tar­Palantir killed? ­ asked Amadil in distress. 
- You need to protect yourself ­ stressed Airen – The princess is only a child, and she lost her heart because of the death of her father. Pharazon has taken the advantage of the tragic moment... 
- It's not fair! ­  groaned Elendil. ­ Why does fate favor those scoundrels like the Golden Spider, and the best people die before their time? Númenor is doomed, there is no doubt ... 
- Stop it now! ­ Amandil frowned and turned to Airen. 
- Is there any hope that we will agree in a peaceful way? 
- I think not. 
- We have to hold them back, otherwise that will be the end of the Faithful, they will asassinate us all– reasoned Amandil. 
- Elendil, go to Rómenna, and warn our people. Fiol, go with him. We will try to restrain Pharazon's soldiers. Come on! 
- What?! ­ objected Elendil. ­ You want me to leave you at this time? ... 
- Do not delay! Go, I beg you with the name of Eärendil! ­ Faced with the relentless gaze of his father, Elendil obeyed. 
- May Ilúvatar be with you! ­ he shouted bidding goodbye. 
Now not only the sounds of horns, but also thumping of hoofs were heard. Hundreds of riders raced forward, led by one purpose ­ to avenge the killers of the king. 
The Faithful looked at each other. 
- The Silver Stream is close, let’s try to get to it ­ suggested Amandil ­ then it will serve as a boarder, though symbolic only. But maybe we'll have time to have a word. Anything would be better than just start the fight. 
Everyone agreed with him, as there was no time for debates left. Dorian walked to Blackmoon and patted him on the neck. Elves and animals easily understand each other. Dorian saddled Blackmoon and helped Airen climb it. 
- I see them! ­ shouted  one of the first riders. Pharazon and the others stopped. Amandil was right. Silver Stream was a small river, three jumps and any horse could overcome it, but it served as a barrier. A handful of the Faithful stood on the shore. Airen asked Dorian to dismount and hide, reasoning that his figure would cause rage on the other side. Amandil raised his white cloak, which meant desire to negotiations. 
- Here they are ­ Pharazon grinned. – Waiting for their spy. They cannot wait to see how he coped with the task. 
- Murderers! ­ shouted the soldiers. 
- Do not rush ­ said Dil Elenar ­ I see Blackmoon. 
- You must be mistaken! ­ Pharazon carefully peered into the group on the shore. He saw the horse of the princess. Much to his displeasure he also saw Amandil in the group. In the days of his youth Pharazon was a friend of Amandil, together they shared the hardships of camp life and helped each other in battles. But then their ways went apart. The ruler of Andunie indulged elves and hid them in his domain from the just wrath of king Ar­Gimilzor. Fearing a riot, Ar­Gimilzor ordered to  evict the Faithful from the Western Harbour. Now Rómenna had become their safe haven. There they lived under the supervision of the  spies  of the king. Order did not touch Amandil and his  family, but he left Andunie of his own accord and settled in Rómenna, where he continued to support people who fell out of king’s favour and the elves who did not want to leave Númenor. Then the king dismissed Amandil from his position as an adviser to the court, and the relations between them were strained up to the very death of Ar­Gimilzor. 
Tar­Palantir tried several times to restore Amandil in his former position, but encountered resistance from other ministers. For many years in Númenor, kings and their attendants fueled in people hatred for the Immortals. This age­old enmity was impossible to get rid of overnight. Especially, until the king was resisted by his influential and popular nephew, grandson of Ar­Gimilzor, a worthy successor to his grandfather. How he dreamed of the throne! The peacekeeper king was dead now, and so will die his good ideas  and vain expectations. Pharazon  felt he was close to his goal. As a hound dog, as the leader of  his pack, he stood on the shore of  Silver Stream, ready for a decisive leap. The foamy flock smelled the prey and waited behind him in anticipation. One word and the soldiers would devour the Faithful. But the idea that he would have to destroy Amandil stung him. He hesitated. The soldiers waited. 
- Amandil! Come to your senses! Why do I see you in the midst of the rebels? The elves conceived to overthrow the royal dynasty and seize the control of Númenor. Let it be known to you that the elf killed Tar­Palantir. Leave the malefactors, and my people will not touch you. ­ Pharazon gave his former comrade one last chance. But Amandil rejected it without hesitation. 
- That's a lie, ­ he said. ­ Elf did not kill Tar­Palantir. The King was a friend of the elves, they had no reason to hate him. My heart grieves for the loss of Númenor, but it is in vain that you are looking for those responsible for the atrocities among the elves or the Faithful. Your accusation is unfounded. 
- You're covering a criminal ­ Pharazon turned ashen with anger. – The elven web has tangled your brain. You close your eyes to the obvious. Neglecting your own kind, you serve a strange, hostile tribe! 
- In my family elves were always considered to be our brothers. They have not been and will never be a hostile tribe for me, ­ Amandil responded quietly to this attack. ­ Listen  to the voice of reason; you cannot blame the elf for the assassination of the king. 
- I am a witness! ­ supported him Airen. ­ I was bidding farewell to the elf. When he left, Tar­Palantir was still alive. Dorian is not a murderer. 
- Tell me then who? ­ Pharazon grinned. ­ Ignorant woman. Why are you defending the elf? What do you want from him? Immortal children, eh? 
The soldiers laughed. 
- The king’s death shall be avenged! ­ shouted Pharazon and terrible was his face. ­ Tar­Miriel recognized that Elendili are plotting a coup. I keep the order signed by her hand, the order to destroy the Faithful. Have you heard it? What are you waiting for? 
Arrows flew to the Faithful. One arrow hit Dorian’s hip and Airen rushed to him. 
- Beat them, crash! ­ shouted the soldiers, losing their minds in the blood lust. Many rushed to wade through Silver stream. The Faithful drew their swords. 
- Hold back! Stop it! ­ imperative screams sounded unexpectedly. Riders galloped into the glade. – In the name of the king stop! 
Pharazon turned around. "What is this new obstacle?" ­ he thought and saw the princess. 
- Princess? Why are you here? – Pharazon was annoyed. 
- Because I signed the decree by accident. You have made it without my knowledge, cousin. I do not know what is written in this paper, and now I am cancelling the orders. Could everyone hear?! ­ The soldiers stopped and looked curiously at her. ­ You know what sorrow has befallen on me. My father, your king would be against this war. I take of Pharazon responsibility for revenge to the killers. The killer has not been found yet. I'm taking over the investigation. The Faithful and the elves are not involved.
The sincere and confident speech of the princess touched soldiers. Yunier and Pharazon both felt some force emanating from her. Listening to her, everyone believed that she knows the truth. 
"The girl has grown" ­ thought Pharazon. 
- Princess, ­ he said softly ­ you insult me, taking of responsibility for revenge to the killers. Tar­Palantir was not merely a father to you, but also my uncle. Therefore, it is my duty to punish criminals. You are seventeen years old, you are very, very young. I implore you to trust an experienced warrior who cannot be wrong. The elves are guilty. 
- The elves are not to  blame ­ objected Miriel ­ two witnesses saw how Dorian left the castle, and bade farewell to the king. Tar­Palantir requested Dorian to invite the Faithful to the Council and promised to give them protection. Why would the Faithful kill the king, who made peace with  them? If anyone benefited from killing Tar­Palantir, it was not them. You are going to attack the city of the Faithful and kill innocent people. Until such time as the killer is found, there will be no action. I order you to return to the capital and proclaim the week of Tribulation. I am the Queen of Númenor. Obey. 
Pharazon was furious. How dare she argue with him! Oh, those crazy laws. He thought that it will be easy to manipulate her, but Miriel was proving to be very stubborn, and it looked like with her mother's milk she sucked in this incomprehensible favor of her parents to the elves. And why is Yunier next to her? He is his subordinate and should be in the army. All units who fought in Middle­earth were to obey directly to Pharazon. Only royal guards, who never left Númenor, obeyed directly to the king. 
- Yunier! – Pharazon was  outraged. ­ How is it happened that you did not march with the army? You broke the military order. 
- Yes, Captain, ­ Yunier agreed, realizing that Pharazon decided to disrupt his anger on him. 
- Do not start with him – interrupted Miriel. ­ I told him to follow me. 
- And you could not tell him, my queen, ­ smiled Pharazon ­ you still need to study Númenorean laws. Any  warrior of the army is subject only to me. For violation of the order I am sending him to Middle­earth for three years, without the right to return to Númenor. 
- At a time like this, you talk about  such trivial nonsense, ­ Miriel said, although she was worried. 
- This is far from trivial.  If everyone got into the habit of breaking military discipline, the army would turn into chaos ­ Pharazon said. 
- You will not send him to Middle­earth! ­ Miriel insisted.
- And why is that, Your Majesty? – Pharazon grinned. 
- Because he's ... he is my husband. And he is the King of Númenor. 
On both sides of the Silver Stream all stared in amazement at the princess. The suddenly crowned Yunier was no less surprised than the others. Soldiers whispered. 
- Congratulations, Yun! ­ rose a few voices. 
Pharazon grabbed his head. 
- Wait a minute, but when did you have time? You are not engaged! 
- We are engaged – Miriel nodded. 
Soldiers in the ranks were whispering louder and argued, pointing to Miriel and Yunier. 
- Yes, yes, I'm telling you, it's them! 
- Yeah, and I see now. That's the trick! 
- When and where did you get engaged? – insisted Pharazon. Yunier smiled. 
- We got engaged ­ Miriel said, riding up closer to Pharazon – according to the ancient law of Mother Earth. And after the end of mourning, ­ she sighed ­ we will get engaged according to Númenorean law. 
Pharazon could not protest. For a thousand years, none of the kings of Númenor were engaged according to an ancient law, but the connection, thus acquired, was considered inviolable, and everybody recognized such a marriage. 
"The girl appeared to be very brisk ­ once again  thought Pharazon. ­ And Yunier disobeyed my orders on the Lilac night as well. That he will not get away with." He ordered the army to return, and the soldiers turned back. They had something to discuss on the way. What will the accession of the chosen mean to them? Will the holy union bring any changes in their lives? 
Miriel and Yunier crossed  the Silver Stream and spoke with the Faithful. Then they decided to accompany them to Rómenna. In Rómenna, as one would expect, everything was deserted. People hid in fear of impending violence. Amandil led the guests of honor to his home. He, Miriel and Yunier had a long conversation, later they were joined by Elendil. 
The wounded Dorian was accompanied by Airen. He showed her to his house ­ a large light tent, studded with silver stars. 
- How beautiful! – admired the girl. – Do you live here ...alone? 
- Yes, ­ he said, leaning on her hand a little longer than he should, when she was helping him to enter. In the tent it was light and cool.
- Lie down and rest, ­ said  Airen, seating Dorian on the mat ­ and I'll take care of your wound. 
- It will heal in no time ­ Dorian smiled sheepishly. 
- Shut up, I know a lot about this matters – Airen refused to accept his objection. She pulled out of the camp bag some herbs and began to mix the potion. Dorian watched closely focused movements of the girl. He  met  her at the palace of unfortunate Tar­Palantir. She gave him water for washing  after a long journey. She had surprisingly gentle, caressing glance, and with that glance she  looked at him  so intently. He objected to her assistance, but she insisted on helping him to wash his head, neck and back. He was quite restrained by nature, like all elves, and felt uncomfortable when she started to massage his back and comb his hair. It seemed to him that he would hurt her if he rejected help. So, he sat speechless and tense, looking at her in the mirror, and listened as she crooned lovingly combing his curls. Catching his sight in the mirror, she said: "I had never seen elves so close. You are gorgeous." 
When he left, she packed him a bag of food for the road and forced it on him almost violently: he could not refuse.  Airen leaned close to his chest for a brief  moment and said, "Come back soon, please." The girl called for a whole scale of unknown and unexplained feelings in him, she troubled him. 
He looked at her thoughtfully, remembering the touch of her hands. She had an amazing, slim profile and blonde hair. Airen glanced at him, he met her gaze and happily noticed her blushing. 
- Give me zar  ­ he asked, pointing to the silver flagon. Airen easily stood up and leaned over to fetch the jug. 
"How graceful she is" ­ thought the elf. He took a sip of the cup and said: 
- It fermented; its owner was away for too long! 
- Is it not dangerous? – Airen sounded alarmed. 
- No, this drink cannot do any harm. Now  you  drink ­ he suggested and handed her a flagon. She obeyed and took a swig of the foamy drink. He enjoyed watching her movements. 
- How is it? ­ he asked. 
- My head is spinning ... and you? 
He kissed her wrist. Airen started unwinding bandages, gently touching the elf. When the last layer was pulled away from the wound, it hurt, but even this pain brought pleasure. Airen’s thin, strong fingers applied healing herbs to the wound. Dorian closed his eyes. 
When Airen first saw the elf, her heart trembled from joyous anticipation, and everything else had lost its meaning. For the first time love was ruling her. She felt dizzy, but not from zar. She treated his wound, inhaling the smell of his body, feeling the softness of his skin, admiring the slender  body.  Dorian looked at her and realized that she  was completely absorbed in his healing, and immediately felt through the motions of her flexible fingers how the hot wave of energy poured into him. Then Airen felt everything floating, and she lost her consciousness. 
- Airen, Airen, what's wrong? Wake up! ­ He took her locks off her face. What soft hair! ­ Airen! ­ He whispered, gently touching her forehead with his lips. She opened her eyes: 
- I thought I was dead ... 
- What happened to you? 
- I ... I, ­ his eyes encouraged her talking­ I want to be your wife. ­ And terrified of those words, she buried her face in his chest. Dorian did not pull away. Her words did not seem absurd; he felt that  it should be so. No one, except her could ever be his wife. He was silent, lost in thoughts, ­ Airen decided that she crossed the line and burst into tears. 
- Hush, ­ he reassured her ­ look at me ­ he kissed her gently into tear­stained eyes. ­ Yes, of course. I want you to be my wife. 
Now he could cuddle, caress this sincere passionate being, because she belonged to him. Eagerly he dismissed her waistband, aware of his every right to do so. And then they had a long lay, embracing,  looking at the  blue sky in a circular skylight in the roof of the tent, happy because they had found each other. 
Airen asked Miriel to allow her to remain with the Faithful. Miriel experienced a strange feeling: it seemed that part of her divorced her. Airen was always  there for her. But she did not blame her friend. 
- Be a good husband to her ­ she said to Dorian. 
The royal couple bid warm farewells to the Faithful and went back. Blakmoon was glad that his mistress was with him again, but he felt that Miriel was sad and, yielding to her mood, calmly trotted forward. Yunier and Miriel did not talk much.

The Last Princess of Numenor
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