Fairer Than Ivory, Silver, or Pearls
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Cursed Queen of Angmar, The: 31. Questioning
Dressed in one of her simple blue gowns, Ariashal waited with the King for the other Nazgul to arrive. Silently he stalked the room, only sitting next to her when the others finally came. She was uncertain of what her husband intended to do, but she did not need to see his face to know that the evil glow had come to his eyes.
Herumor was first into the room, followed by Khamul. Ariashal got the very distinct impression that Khamul was annoyed; certainly there was already a faint glow hovering about his eyes. Herumor quietly sidled over until he was next to Ariashal.
When they had entered, the King motioned to the door. It slammed shut. He held up one hand, speaking in the same harsh tongue he always used for casting spells. Soon the glowing yellow mesh lined the room, giving off a faint hum. In an instant it vanished, but Ariashal knew it was still in place.
"On your knees, Khamul," ordered the King.
The Easterling stood, defiant.
The King made a quick movement with one hand, and Khamul collapsed to the floor. For a few moments he struggled vainly to regain his feet, then lay still, eyes ablaze with hate.
"Why are you here--really?"
Khamul said nothing.
"Do not make this more difficult for yourself than it already is. Why were you sent here?"
"I told you," hissed Khamul. "I was sent to see how you fare."
Slowly the King closed one hand into a fist. Khamul's breathing became increasingly harsh, first ragged, then gasping. As Khamul fought for breath, he slowly lifted off of the floor, finally hovering several feet in the air. For what seemed an eternity the King kept his fist clenched. Finally he opened his hand. Khamul dropped hard to the ground, gulping for air.
"Why were you sent here?"
"I--" gasped Khamul between breaths, "He wanted--He wanted to see how you--how you were--how you fared."
The King raised his hand and began to close it back into a fist.
"No!" rasped Khamul. "No. I--I will tell you--I will tell you what He wants." He managed to sit up, panting.
Khamul held up one hand. "He--sent--me--He sent me to--to see how--to see how you fare."
The King crushed his hand into a fist. Khamul flopped back onto the ground, wheezing.
"Did He send you here to insult me?"
"No--no--"Again Khamul's body lifted free of the floor.
"Did He send you to attack my queen?"
Without warning he released Khamul. Again the Easterling hit the floor hard, driving the air from his lungs with an audible whoosh.
"I--I tell you--I tell you He wanted to see--"
Khamul never finished the sentence. The King made a quick gesture, and Khamul slammed against the wall.
"He knows well enough how I fare. Why are you here?"
Khamul scrambled to his feet. "He wants--He wants to make you--make you a proposition."
A flick of the King's wrist, and Khamul hurtled into the opposite wall.
"Listen!" gasped the Easterling. "He wants to give you--to give you-- your freedom."
"Give? He gives nothing! What does He want?"
"I speak--I speak the truth, Morgul-lord. He says--He says that-- that He will give you your freedom."
"In exchange for what?"
Khamul half-coughed, half-laughed. "He wants--He wants your woman, and--and your offspring. You-- you give Him those, and you--you will be free."
The King snapped his fingers. Khamul rocketed to the ceiling, crashing head-first into the painted wood. Dust and plaster rained down onto the floor. "He wants no such thing!" hissed the King. "He would never ask for that. No, it is you who would take them, not Him."
Khamul plummeted to the ground. For a moment he lay still, so still Ariashal wondered if he were dead.
"Rise, Khamul!" ordered the King. "Tell me why you are here."
Slowly, stiffly, Khamul sat up. "He--He wanted to know--He wanted to know if--if what He had heard was true."
Khamul managed to look up, eyes blazing crimson. "He had heard--He had heard that you were--that you are very fond of your woman."
"What makes Him think that?"
Ariashal felt her heart stop. What makes Him think that? Was she in truth of no import at all to her husband?
"It is--it is obvious, Morgul-lord," rasped Khamul. "Never--never are you far from her. She is with you always-- here, in these rooms. You give her --you give her anything she wishes. And you have--you have her constantly under guard."
"And wisely so, if you are spying!"
"Wisely?" Khamul lurched unsteadily to his feet. "Wisely? You have--you have--you have him here!" he cried, pointing at Herumor. "I would not let him--near-- near any of my women! Not after what he did."
"Only because you would long to do it yourself!" Herumor drew his sword. "Come for me, Khamul. I will gladly avenge my late wife."
"Wait," ordered the King.
"He obeys you?" taunted Khamul. "What do you give him--to keep-- to keep him away from her? Your--your daughter? Or--do you--do you share your woman?"
Suddenly Khamul slammed against the wall. "My patience with you is at an end," warned the King.
"What--what will you do to me, pretty--pretty Numenorean?" Khamul did not move from the wall. "He sent me--He sent me to recall you. He misses--He misses his pretty Numenorean. And now--now you can provide Him--a whole-- a whole family of pretty--pretty Numenoreans. He wonders if--He wonders if your wife is as sweet --as sweet a lover as you. Perhaps--perhaps He wishes to--to sample the two of you at once, so that--so that He may choose who--who gives the greater pleasure!"
"My Lord," said Herumor, tightening his grip on the hilt, "let me slay this faithless dog where he stands!"
"You, Shadow-Lord?" sneered Khamul. "You--you will join him! And we--and we will--I will gladly watch--while our master tries you all, to see--to see which of you--is--is the sweetest!"
Once again Khamul hurtled to the floor.
The King stood, towering over Khamul. "You will leave now, fool," he hissed, voice like steel. "Leave now, alive, lest I do what my lord Herumor suggests and slay you where you stand. There are many better candidates for that ring you wear."
"You would--you would not dare!" gasped Khamul.
"Have you heard nothing? I have slain my companions before, and I will do so again. And your master is not here to protect you. Doubtless He would not care. He never has before."
Khamul managed to sit up. "I--I came to warn you, Morgul-lord. You may take the help of Dol Guldur, or--"
"Or what?" demanded the King. "Else you will aid the missing king? Else you will send an army to my borders? And a sad army it will be, with you at their head. Never could you hold your own, without the rest to help you. You do not have our aid now, Khamul. You have nothing!"
"I will--I will report your defiance, Witch-King. I will--I will tell Him!"
"If He is too stupid to know that I defy Him," snapped the King, "then He is indeed more pathetic than I suspected. Go, and report to your slave-lord that we have no need of His aid!"
"One day--one day He will regain His full powers," hissed Khamul, "and on that day--on that day I swear I will watch Him break you!"
"He could not do so before," said the King. "He cannot do so now. You, however, are easily broken, and if you do not leave, you will be easily slain. Am I understood?"
"Oh, yes,--yes, you are. And I wonder--when did--when did you last see--your daughter?"
Horrified, Ariashal sprang to her feet. Herumor caught her and held her back.
Without warning, Khamul slammed headfirst into the wall. Again and again his head and body were smashed into the stone, until blood ran freely down the wall. At last the King relented, leaving Khamul heaped in a pool of his own blood.
Ariashal stared at the still form. "Is he--"
"No," said the King, hard. "I will not kill him now. Herumor! Watch him while we see to our children."
Ariashal started for the door.
"Not that way," said the King. "Come to me."
She sidled up to him. He slipped one arm around her waist and spoke aloud.
Ariashal had the strange sensation that the very stone and wood of the castle was parting for them, opening just wide enough to permit them to pass. In only seconds they were standing in the children's rooms.
She rushed to Zimraphel. The King stood back, muttering something she could not quite hear. After a moment he joined her. "I think she is well," said Ariashal, relieved.
"He was unable to break the spell I had laid over this room," explained the King quietly. "He tried, but he is far too weak to prevail against me."
"What will you do with him now?"
"Tie him on his beast and send him home."
"The beast knows the way," said the King. "By the time he reaches Dol Guldur, he will be awake. Come. We must return to Herumor."
This time she was expecting the strange opening of the floor, and the parting of the wood. Still, it was unsettling to move up through the ceiling and floor, finally stopping in their own chamber.
Herumor stood over Khamul. Ariashal could see that the toes and tops of his boots were bloody.
"I thought he stirred," explained Herumor.
"We need to ready his beast," said the King. "But first, I wish to teach him a lesson."
The King pulled the glove from Khamul's hand. Ariashal could not see what he was doing, but alongside her she could Herumor gasp, horrified, at what was happening. She saw the King draw one of his daggers, the golden hilt flashing in the light. There was a sudden spurt of blood onto the floor.
"You did not take his ring?" asked Herumor.
"No. Only the first digit of the ring's finger. When he wears gauntlets, no one will know it is gone--save us."
"But--what will he do?" asked Ariashal. "He will be angry, and then--"
"And then what? May he reflect on how easily he could have lost all!" He wiped his dagger clean before sheathing it. "Herumor!"
"Yes, my lord?"
"Ready his beast. He leaves now."
Herumor slipped from the room.
A short while later they stood on the parapet, Herumor holding the flying beast's reins. The King dragged Khamul to the saddle, shoving him aboard none too gently. Herumor handled the reins while the King strapped Khamul on tightly. When he finished, the reins were drawn over the beast's head, and Khamul's hands looped through them.
Herumor kicked the beast and the animal leapt from the wall. It flapped its wings and soon disappeared into the night.
For several moments no one spoke. Finally Herumor broke the silence. "You should have killed him."
"No," said the King. "We have enough problems of our own now. We do not need to add Dol Guldur."
"What--what will he do?" asked Ariashal.
"He will run back to his master, and whine like a beaten pup." The King pulled his cloak over her shoulders. "That was always his way."
"What if he finds Ferion?" she asked.
"I would expect Ferion would fear him, thinking he had either found either my lord Herumor or me. But Ferion would not be unwelcome in Dol Guldur. Doubtless he would be promised many things for his aid, none of which would ever be granted."
"We will have to double the watch on those roads," agreed Herumor. "Strange that he has not been seen near Bree, if indeed those men were truthful."
"They spoke the truth," said the King. "They did not lie to me."
"Perhaps he is going somewhere else," offered Ariashal. "Perhaps he is going to Gondor, or Fornost."
"Gondor is too far for him, I think," said the King. "Fornost is likelier. But you may be right, my Queen. He may have wished to be seen going to Bree, the better to hide his true intent."
"And now Khamul is riding across the land." Herumor sighed.
"It seems that Angmar will never know peace." The King quietly headed towards the door. "We will need to keep watch for them both, lest they alert Imladris."
"Khamul would not go there," said Herumor. "He fears the elves."
"That he does," agreed the King. "But I do not know how Ferion is disposed towards Lord Elrond."
"I do not recall my father ever having much discourse with the elves," said Ariashal. "What Ferion may have done, I do not know."
"Considering how ineptly he has dealt with Cardolan, I would suspect that he has had less than cordial relations with Elrond." The King paused at the door. "We must remember that the Elves also have many spies, and Glorfindel is a great hunter. I do not wish to become his prey."
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