"You stare at her as if she were a hound of Hell, waiting for you to fall and to drag you down into the dark regions," Vorea stated.
"Are you quoting something?" Khamul asked.
"No. I have merely noticed you eye that woman with such great suspicion and dislike that I am surprised she has not combusted due to the heat of your gaze alone."
"I don't like her," Khamul said, watching the silly court lady with the silken fan sit on the marble bench and watch the gate.
"Perhaps she is a Vala," Vorea said.
"No, they wouldn't look that ridiculous," Khamul said.
"She is quite dignified," Vorea said. "And quite fashionable as well, or so Ceure tells me. The blue-green gown is similar to a fashion the queen favors. And that fan is of very fine silk, hand-painted. Though apparently the magenta clashes with the rest of the ensemble."
"I didn't take you for someone who knew the slightest thing about fashion," Khamul said.
"I don't," Vorea said. "But Ceure finds it interesting,"
"Great," Khamul muttered.
"What is the intrigue of this woman?"
"She sits there," Khamul said, gesturing at the lady.
"Does she indeed?"
"Don't be sarcastic! She sits there all day everyday, watching for her brother, who never comes. She is there when I stroll the gardens at dawn, and she is there when the moon rises! She never leaves! I wouldn't be surprised if she slept there!"
"Perhaps you should talk to her," Vorea said.
"Stupid idea," Khamul said. "I don't want her to know that I'm spying on her."
"I think from the way you have been watching her that she has a very good idea already."
Khamul said nothing, but walked across the garden towards the marble bench. "Still watching for your brother?" she asked.
"Yes. Yes, I am," the lady said. "Will you wait with me?" she asked, smiling.
"No," Khamul said. "Who are you anyway? I don't keep track of the nobles."
"I am called Ancalime," the lady said. "Named after the first queen of Numenor."
"Great name," Khamul said. "Who's your brother?"
"Morion," Ancalime said. She frowned. "He was supposed to be here a long time ago. I am growing frustrated at him."
"How unfortunate for him," Khamul said. "Shouldn't you be waiting for your husband though?" she asked. "Isn't that how they do it around here? Or is he dead?"
"Husband?" Ancalime asked, puzzled. Then she glanced down at a ring on her finger. Its amethyst glittered. "Oh no!" she exclaimed, giggling. "I'm not married. A very nice man gave me this. It's just so pretty, I had to wear it."
Khamul rolled her eyes. What a silly woman, she thought. "Why do you sit here all the time though?" she asked. "You could wait for your brother inside."
"I know," Ancalime said. "But I want to be the first person to see him when he walks through the gates. Or rides. I think he has a horse."
Rolling her eyes, Khamul walked back to the palace. "What a silly woman," she told Vorea.
"Is there some reason why she is sitting there day in and day out?"
"No," Khamul said, shaking her head. "She just wants to spot her brother when he rides in."
"Indeed?" Vorea asked. "And who is her brother?"
"Morion or something like that," Khamul said.
"Do you know him?" Khamul asked, spinning around.
"I should say that I do," Vorea said. "Are you sure this woman said Morion was her brother?"
"Yes, why? What is he?"
"His father was Elendil's younger brother," Vorea hissed. "Elendil, son of Amandil! He perished in his thirties on a raid on Middle-Earth. His wife was just a month pregnant with their twins, Morion and Ancalime."
"So Morion is a lord of the Andunie?" Khamul asked.
Khamul thought about Ancalime, how she looked, and she compared them to the sleeping lord's face she had seen, as well as the same lord from Umbar. There were similarities there, she decided.
"He will not leave his sister here," Khamul said. "I'm sure of it. And to make doubly sure, I will go arrest her this minute."
Grinning, Khamul returned to the garden. "I think you need to come inside now, Ancalime," she said.
"Oh? Have I missed my brother? Is he here already?" Ancalime asked.
"No, you're under arrest," Khamul said.
"Oh? Why?" Ancalime asked.
"For being a treacherous lord of the Andunie!" Khamul snarled.
"Oh no," Ancalime said, shaking her head. "It's not me that's a lord of the Andunie. It's my brother. And he's very good; not treacherous at all."
"Be that as it may, you're under arrest," Khamul said.
"Are you Khamul?" Ancalime asked.
"He told me to show you this," Ancalime said, holding up her hand and showing off the ring. It was a golden band, set with a stone. It looked strikingly similar to Khamul's own.
"Who told you that?" Khamul asked.
"The Lord Sauron, of course," Ancalime said. "He told me that after he gave me the ring. He said I would make an excellent ringbearer."
When Ancalime looked up from admiring the ring, Khamul was nowhere to be seen.
"I'll show him!" Khamul snarled, storming through the palace. "Where in Arda is he?" she roared at a servant.
"W-who, my lady?" the servant stuttered in terror.
"I do not know, my lady," the servant whimpered. "I have not seen him all day."
"I'll find him myself then!" Khamul growled.
She looked in the temple, but found nothing but Agan performing some obscene bloodletting rite. Sauron's chambers were likewise empty. Khamul finally resorted to opening every door she passed, not even bothering to snap out an excuse when she stumbled in on someone.
Finally, she got lucky. She had flung doors open all down a hallway, but nothing. She was about to turn to the next corridor, when she realized there was one door left unopened.
How did I miss that? Khamul thought. Wait…what am I doing here? I should be doing something else.
"You bastard!" Khamul snarled, shutting the magic-induced thoughts out of her mind. "I knew it! What are you up to?"
Flinging the door open, Khamul stormed in. "Sauron!" she yelled. "Where are you?"
"Shut the door," Sauron said, sitting up and gathering a blanket around himself.
"What are you doing?" Khamul asked.
"I don't think you're that ignorant."
"What?" Khamul asked. "Nevermind, I don't care. Why in all Arda did you give a ring to that imbecile?"
"Who?" Sauron asked.
"She's been dead for centuries."
"No! The bitch who's sitting outside, waiting for her brother, who is Isildur's cousin!" Khamul screamed.
"Shut the door," Sauron repeated.
Khamul slammed the door shut.
"Thank you. I gave a ring to Ancalime because I thought she would make a good ringbearer. Do you understand?"
"No, I don't. Because frankly, she's an idiot, and she's more than a little insane. Are you doing this just to catch her brother?"
"No," Sauron said. "Her brother is in Andunie, hiding somewhere."
"She is convinced he's coming to get her."
"Then he'll die," Sauron said. "And I will have an unhappy ringbearer on my hands. Or maybe it will be your job to make sure she doesn't do anything stupid. I do believe I rather like that idea."
Khamul was trembling with rage. "I will not look after a woman so incompetent and stupid," she snarled. "And you still want Isildur for the chief, don't you?" she hissed.
"Khamul, much more of this and I am going to have to kill someone I don't want dead," Sauron said.
"What?" Khamul exclaimed. "You dare threaten me? Fine! Bring it on! I can cut a thousand of you to pieces!"
With a snarl of irritation, Sauron walked over to Khamul. "I am having an affair with the queen," he hissed. "I do not want to kill her. Stop talking now."
"I will say whatever I feel like!" Khamul yelled. "I'll shout out all your plans this second!"
"Do that and I will make you regret it," Sauron said.
"How? I don't think you can! I don't think you can do anything except manipulate people! And you can't manipulate me!"
"I am a Maia," Sauron snarled.
"So you keep telling me! Show me some magic then! Ha! Great sorcerer? I think not!"
The light in the room abruptly dimmed. Thunder rumbled. Lightning burst around Sauron. The Maia's eyes blazed with fire.
"You are my ringbearer, my lieutenant, and my servant," Sauron said, his voice crackling with power. "You will not question me, and you will not disobey me."
"I will not look after incompetents," Khamul said, standing her ground even though the display of raw power was causing her knees to go weak. No, she thought. No fear. This is just him showing off. I'm better than him.
"You will do as you are told."
"I will not!" Khamul growled. "I will follow the orders I deem to be in the best interest of the final goal! And Ancalime is a fool!"
"Then use her to trap your Andunie lord!" Sauron roared. "Find a use for her! I have chosen her, and you will accommodate her!"
Unable to think up a suitable rebuttal, Khamul glared fiercely at Sauron, then turned the glare of utter malice on Miriel, who was sitting up in the bed, looking terrified, before storming out of the room.
"I see you had an altercation with our lord," Vorea said as Khamul stomped towards the garden.
"I did," Khamul said.
"It did not go well."
"He's having an affair with the queen, he's given a ring to that mindless blob, and he can actually do magic."
"I see," Vorea said, nodding. "The ring I suspected ever since I saw the woman. She has an aura that is intriguing. I would like to meet her brother."
Khamul spat, snarling curses under her breath.
"Sauron is a mighty sorcerer of legend. I had no doubts about his magical ability. However, the affair with the queen has taken me quite by surprise. Are you sure of it?"
"They were both naked and in bed together," Khamul said. "Yes, I'm sure."
Vorea nodded slowly. "I think I understand," she said. "Sauron is giving the queen some escape from Pharazon in exchange for her not aiding the Faithful. Or perhaps turning them in, though I doubt that."
"I don't care what he's doing," Khamul said. "I just can't stand this!"
"The gates are opening," Vorea whispered.
The gates of the palace swung wide and a lone horseman rode in. The horse nearly collapsed as it passed under the gate, but the rider leapt off and dashed towards Ancalime.
"Morion!" she exclaimed in delight.