22. She Who Arises in Might
"How did the battle go?" Morion asked, hardly glancing up from a stack of papers.
"Horribly," Khamul spat, shrugging off her cloak and throwing it over a chair.
"Would you care to elaborate on that?"
"How old is Araphor?"
"Exactly. He was only eighteen when this whole damn thing started, but he still kept us out of the North Downs. We were a mile away from Fornost!"
"We've been over this many times. What happened now?"
"Cirdan joined him and pushed us back to the Old Forest. There're some Cardolan people hiding out there, but we'll soon see them off."
Morion looked up sharply. "Cirdan? He joined them?"
"The elves are joining the Men to push us back."
"How goes the siege in Imladris?"
"Fine, as far as I know."
"As far as you know?"
Khamul shrugged. "Cala hasn't returned, and I get an orc now and then telling me that nothing's happening."
"Have you gotten an orc recently?"
"Then maybe you should go see what's going on."
"Maybe I will!" Khamul snapped. "But you'll be hard pressed to find another commander for your army! Or do you want to lose to Isildur's brood?"
"Vorea!" Morion called.
"Yes, sir?" the one-eyed warrior asked, walking into the room.
"Khamul's going on a trip to Imladris. Can you take over command of the army?"
"I believe so, sir."
"Good. Apparently I can find another commander," he told Khamul, who ground her teeth and seethed.
In less than an hour she was on a horse and heading for Imladris. "Come on, you flea-bitten nag!" she shouted, slapping the reins. "Faster! I need to get back before anything happens!"
Vorea'll probably win the war, she thought furiously. Sauron'll make her lieutenant. They'll all forget me.
Ah, what do I care? Sauron'll fall one day, and so will all the others. Morion's made himself a target as king of Angmar. Sorry, Witch-King of Angmar. Apparently they don't take kindly to his magic.
The horse sped across the land. It was one of the ensorcelled horses from Vorea's land. It could go without food or water or rest for days and days, and in seemingly no time at all, Khamul saw the familiar forest that housed the hidden haven of Imladris.
I wonder if Glorfindel's there, she thought as she slowed the horse. He might be. He might even be aiming an arrow at me now. Well, he'll be in for a nasty shock then.
There was an abundance of spider webs, but Khamul just brushed them off. Whatever's in Mirkwood must've spread here, she thought. I just hope I don't run into a giant spider. I don't particularly like them.
As she approached the valley, Khamul drew her sword and watched the woods warily. Something was wrong here. She should've seen orcs by now. Or been ambushed by elves. Had they wiped each other out? And if so, where was Cala? She'd grown rather attached to that former maid.
She got to the top of the road leading down into the valley, and Khamul saw no lines of orcs. The trenches had been filled in, the barricades torn down.
"What in the name of the Valar happened here?" she muttered. There was no smoke coming from Imladris, which stood whole and unharmed. It appeared that the entire valley was deserted.
"My lady!" a ragged voice croaked.
Spinning around, Khamul looked for the speaker and noticed a person lying near a tree. "Cala!" she exclaimed, jumping down from her horse and rushing over.
"Khamul," Cala whispered, blood dripping from her mouth.
"The elves…from Lorien…broke the siege."
Lorien! That bitch Galadriel must've sent them.
"Elrond led them," Cala gasped. "Forgive me…he slipped out…I didn't notice…"
"It's in the past now. Where is everyone?"
"The orcs…dead. But the elves…everyone went to the battle in the west."
"They're going to…" Cala gasped, blood trickling from her mouth. She'd been shot full of arrows. It was a miracle she was still alive. "They're going to catch…Angmar between…Cirdan and Elrond."
Khamul gasped. The perfect strategy. While Angmar's army was fighting Cirdan and Araphor in the west, Elrond and the Lorien elves would come at them from the east."
"We have to warn them," Khamul said.
"Not me. I'm…done for. I only managed to live this long…to warn you. Besides…too late. The elves will be there by…tomorrow. Angmar is…doomed."
"It's not!" Khamul hissed. She might be able to make it to the Old Forest by then… No, who was she kidding? If she could fly, she wouldn't make it in time.
"Angmar is doomed," Cala repeated. "I'm sorry I couldn't…help you."
"You did enough," Khamul said as Cala's body went limp.
Standing up, Khamul brushed a spider web out of her hair and the nasty little pest bit her on the hand.
"Dammit!" she cursed, crushing the creature. It hurt! Ha! How ironic! The swords of the mightiest kings couldn't hurt her, but this little spider could!
Khamul took a step towards her horse, then fell down. The world was spinning. She was horribly dizzy, and she thought she was going to vomit.
You didn't need to kill the spider, came Cala's voice from somewhere in Khamul's head.
What are you doing? the Haradrim demanded. You're dead!
Not as much as you would like. Besides, I was never really alive in the first place. I took over that silly maid's body long before you met her. She was dead for months when we met.
Who are you then? What do you want with me?
Cala, or the thing that had been Cala, laughed. You want to save Angmar, don't you, little Haradrim?
Yes! So let me go and let me save them!
You'll never arrive in time. They're doomed.
Why are you telling me this?
Because I can help you, Cala promised.
I don't think so, Khamul thought. I think you're a liar. I don't know what you are, or were, but I bet it's just a pathetic ghost.
I am Ungoliant, devourer of light. I am the Spider Queen, wounder of Melkor Morgoth. I am power in the darkness. And I am offering you a deal.
Why would a Maia make a deal with me? Khamul asked.
Because Morgoth possesses your leader. Because I can make you the strongest Ringwraith. But most of all, because I can keep Angmar from being crushed.
What're your terms? Khamul asked. I'm not going to go into a trance like Morion, am I?
Ungoliant chuckled. Of course not. Just close your eyes.
They are closed.
No, they're not. Close your eyes. I'll take care of the rest.
You aren't going to take over my mind, are you?
This isn't going to end with me getting killed, is it?
One of my children has bitten you, Ungoliant said. That makes you one of mine. And I do not harm my children.
Well, let's see how long that lasts, Khamul thought and closed her eyes.