24. The Gift
Indeed, it took not years for the fleet to be built, but months. And when Ar-Pharazon and the entire Numenorean army left for the Undying Lands, the king was in the finest mood he had ever been in. Not only was he weeks away from immortality, but his wife had just given birth to a son. His heir.
"Whose do you think it is?" Ceure asked as she and Khamul strolled the Romenna dock.
"Sauron's," Khamul said. "Pharazon can't."
"No," Ceure said, shaking her head. "I meant, Sauron's, or Morion's?"
"You mean Melkor's?" Khamul asked. She shrugged. "I don't know. It was nine months before the child's birth, but that's close to when her and Sauron's affair started."
"The queen is changed," Ceure said.
Khamul nodded. After the incident with Morion/Melkor, Miriel had become little more than a statue of marble. She rarely ate or drank, and never left her room unless she had to. Also, and most eerie to Khamul, the second ringbearer had never seen her blink.
"Ah, it is good to see at least one ship in the docks," Ceure said, nodding at a small fishing boat they passed. "At least someone is bringing in fish."
"Yes, the economy is important when the island's about to be wiped off the map," Khamul agreed. "Hang on," she muttered, stopping and walking back towards the boat. "I know that boat!"
"It's not Numenorean design, see?" Khamul asked, gesturing at the prow. "They always shape theirs like swans or sweeping waves, or something graceful at least. That's a completely Middle-Earth design.
"I still do not understand the significance," Ceure said.
"Unless I am a complete fool, this is the boat Vorea and I took to Numenor," Khamul said, looking closely at the boat.
"There's a note," Ceure said, gesturing to a small piece of paper pinned to the mast.
Snatching it from where it was pinned, Khamul unfolded the note and read it quickly. "By all the Valar," she muttered.
"Is it yours?"
"It certainly is," Khamul said, nodding.
"Who wrote the note?"
"You'll never guess," Khamul said.
"Read it to me," Ceure insisted.
"Read it for yourself," Khamul said, handing Ceure the note.
Lady Khamul –
I do believe that this small fishing vessel is yours. A company of my archers found it buried under years worth of leaves in Hyarrostar. Judging by the Middle-Earth design, the timing, and the placement, I suspect that this is how you and your companion came to Numenor undetected two years ago. I know you for the fiends and servants of Sauron that you are, but I have no grievance with you. On the contrary, you have saved my life, and that is a debt that can only be repaid by the saving of yours by me. Therefore, I warn you that doom approaches on swift wings. Ar-Pharazon's folly will not go unpunished by the Valar. They will strike down Numenor swiftly. Immortal you may be, I do not know. But I do know that all who remain on Numenor the thirteenth day after the king and his fleet have left will be utterly destroyed. Do not question how I know this, only that I know. Leave Numenor while you still can.
"Elendil," Ceure whispered.
Khamul nodded. "Imagine that," she said.
"When did the king leave?"
"Twelve days ago."
"Twelve?" Ceure gasped. "Do you believe him?"
Khamul considered this. The only possible reason Elendil would have to lie was if he and his followers were planning a coup on that day. It would do well to have Sauron's protectors out of the city by then. But Elendil could not hope to win against a Maia, no matter how powerful his army was. He would be crushed.
"Yes," she said. "I believe him."
"What will we do?"
"Return to the palace, tell Sauron, and then get out of here," Khamul said, turning around and walking with quick strides back to the palace. Show no panic, she told herself. Don't let on that you know anything. Just keep walking. Show no panic. Show no fear.
"Sauron!" she yelled, throwing open the doors to the temple.
"I'm glad I'm the only one here," Sauron said. "Or else you might have caused a riot. What's going on?"
"Read this," Khamul said, handing him the note Elendil had sent her.
"Ah, he is a most perceptive fellow," Sauron said.
"Numenor will be destroyed tomorrow?"
"Were you going to tell us?" Khamul asked.
"I didn't see a reason to," Sauron said. "The towers will come crumbling down, the people will die, the land will be a barren wasteland for eternity. But we will all be fine."
"I do not like this," Khamul said. "The Valar know you are here, yes?"
"Indeed, that is true."
"Then why would they send a calamity that you could survive?" Khamul asked. "Answer me that. Why would they let you, the creator of this doom, walk away untouched?"
Sauron did not have an answer for that. He opened his mouth, but then closed it again. "You are right," he said at last.
Khamul smiled. "And what will you do?" she asked.
"I must stay here," Sauron said. "If I leave, Numenoreans will escape by the hundred. They will flee in a mass panic. I cannot have that."
"But the Valar…"
"Speak to me tomorrow at dawn," Sauron said. "I will tell you everything."
"Shouldn't we leave before then?"
"No," Sauron said. "I know that Elendil and his sons are in Armenelos right now. They will have to commandeer a ship in order to escape. Stop them."
Khamul nodded. "Kill them," she said, nodding.
Later that day, Khamul gathered all the ringbearers together. She paced back and forth nervously, while trying desperately to seem calm and relaxed.
"Numenor will be destroyed tomorrow," she said.
"What?" Vorea gasped. Ancalime's eyes widened dramatically.
"I don't know when, but it will be sometime tomorrow," Khamul said. "We are all going to go to the docks in a moment to watch for Elendil and his sons."
"Why are they here?" Ceure asked.
"I don't know," Khamul said. "But Romenna Harbor is their only way out. There is only one boat there that I saw; the fishing boat we will all be taking out. It's very small, but I think we can make it. And when whatever happens that's going to happen, I want you all to stay calm, and pull on those oars like your lives depend on it!"
"Will they?" Morion asked.
Khamul shrugged. "The Valar intend for this disaster to destroy Sauron, so in all likelihood that means its powerful enough to destroy us as well."
Grim faces all around. No one liked having to prolong escape from almost certain doom.
"Elendil and his sons must be killed," Khamul said, looking from face to face. "Understand?"
"Indeed," Vorea said, nodding.
"One last thing," Khamul said. "Tomorrow I need to return to the palace at dawn. Morion's in charge if nothing's happening. If something happens, then listen to Vorea."
The five ringbearers took their positions all along the dock, walking up and down, watching for anyone, particularly if they were eight feet tall.
Darkness fell, and Khamul redoubled her vigilance. It's perfect time for them to escape, she thought. Any moment now they're going to come sneaking around, and then I'll gut them like fish!
"I don't see anything," Ancalime whispered as she passed Khamul.
"That's because there's no one out there," Khamul hissed.
"It seems that this would be the time for them to escape though."
"Maybe they have a boat anchored elsewhere," Khamul muttered.
"No," Vorea said. "I checked with Sauron's spies. There is no other ship for miles and miles around. Spies are stationed all along the useable coastline. Elendil would know that."
"And he also knows that we'd be here," Khamul snarled. "And he knows he can't defeat us."
"Perhaps he will be taking his chances," Vorea said.
"I'd take my chances with Sauron's spies myself."
Vorea shrugged, though no one could see it in the darkness.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.