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Akallabeth in August
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And Sauron came. Even from his mighty tower of Barad-dûr he came, and made no offer of battle. For he perceived that the power and majesty of the Kings of the Sea surpassed all rumour of them, so that he could not trust even the greatest of his servants to withstand them; and he saw not his time yet to work his will with the Dúnedain. And he was crafty, well skilled to gain what he would by subtlety when force might not avail. Therefore he humbled himself before Ar-Pharazôn and smoothed his tongue; and men wondered, for all that he said seemed fair and wise.

Hostage by SurgicalSteel

I did not want to make war in Middle-earth. Númenor has problems enough of its own, with the all-too frequent clashes between those who label themselves ‘Faithful’ and those who truly are faithful to their homeland. Amandil and his followers will never forgive me for marrying Zimraphel and for ruling with her – they have spread the rumor among themselves that I forced her. Perhaps we did marry a bit more quickly than she would have liked, for her father was barely cold in the ground – but she agreed that it was necessary if we wished to avoid more open conflict between the Elf-friends who would have forced her into a marriage with Amandil’s brother and made her a figurehead, and the King’s Men who would have seen her dead and me on the throne.

What I have done, I have done for her, even to this. I did not want to come back to Middle-earth. I rule an island. Sauron is no threat to me unless he conquers a coastal port, and that was my answer each time Amandil suggested I should take action against Mordor. His announcement that he had seen troop movements from Mordor toward Umbar seemed too convenient, and I would have summarily dismissed them as yet another rumor, yet another attempt to have me safely out of Númenor.

And then Zimraphel asked in her calm, quiet voice, “Can we afford to take the chance?”

“I cannot afford to leave Amandil here unchecked,” I said.

“Then take him with you,” she said, “but do not risk losing Umbar. Belfalas is essentially independent; Lond Daer is a haven for the Elf-friends. Of the major settlements, Umbar is the only one loyal…”

“The oligarchs of Umbar are principally loyal to their own purses, not to us,” I said.

“Better loyal to their own purses than loyal to our rivals or conquered by your enemies,” Zimraphel answered. “Do not risk losing Umbar,” she added more firmly.

She was right, and I knew that she was right, and so the orders were given. The Elf-friends were conscripted over Amandil’s loud protests, for Zimraphel was right about taking the opposition with me rather than leaving it behind – and we sailed for Middle-earth. I anticipated a hard fight with Mordor’s forces, and so I thought to conscript more men in Umbar. To my chagrin, the city had been evacuated save for the women who were members of the council of oligarchs and their children. The Abârî Azrubêl, one of their elected ‘Judges,’ coolly informed me that she had no intention of allowing Umbar to be dragged into a conflict not of their making – and then looked me up and down dismissively and casually remarked, “I rather expected the king of Númenor to be taller.”

“And I rather expected that the elected leaders of Umbar would not need to stoop to such pettiness,” I replied, and I was somewhat pleased to note that she flushed slightly at the rebuke. “You are still a colony of Númenor, Abârî, and so your evacuation of your able-bodied men could be taken as treason…”

“There is no need for this invasion,” she retorted.

“Rumor has it that Mordor’s forces…” I said.

“And from whom did you hear these rumors?” she asked.

I was forced to admit that the source was the unverified visions in Amandil’s palantíri, and at that, her eyes narrowed, and she said, “I’ll make you this offer. Leave one of their men with us – one who would know the truth or falsehood of these rumors firsthand, preferably. Should he convince us, and should you need the additional men, I will send them.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her that I would not bargain for the service of men that I had every right to compel – and yet, I realized I could potentially play this to my advantage. I needed Amandil and Elendil with me to keep their folk in line. But Elendil’s sons? They were old enough to come with us from Númenor, but were serving more as aides to their father and grandfather than as military commanders. They could be left behind – and should their relatives misbehave, there was no need to collect them once this campaign was over. “Elendil’s sons,” I offered.

She grinned back at me. “I will house them with my own children, and they will be treated honorably,” Azrubêl said.

I advised Amandil and Elendil that the two young men would be staying in Umbar to negotiate for additional support from the oligarchs – and both gave me narrow-eyed stares, but neither actually said that they did not believe me.

It seemed worse than madness to remain in Umbar, pinned against the sea on one side and a not-entirely friendly city on the other, and so we journeyed inland until I found terrain that I thought was defensible, and made camp, and sent out scouts to determine exactly where the enemy might be. Waiting is the worst part of any military campaign, and is filled with uncertainty and doubt. Were the stories Amandil had told true? If they were, how large would be the enemy force? And if not – had he somehow been misled? Could this perhaps be a trap? It this was a trap, then who sought to trap me? The Elf-friends or Sauron?

A week passed, and then another, and I could sense Amandil growing nervous as we continued to find no evidence of an enemy to engage. Finally, as a third week came toward a close, we received word that an enemy party was approaching under a flag of parley, of all things. “An army about to attack Umbar?” I asked Amandil. “Quite a difference from a small party looking to negotiate.”

“I know what I saw,” Amandil said, stubbornly clinging to his story.

“Convenient that no one outside your household can confirm this story,” I said, and Amandil winced, but said nothing further as the enemy party came within our view. From the obvious deference shown to the leader of this group of black-clad men, I initially thought that he must be some high-ranking lieutenant of Sauron’s. I was puzzled by this, for he seemed to have that sense of ‘otherness’ about him that I had seen in the few elves I have met, and I could not imagine an elf becoming a lieutenant of his. Then I noticed the strange glimmer of his eyes that spoke of something even older, something of the Fay, and a glint of gold surrounding his index finger confirmed my suspicion.

This was not a lieutenant of Sauron, but Sauron himself.

He addressed Amandil initially, speaking to my old friend as if he were the king, asking why it was we had come as invaders to his land. Amandil, for his part, was so startled that he did not respond – and I chose to wait patiently.

“I have made no moves to attack your lands,” he said, and Amandil began turning red. “I have sent my forces into lands to the East, certainly, but only out of a desire to help the people there, to make their lives easier and more peaceful. I have not moved against any of the lands of Númenor…”

“Perhaps only because you wished first to consolidate your position,” I said.

He looked at me, the same sort of dismissive assessment I had seen from the Abârî in Umbar. “You allow your servants to speak while you remain silent?” he said to Amandil.

“In his own home, the Lord Amandil of Andúnië likely does not allow such liberties,” I said. “But I am not his servant. I am his king.

One eyebrow rose, and there was a hint of amusement about his eyes and the corners of his mouth. “I expected the great king Ar-Pharazôn to be…” he began, and then he stopped himself.

I suspected he was attempting to bait me, and I was determined not to rise to that bait. “Taller. I know,” I said, and the corners of his mouth briefly quirked upward. “You were going to move against Umbar,” I said, making it a statement rather than a question.

“I thought they – at your behest – might move against me,” he said in tones of innocent affront.

“You know better. You know their principle loyalty is to their own purses,” I replied.

“I only seek to improve their lives,” he said.

“You would have driven them into the sea, and then come to Númenor.”

He shook his head. “I have been discussing irrigation systems for their farmlands with them, but invasion? Why would I…?”

It occurred to me for a bare moment that Amandil might well have been wrong and that he might have actually had a benign intent, and then I recalled what the histories told us of Ost-in-Edhil and I asked, “Were the farmers of Eregion grateful for your aid?”

There was a flicker of something in his eyes then, something like rage and madness mixed, and although it was quickly suppressed, I did not wish to see that look again. “They were in the beginning,” he said in clipped tones.

“And how do I know that an offer of aid to my citizens will not ultimately lead to an invasion?” I asked.

“I will give you my word,” he said.

“I will need more than that,” I snapped.

One of the men in his party grumbled something about disrespect, and I could hear my own men murmuring that he seemed more reasonable than I did, and so I continued, “You have no reason to love Númenor or its people – did we not aid your enemies in Eriador?”

“Your ancestors did,” he said reluctantly. “But you are not your ancestors. I am willing to look past those unfortunate events.”

I shook my head again. “I am not certain that I believe that. I require your oath…” I hesitated for a moment as that hint of madness flared in Sauron’s eyes again, but then persisted. “I cannot take the chance that you may attack my people. I will require your oath.”

He remained silent for several moments, and the muscles along his jawline clenched and unclenched.

“My ancestors drove you out of Eriador. I can, if necessary, drive you so far to the East that you will fall into the Encircling Sea,” I stated.

He snorted at that, but then said in flat tones, “I suppose that great kings must have their will,” and fell to his knees in front of me and began speaking his oath.

Too easy, I thought, and so as he finished his oath, I said, “I will also require a hostage.”

“He has none he could give,” one of his men said, and then stopped mid-sentence as Sauron raised his hand. The look of stark terror on that man’s face confirmed for me that Sauron was capable of hideous acts even against those who gave him their loyalty.

“He has himself,” I said.

There was a moment of anger on Sauron’s face followed by resignation and almost eagerness. “If I have offended you by my actions, I ask for your pardon,” he said.

“For myself, I might grant it, but not for my people,” I said. “You will come back to Númenor with us as a hostage,” I began. I stopped for a moment, wondering what threat might command the submission of his people, and then my eyes fell on Amandil. “If any of your people threaten my people again, I will hand you over to the Lord of Andúnië, to be disposed of as he sees fit.”

Amandil’s tight grin at that statement said without words what he would do with Sauron should that come to pass – Amandil would hand Sauron over to the Noldor still remaining in Eriador, who would either take their revenge for Eregion on him personally or would hand him over to the Valar.

“It is a hard doom,” Sauron said, “but great kings must have their will.” He held out his arms, wrists together, and allowed himself to be chained.

Before he rose to his feet, before my soldiers led him away, I leaned down and whispered into his ear, “Fuck with me and I will destroy you.”

His only response was, “I understand you,” which sent a shiver of foreboding down my spine.

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Author's Notes:

The initial inspiration for this notion was a conversation on Pandemonium’s LJ about the television program ‘Kings’ (alas, cancelled!). Ian McShane plays ‘King Silas’ so marvelously that we agreed he’d be a wonderful candidate to play Ar-Pharazôn. I think Pandemonium made a remark about his height and that led to a discussion on ‘how do we know the guy was tall’ and on various historical emperors and dictators who weren’t. His final threat to Sauron is an homage to another character played by McShane: Al Swearengen in ‘Deadwood.’

My take on Pharazôn and Míriel/Zimraphel’s marriage was inspired by this passage in ‘The History of the Akallabêth’ in History of Middle-earth Volume XII: The Peoples of Middle-earth:

And now it came to pass that her father Tar-Palantír grew weary of grief and died, and as he had no son the sceptre came to her, in the name of Tar-Míriel, by right and the laws of the Númenóreans. But Pharazôn [?arose] and came to her, and she was glad, and forsook the allegiance of her father for the time, being enamoured of Pharazôn. And in this they broke the laws of Númenor that forbade marriage even in the royal house between those more nearly akin than cousins in the second degree. But they were too powerful for any to gainsay them. And when they were wedded she yielded the sceptre to Pharazôn, and he sat upon the throne of Elros in the name of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, but she retained also her title as hers by right, and was called Ar-Zimrahil.

Sauron’s statement that ‘Great kings must have their will’ comes from ‘The Tale of Years of the Second Age,’ also from HoMe XII.

On the men of Umbar evacuating – the Akallabêth states that …men saw his sails coming up out of the sunset, dyed as with scarlet and gleaming with red and gold, and fear fell upon the dwellers by the coasts, and they fled far away. In my ‘verse, the people of Umbar have been there long enough to have established a form of government resembling that of Ancient Carthage. Their elected leaders aren’t at all certain that they want to be dragged into a war, and so they send the conscriptable men as far enough away to make things difficult for Ar-Pharazôn (although likely close enough that they could get back to their homeland to defend it if need be). The title ‘Abârî’ for these leaders was invented by Pandemonium.

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