14. Stranger Clad in White
It was a peaceful time of growth and prosperity. Khamul couldn't stand it. She watched Angmar grow and grow and grow. From a single small castle to a mighty fortress, and for the farms enlarge from a few simple patchs to covering the land for miles around.
"I see you're getting restless again," Morion commented as he joined Khamul's pacing around the fortress corridors.
"I'm not restless," Khamul scoffed. "Pacing helps me think."
Morion smiled and nodded knowingly. "What do you think of Angmar?" he asked.
"It's big," Khamul said. "I don't know if that's a good thing, or bad."
"Eh? And why would it be bad?"
"Well, it's just that since it's so big, it's bound to attract some attention."
"The orcs are taking care of that," Morion said. "The only thing Rhudaur knows is that it's losing more scouts to orcs than usual. That's all."
"But one day those scouts will get through and back!"
"We will be ready by then though," Morion said.
Khamul scowled. "Arnor may be split," she said, "but it's still formidable."
"Divide and conquer," Morion said. "We strike at Rhudaur, take it, and then march to Cardolan. With the fall of that kingdom, Arthedain will be alone. It will not be easy to conquer, but it can be done."
"And what about Gondor?"
"I think Gondor will be having troubles of its own by the time we're ready to march," Morion said, a gleam in his eye.
"Ah, you're a seer now!"
"I have a feeling," Morion said.
"Any other feelings?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," Morion said with a smile. "I would like you to go to Dol Guldur. You're getting far too comfortable here."
"I hate this place."
And I also hate Dol Guldur, Khamul thought. There isn't a single good reason to build a fortress right smack between wood elves to the north and Gondorians to the south.
"Why don't you start off…oh…say about nowish?" Morion suggested.
"Any particular message I should deliver to the great Sauron?" Khamul asked, her voice oozing sarcasm.
"No, not really," Morion said. "Just ask him when we should strike at Rhudaur."
"And he'll replay, 'when you're ready'."
"Now who's a seer?"
Twenty minutes later, Khamul was on a horse and hurrying off toward the east, bound for Mirkwood, as it was now being called. Apparently evil things had been coming from the south of the wood, making paths unsafe, eating elves, and the like. Strange, wasn't it? Considering Dol Guldur was in the south of the wood as well.
Khamul shook her head angrily. Idiot elves, she thought. If they could just put two and two together Sauron would be well and truly dead this time, and I wouldn't be at his beck and call.
She smiled at the thought. Abandoning Morion, starting a kingdom of her own in Harad. Rallying the Variags and Haradrim to her banner once more, overthrowing Gondor, executing Hyarmendacil, and then ruling for ten thousand years. Yes, she liked that idea quite a lot. Unfortunately, Khamul thought sourly, that won't be happening anytime soon. So long as Sauron's in charge anyway.
Khamul took her time reaching Dol Guldur. Deciding she'd like to relive a bit of the more glorious past – the past when she wasn't skulking in hills and hiding from elves – Khamul rode past the Gladden Fields, reveling in her perfectly executed trap and slaughter of Isildur and his sons.
If only Valandil had been there as well, she thought cheerfully, grinning with pleasure as she saw that the ground itself still seemed stained with blood.
As she meandered her way through the woods, following the Gladden River, Khamul frowned as a flash of white caught her eye.
"Huh, what's that then?" she muttered. A very large stork, perhaps? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Urging her horse toward the bank of the river, Khamul stood up in the stirrups and peered over at the marsh that had sprung up in the millennium following Isildur's demise.
"Who's there!" she shouted.
An old man stood straight up, glancing this way and that. He looked more than a little like a stork, Khamul thought.
"Who are you?" she asked. The ring she wore exuded fear, but Khamul guessed the man would be terrified of her anyway. It wasn't every day one ran into a Haradrim woman wearing a sword with such confidence.
"Oh, forgive me, great lady," the man said, bowing deeply to Khamul. "I was merely wandering the marsh. Had I seen your approach, I would have declared myself immediately. Indeed, these times are treacherous, and unannounced visitors can be a danger in disguise."
He's got a fair way with words, Khamul thought, but I don't trust him. He's like a snake. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"My home lies many leagues to the south," the man said. "The closest path is through these marshes."
Khamul's eyes narrowed. Was that a glimmer of something she saw hastily tucked into the old man's robes?
"What've you got there?" she growled.
"I know not of what you speak, great lady," the old man said. He took a step backwards, still smiling pleasantly.
"That thing you just hid in your robes," Khamul said. "It was shiny. What is it?"
"I see that it is true then what they say about women and that which sparkles," the man said with an amused chuckle. "It is nothing, great lady. A trifle, nothing more."
A trifle? And I'm a two-headed goat. "What is it?" Khamul snapped.
"A silly thing I have found," the old man said. "You need not concern yourself with it, great lady. Please, do not let me keep you from your destination. The day wears on, and these lands are not safe after night has fallen."
"I'm the reason these lands aren't safe after dark," Khamul growled, spurring her horse to the edge of the river. "Now show me what you found, old man, or I'll leap across this river and cut your head off."
"I think you would find that difficult to do," the old man said, his eyes gleaming dangerously. "Both in the crossing of the river and the taking of my head. But I shall show you, as I think you would know it."
Khamul frowned. What was he talking about?
The old man held up a circlet set with a white stone that shone so brightly it nearly blinded Khamul. Though the circlet was covered in moss and slime, the stone shone pure beneath.
"I've seen that before," Khamul murmured.
"It is called the Elendilmir," the old man said reverently. "I was looking for…other things when I happened upon it."
"What sort of 'other things'?"
"Nothing of importance," the man said. "I shall now be on my way, great lady." He tucked the Elendilmir back into his robes and started to disappear into the long grasses of the marsh.
"Hey!" Khamul called after him. "Who are you anyway? What's your business here?"
"My business is of my own concern!" the old man called back. "And as for my name, you will hear it one day echoing in the palaces of the mighty!"
Bastard, Khamul thought, turning her horse back on the road to Dol Guldur. What was he looking for anyway? The Elendilmir is the crown Isildur was wearing when I shot him… Did he find Isildur's body? What does it matter anyway? The Ring slipped from his finger. That's how I could get a clear shot.
I hope that disgusting old man didn't find the Ring. Much as I despise Sauron, it'd be even worse to serve him. Hopefully that damn piece of metal's floated down the Anduin and into the sea, never to be seen again.
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.