Míriel had noticed something was off since waking up, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. It was only once she was being dressed, having bathed first, that Miriel noticed Ariel missing. Though two handmaidens were enough to fulfill the necessary duties, Míriel had three—Ariel, Vinya, and Antia. Ariel, the sweetest and kindest of the three, wasn't attending to her this morning.
“Where is Ariel?”
Antia looked at Vinya with a questioning look, then spoke hesitantly.
“In…in the dungeons, Your Highness,” Antia finished, hesitantly, as if she couldn’t quite believe the words herself.
Miriel wanted to get all of her questions out at once, but wasn’t able to find her voice. Why? When? Who put her there? How was this even possible! Instead, all that she managed was, "After you finish, let us sit down and the both of you will tell me all you know.”
The two handmaidens nodded and continued preparing her for the coming day with shaking hands and a grim silence.
The extent of Vinya and Antia’s knowledge didn’t satisfy Míriel. All they knew was that she had been arrested yesterday on charges of treason. This was relayed to them by a servant who had seen her arrest and subsequent escort to the dungeons the prior evening.
Only the king or queen could charge someone with treason, and Míriel herself certainly didn’t know anything about the situation. It meant a serious discussion with her husband was in order. She waited a few hours, until she knew Calion would no longer be holding court, and went to the throne room.
In years past, they would often hold court together. Míriel figured that even if she no longer held the scepter, and thus lost much of her authority, she would still be able to help the Faithful on an individual basis. Calion quickly figured out her approach, and started overriding her verdicts on the cases that mattered most to her. The party that had been wronged would end up being further punished by the king—who would revel in the Queen’s distress.
Míriel had no illusions; as long as Calion was king, she would have no more power than the average Númenorian citizen. But for the sake of Ariel, generous and kind-hearted as the girl was, Míriel would try anything to prevent her possible execution.
The king was speaking to the captain of the guard when she entered. The only other person in the chamber besides the three of them was Sauron, who was paying close attention to the conversation the king was having. Míriel hated everything about the sorcerer—from his worship of Melkor and spite towards the other Valar to his omnipresence throughout castle. Nothing could occur without Sauron knowing of it and possible relaying his knowledge to the king.
The captain took his leave, at which point Míriel announced herself and demanded to know why Ariel was in the dungeon.
“My dear Zimraphel, I do not appreciate you questioning my actions, given that I, not you, have the scepter,” Calion said, looking down at her haughtily. “Nevertheless, let me indulge you. Tar-Mairon, please tell my wife of the crimes that have taken place under her very nose.”
Míriel had noticed that the sorcerer was the only one Calion always treated with any respect these days. How ironic, she thought, given that Sauron had originally come to Númenor a prisoner.
“My queen, you really should be more vigilant about whom you surround yourself with,” Sauron stated simply. “Ariel was a spy of the so-called Faithful, she passed on privileged information regarding your actions to Amandil’s followers. In fact, I oversaw her talking to one just yesterday, outside the gate. I promptly reported this to the king, who took action by having her arrested on charges of treason.”
Sauron spoke to her as one would to a young child ignorant of the ways things are done. She was a queen, and it made her blood boil to be talked down to by a sneering former-prisoner who worshipped the darkness. She couldn’t just lash out at him though; that would awaken Calion’s wrath and render her attempts fruitless.
“What knowledge could she even have had? I never discuss State affairs when my ladies-in-waiting are with me, and when they’re not—“
“Anyone within the castle walls could hear talk not meant for their ears,” Sauron said, a meaningful look in his eyes. Míriel didn’t know what to make of it.
“Do you have evidence of her wrong-doing?”
Sauron looked ready to respond, but the king cut in, annoyance apparent in his voice.
“You’ve already been told—she was seen talking with a known enemy of ours, one we’ve been unable to apprehend as of yet. You cannot change my mind, Zimraphel. The girl will confess, and then be executed as an enemy of the State.”
A suspected traitor cannot be executed until a confession is heard. If she hasn’t confessed yet, Ariel will be tortured until she does.
Before Míriel could collect her thoughts to stall him, Calion was walking past her and leaving the throne room. Sauron approached her. That was just as well. He was the one with actual power, the one who could have people executed or exalted on a whim. The king was just a puppet through whom Sauron worked.
“Why did you do this, Sauron? Was my handmaiden actually a threat to your schemes?”
“I don’t answer to that name, nor do I know of any schemes, my queen,” he said, bowing mockingly. Míriel made to slap him; her patience had worn thin. Sauron grabbed her wrist with lightning speed, staying her hand in mid-air.
“You’re right, Ar-Zimraphel. Ariel isn’t a threat to me at all. What is more concerning to us is that the Queen of Númenor remains faithful to Ilùvatar, and refuses to worship the Lord of Darkness. Yet I know Ar-Pharazôn is not ready to publicly denounce you, and face whatever after-shocks that may cause. I hope striking at someone close to you will make you rethink your beliefs,” Sauron said, letting go of her and making to leave.
“I should be punished for my own actions, not an innocent,” Míriel said softly to herself.
Sauron must have heard her. He looked back and said, ”If you want a chance to get the girl out of prison, come to the Temple at midnight.”
And so Míriel entered the temple for the first time, years after it had been built. The main chamber was nearly dark. Some large candles lit behind the altar provided the only light besides the glowing embers of the fire pit. The stench of burning human flesh was faint but nauseating. So many people had died here already; how many more would be sacrificed to Melkor?
She hated this place upon first stepping foot in it. Yet with the safety of those dear to her at stake, Míriel would probably go through with whatever Sauron asked of her.
“Ar-Zimraphel, welcome,” she heard Sauron say from behind her, in his usual silky tones. She hadn’t heard him come in despite the silence of the place.
Míriel had no desire to speak any more then she needed to with this sorcerer who had transformed Armenelos into a city of evil.
“Speak swiftly and with purpose. How am I to save Ariel and prevent others from suffering because of my beliefs?”
She didn’t hear a sound when he came up and placed his hands on her shoulders. Though she had a strong urge to shake them off, she could hardly afford to be difficult when so much was at stake.
“Punishment is necessary for disobedience. I know that you and the Faithful, whom you’re so fond of, worship Ilùvatar while spitting at any mention of the one true god, Melkor. I don’t want the public to see you punished—they are still fond of you. Thus, as penance, you will either watch your friends executed for no reason other than their association with you, with Ariel being the first casualty, or offer yourself to me. Since I am the High Priest of Melkor, it would be deemed appropriate penance for you.”
Míriel whipped around then, without even making certain she had heard correctly. Judging by the look of barely concealed amusement on Sauron’s face, she had.
“Was that supposed to be a jest?” Míriel spat.
“I can assure you, I was completely serious,” Sauron said, still smiling. “Offering carnal knowledge of one’s body is a worthy sacrifice, second only to offering the body itself.”
He pointed to the fire pit, where victims’ bones were still smoldering after the day’s sacrifices. Míriel felt cold. She had no way out. If she left, then she would leave knowing that innocent people would suffer and die on account of her pride.
She did hate Sauron—to the point that thoughts of him made her blood boil. But he was beautiful, even his greatest enemy could find themselves awestruck by his marvelous appearance. Nor would Sauron harm her much, judging by how eager he was to preserve her for the sake of public opinion.
Without further delay—delays only caused doubts—she started undoing her cloak. He caught it when it slid off her shoulders.
“Stop for now,” Sauron said. His eyes were wide as he took in her appearance, appraising every inch of her. “I’ll take off your garments, I must be the one who determines how this goes.”
“I am your queen; you must be thoughtful of my well-being.”
Sauron had the audacity to laugh. A rich, melodic sound it was.
“What makes you think I will do otherwise?”
Míriel sighed. What choice did she have but to simply do as Sauron demanded of her?
"Where would you have me?" she asked. Looking around, there weren't many comfortable spots in which to go through with the...act. In response, he picked her up before she had a chance to protest, depositing her on the stone altar. It was cold and uncomfortable, but then again she wasn’t doing any of this for her comfort.
“It’s cold, but you’ll be warm soon enough,” he whispered in her ear.
“But the blood…” Míriel recoiled, noticing the dark spots in the light of the candles.
“All the blood is washed away every night. These are only stains. Besides, we cannot do this anywhere else,” he said.
Sauron started kissing her neck and chin, moving lower. His kisses felt surprisingly good; Míriel started to slowly relax into them. But the last thing she wanted was to enjoy this, she would not give him the satisfaction. Instead, she closed her eyes and tried to remember her ascent on Mount Meneltarma; on that day she had been naïve enough to believe all of Númenor would worship Ilùvatar again. Yet here she was, years later, being ravished in a strange temple by an evil Maia.
The shoulder of her dress was pulled down, bringing her back to reality. He was kissing her skin insistently, but with lips as soft and warm as a feather pillow. Despite herself, she liked the feeling. It was affection she’d never gotten elsewhere. Sauron pulled her dress lower now, exposing her breasts. He kissed those all over as well, dragging his lips over the peaks.
It felt wonderful, but Míriel knew this wouldn't last. Surely he was just mocking her--giving her a taste of something sweet, only to later serve an entrée that was completely bitter.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, fearful of falling off the edge of the narrow stone table. He was pulling the dress completely off now, Míriel helping by lifting herself up. He threw it to the floor. It had intricate embroidery on it. She hoped it wouldn't be ruined.
She felt his warm breath on her cheek now. Míriel had never before realized that Sauron breathed—always just assuming he didn't have to. Opening her eyes, she saw him looking intently at her. He was flushed, excitement visible on his face. She guessed in that moment that perhaps Maiar weren't so different from mortals after all.
His face was beautiful, his body--Míriel didn't notice when he had disposed of his robe--flawless. She noticed her own excitement in response to the vision above her.
Sauron pushed himself off of Míriel, getting off the altar completely.
“Get up and bend over the edge."
It took a long moment for Míriel to respond, during which time he pulled her up by the arm impatiently. Her new position felt very undignified, the stone was cold against her hips and torso, surely rough enough to leave scratches. Then he entered her, not too gently, but her prior arousal took most of the sting away.
"You enjoy this more than you let on, do you not?"
"Monster!" She merely spat back in retort.
He merely chuckled and continued. Sauron's body felt cool on top of and inside her, while she herself was becoming uncomfortably warm. The only relief Míriel felt was from his movements inside her. His thrusts were relentless, but she was growing to love that feeling. Their union made Míriel complete in a way she had never felt before.
“You know I can tell how much you love this, my queen,” Sauron purred into her ear, “You’ve been wanting this for a long time, haven’t you? I would have gladly come to your chamber had you summoned me.”
“I don’t associate with servants of evil for no reason,” Míriel responded shakily. It was becoming harder to hide her pleasure.
“My sweet Zimraphel, how little you know. You can’t hide anything from me...”
He slid his hand between her breast and the stone, kneading the flesh there. She nearly cried from the relief his touch brought her burning skin.
“…but I know all your secrets…”
Sauron’s hand was drifting over her belly now.
“ …I know that you love being used like this. You’re just like the common harlots on the street of this pitiful city."
His hand slid down between her legs, and with a mere swipe of a hand she came, surrendering to the sensation of pure bliss.
Upon returning from the high, she realized something was off. She was lying on a soft surface, soft voices were speaking behind her.
Sitting up, Míriel realized she was under the covers of her own bed. Her ladies, including Ariel, were in the corner of her chambers, talking excitedly amongst themselves.
Vinya noticed her first.
“My queen, we didn’t see you in bed, and were wondering where you were. Ariel is back! The sorcerer let her out of jail, saying only that the king withdrew his accusation of treason against her.”
So Sauron had already completed his end of the bargain too. The queen felt unbelievably relieved.
“A miracle!” she exclaimed, as if she’d had nothing to do with it.