After retrieving her sword and locating the horse, which had found its way into an overturned apple stand, Khamul was well out of Armenelos soon enough, urging the horse to its fastest. She couldn't wait to get out of that filthy city. Everyone watching her, staring, gawking. She couldn't take it one moment longer.
"It's bad enough being a woman in these lands," she grumbled. "I've got to be a Haradrim as well. And that's why Sauron's sending me away. I stick out like a fox in a den of wolves."
It rained that night. Khamul pulled up a cloak she'd snatched, but it did little once the rain started pouring. It's going to be a long, wet journey, she thought.
In the morning she was starving, which surprised her. She almost never got hungry except when she hadn't eaten for months. Has it really been that long? she thought. I suppose it has. Everything's been passing by so quickly. Fighting the Numenoreans in Haradwaith, then this.
Khamul steered her horse towards a beautiful marble mansion. They've got to have some food to spare to a poor wanderer, she thought.
Imagine living in a place like that, Khamul thought as she swung down off the horse. The garden was alive with hummingbirds swarming brilliant flowers and carefully-groomed trees.
Khamul knocked once on the door, and was rather surprised when it opened almost immediately.
"Oh!" the maid, a very petite woman, exclaimed and dashed away immediately in fright.
"I didn't think I looked that bad," Khamul muttered, brushing off some twigs and plant matter that clung to her.
A tall, middle-aged woman in a long, austere gown approached, wielding a fireplace poker. "Oh," she said when she saw Khamul.
"That's what your maid said as well," she said.
"What a silly girl," the woman said, tossing the poker aside. "I really should get another one."
"Perhaps a Haradrim."
"Are you offering me your services?" the woman asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Khamul said. "Just a suggestion."
"What do you want?"
"I would like food and water," Khamul said. "I've had a long journey and I'm starving."
"Very well," the woman said. "Provided you tell me of your journey. I always like a good tale."
"I can tell you little," Khamul said. "It is boring, for one thing, and another demands privacy."
"Isn't that always the way of things," the woman said, disgusted. "Come along to the kitchen. The silly maid's likely cowering under the bed upstairs. I will make you some food myself."
The inside of the house was every bit as extravagant as the outside. Crystal chandeliers hung on the ceiling, finely woven carpet covered the marble floors. It was nearly as fine as the king's palace, Khamul thought. Or maybe this is even better.
"Here, there's some bread," the woman said, taking a loaf from the counter and handing it to Khamul. "There's a jug of water on the table, and there's some cheese in the pantry. I will get it for you."
"This is a fine house," Khamul commented. Even the kitchen was spotless, and the cutlery was of finest silver, while the dishes were made of bone china.
"Thank you," the woman said stiffly. "It is my brother's. I am a widow, and so all my lands and possessions went to him. He sold everything I owned to pay his gambling debts. Everything," she whispered. "Down to the ring on my finger."
"That is a shame," Khamul said. "What did you get in exchange?"
The woman snorted. "Shelter in this house, though he treats me more like a governess for his unruly wife and a maid than anything else. He has even forbid me to leave this house! And it was my father's! We grew up here! How dare he!" she hissed. "And I am his elder!"
"It is not right," Khamul said, an idea worming into her mind. "Can you ride a horse?" she asked.
"Yes," the woman said suspiciously. After a moment's hesitation, she sat down at the table across from Khamul. "Tell me," she hissed impatiently. "I cannot bear another moment here!"
"Take a horse and ride to Armenelos," Khamul said, not entirely sure where she was going with this. "Go to the palace and find a woman with only one eye. Her name is Vorea. Tell her Khamul sent you for a ring."
The woman nodded slowly. "Khamul sent me for a ring. You are Khamul, I'm guessing?"
"And this ring, what is it?"
"Something that will give you all you desire," Khamul said.
"Bah! There's no such thing," the woman said.
"It will make you immortal and invulnerable."
"I want neither of those things. I only want to leave this world. I am tired of it, and it is weary of my company as well."
"You want power," Khamul said. "You want to show your brother that you are his better. You want to teach these people a lesson they will never forget. We can give you that. All that and more. Power to punish those whom you wish, reward those whom you favor."
The woman thought about this for a moment, twisting her thin hands. Khamul could see new wrinkles in the woman's face. Before her husband died, she was happy, she thought. But now she is weary with labors that should not be set on one such as her.
"What is your name?" Khamul asked.
"Ceure," the woman said. She looked up and there was a fierce gleam in her eye. "I will go to Armenelos."
Together they left the mansion and rode to the end of the long driveway before parting.
"Remember my words!" Khamul exclaimed.
"I shall never forget them!" Ceure called back. "May the Valar bless you!"
"And they you!" Khamul called back. I doubt there is a single Vala that would bless me, she thought.
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.