19. Bargaining With the Devil
Khamul was just about to call for the guards, but Vorea beat her to it.
"Arrest this man!" the third ringbearer called, and the guards in black and silver hurried to obey.
Ignoring a cry from Ancalime, Morion started to draw his sword, but Khamul reached him first, grabbing his arm and twisting it behind his back.
"Remember me?" she hissed.
"Murderer," Morion snarled, trying to escape her grip.
"I don't think so," Khamul said, kicking him to the ground. "Take him to the dungeons," she ordered the guards.
"Yes, my lady," the captain said. After binding Morion's hands behind his back, they dragged him off towards the palace.
"Oh dear," Ancalime whispered, fluttering the fan around her face. "I wonder what he did."
"He's a traitor," Khamul said. "And he's going to die."
"Oh, that'd be a shame," Ancalime said. "He's my twin brother. I do love him so."
"The only reason you're not sharing his fate is because of that ring," Khamul snarled, glaring at the lady.
"If he had a ring, would you still kill him?" Ancalime asked.
"We couldn't," Khamul said. "But there's only one ring left, and it's going to some bastard halfway across the island."
"I could give him my ring."
"No, you couldn't."
"Yes, I could," Ancalime said. She tried to remove the ring, but it wouldn't come off. "Oh, it's stuck," she said.
"What a shame," Khamul said. She walked back towards the palace, brimming with pride. What will Sauron think of this? she thought triumphantly.
It was not Sauron, however, who she ran into first. It was Agan. The photophobic priest was hiding in the shadows near the temple and scurried out as Khamul walked back.
"I had the lord placed in a different dungeon," he said.
"Eh? Why?" Khamul asked. She had nothing but contempt for Agan. He reeked of blood and guts, he was always lurking in shadows, and he was a murdering coward.
"The common dungeons are very full at the moment," Agan said.
"So this guy's special in some way?" Khamul asked. "We can't just shove him in with the rest of the trash?"
"An important day in our religion is coming up," Agan said. "This young lord is the perfect sacrifice."
Khamul had a feeling that Agan was hiding something, but she didn't really care what it was. Likely it was nothing more than a partiuclarly gruesome rite the priest was going to perform.
"Bring it up with Sauron, not me," Khamul said. "So long as he's behind bars, I'm happy."
"That is the problem," Agan said. "The great lord is very busy; I do not wish to disturb him with this. Therefore, I would ask a small favor of you."
"What is it?"
"Do not tell the great Lord Sauron that the lord of the Andunie has been captured," Agan said.
Khamul frowned. Agan was nothing if not a fawning toady, so why should he suddenly want to keep secrets from one he regarded as his god? Still…if this was going to make trouble for Sauron, Khamul would be only too glad to watch with glee.
"Sure thing," Khamul said. "I never saw nor heard a thing."
Agan smiled and bowed. "Thank you, great lady," he said. "I appreciate this. If you are ever in need of my help, simply ask."
Khamul nodded and walked off. Like I'll ever need his help, she thought. I wonder what he's up to though. I doubt he's double-crossing us, so why does he want to keep news of Morion's imprisonment from Sauron?
As she walked the corridors, Khamul sighed in exasperation and hurried down a flight of stairs towards the direction of Ancalime's voice.
"I told you already, I can't let you out," the lady was saying.
"Ancalime! They have no right to do this!"
"You must have done something though! The king is just!"
"No, he's a fool! Ancalime, please! I beg of you! Let me out!"
"Visiting time is over," Khamul said, forcibly removing Ancalime's hands from the cell bars and pushing her towards the door.
"I want to see him one last time," Ancalime said.
"You can watch the execution like everyone else," Khamul said. "Now leave! Go on! Get out!"
Once the lady of the court had left, Khamul checked the lock on Morion's cell door. The lord glared out at her from behind the small barred window.
"You foul wraith," he snarled. "First you destroy Umbar, now you intend to rot the heart of Numenor."
"Yes, I do," Khamul said. "Tell me though, for I'm quite curious. Wraith seems to be the insult of choice when speaking to me and mine. Any particular reason?"
"You cannot be killed," Morion said. "So obviously you are already dead."
Khamul smiled. "Wrong, I'm afraid," she said. "I'm as alive as you are. Though you won't be staying that way for long."
"What has happened to my sister?" Morion asked softly.
"She wears a ring that gives off a feeling of great evil. Where did she come by it?"
"Sauron gave it to her," Khamul said. "She's his ninth ringbearer. I'm the second."
"Who is the first then?"
"Isildur, I think. At least, that's what Sauron wants."
Morion sighed and rested his head against the bars. "My sister is naïve," he said. "She is easily manipulated. You say you are the second ringbearer and the highest at this time. Therefore I beg of you to save my sister. Do not let her become a minion of Sauron's."
"I have no control over that," Khamul said. "If Sauron chose her and she accepted the ring, then it is all decided."
"There must be something you can do," Morion begged. "Look after her, at least. Please! I beg you!"
"No, I don't see why I should," Khamul said. She turned away. "I'll leave you to your fate," she said. "Contemplate your last hours."
"No, wait!" Morion pleaded.
"What do you want now?" Khamul snarled.
"I have nothing with which to bargain with," Morion said.
"No, you don't. Though," Khamul added, "perhaps you could tell me the names of the Faithful."
"No, I would never do that," Morion said.
"Then what do you want?"
"I…well…I…" Morion seemed to have difficulty articulating whatever it was he wanted to say. He was also blushing.
"What are you trying to say?" Khamul growled, walking right up to the door of the cell.
"If you were to look out for my sister, I would do anything for you," Morion said. "Anything."
"I am not the queen," Khamul snarled, punching Morion through the bars of the window. She heard a crunch and a thud as the lord fell back.
Bastard, she thought, storming out of the cell. To think I'd fall for something like that.