"Eldacar's got his throne back," Morion said as he read Ceure's letter. "Castamir's dead by the king's hand, but his sons have escaped to Umbar."
"Umbar," Khamul snarled. "The city that should never have been rebuilt."
"Yes, I'm sure the Gondorians feel similar now. And because Castamir was master of ships no one can pursue them. The Haradrim are sheltering him, you'll be pleased to know."
Khamul shrugged. "They're mostly eastern Haradrim," she said. "They moved into the western lands after my people were slaughtered."
Morion set the letter aside. "And how goes the war with Arthedain?"
"Fine," Khamul said. "Although it would go a lot better if Cardolan was simply wiped out."
"I'm working on that," Morion said.
"Got an idea, do you?"
"Yes, and I think it's quite good. I'll tell you when I'm done with it."
There was that coldness again. In the early days he would've eagerly shown her what he was working on. Not so now. Not as Morgoth tightened his grip on his slave.
What could Khamul do about that though? Nothing. Morgoth was a Vala, even if he was fallen. Khamul couldn't even stand up to a Maia.
"Anything else of interest?" she asked. "How's Sauron doing in his little forest hideout?"
"He's successfully terrorizing the elves," Morion said. "But beyond that, very little. He doesn't want to attract the attention of the mighty."
"And who are these so-called mighty?" Khamul asked.
"Galadriel, Cirdan, Gandalf, and Saruman," Morion said. "Galadriel and Cirdan you know, but Gandalf and Saruman, I doubt."
Gandalf Khamul knew, and had in fact given him that name. But she wasn't about to tell that to Morion. This Saruman though…who was he?
"Who're the last two?" Khamul asked.
"Gandalf and Saruman are two of the order of the Istari. Wizards. There are five of them, but two have gone into the east, and the last, Radagast, is really no threat at all."
"I think I've heard of Gandalf before, but who's Saruman?"
"Saruman is the head of the order," Morion said. "Saruman the White."
The man from the Gladden Fields! He'd felt strangely powerful for an old man! And he'd been wearing white! Khamul had thought he'd been doing more than looking for buried treasure like the Elendilmir. But if he was a friend of Gandalf's – sworn enemy of Sauron – then why would he be looking for the One Ring?
"Is he powerful?" Khamul asked.
"Very," Morion said. "Like Sauron, he and Gandalf are Maiar."
Khamul hissed. No wonder she'd felt like she was back in Smaug's presence! Gandalf was a Maia! It was a good disguise though. No one would suspect that under the grey cloak and large hat lurked the power of a Maia.
"What do we do about them?" Khamul asked. "Can they be killed?"
Morion smiled. "Unlike our lord, their souls are not bound in a metal band. They are all-too mortal. Stab one through the heart, and he will fall."
"Do you want me to take care of them?"
"You'd fall in an instant," Morion said. "So far they aren't bothering us, but when they do, you can do something about it. Maybe Ungoliant will even help you."
"Is that bothering you?" Khamul asked.
"That Ungoliant's made a bargain with me."
"No, it's not. Why would you think so?"
"I'm not tense," Morion said. "You're imagining things. Go find a chink in Araphor's armor. That should brighten your day."
Something's eating him up, Khamul thought as she walked toward the barracks. Well, if he won't tell me, I won't know. It's not like I could help him anyway. At least, I doubt I'd be able to.
"Come on, you worthless scum!" she shouted, sticking her head into the barracks. "Let's go kill some Dunedain!"
"Your lieutenant is perceptive," Melkor said. "You are tense."
"And why wouldn't I be?" Morion asked. "Ungoliant loose in the world –"
"She is not loose in the world."
"Then what is she? She can act through Khamul!"
Melkor threw back his head and laughed. "She lost control of your lieutenant long ago! Nearly right after she first showed herself with the spiders! Your lieutenant has far more will than you. We have nothing more to fear from Ungoliant."
"What would you know?" Morion demanded. "You've been too busy playing with your new captive."
Melkor smiled. "Yes, I have been busy. And I've enjoyed every minute of it. Like with Luthien. Oh, poor Beren! If only his dear sweet elf told him what we'd done together!" He chuckled. "I doubt history would've treated her so kindly."
"What do I do about Araphor?"
"Oh, so I am more than a troublesome voice in your mind now? You are looking to me for advice?"
"You've fought wars before," Morion said. "I'm skilled in battle, but war…"
Melkor sighed. "Wait it out," he advised. "Time is on your side. Araphor is perhaps the last strong Arthedain king. Wait until a weak king is on the throne, wipe out Cardolan, and fill it with those little creatures you've been concocting."
"And then?" Morion asked. "I can't risk Gondor becoming involved."
"They won't. Arnor and Gondor might as well be on opposite ends of the Sundering Sea for all they talk to each other. Destroy Cardolan, lay siege to Arthedain, strike when there's a weak king, and make sure ties with Gondor are not reconnected."
Morion nodded, making note of the strategy. "I'm becoming like you," he said quietly. "I can feel the darkness, the cruelty."
"Banish it then," Melkor said. "Khamul has banished Ungoliant effectively, even if she doesn't know it."
"Has she slunk back to her cave?"
"Ungoliant would be slavering for blood by now, and I might've obliged her by offering yours. However..." Melkor glanced pointedly out the window where a large spider web could be see across the river. There appeared to be someone trapped in the web.
"You cruel bastard," Morion muttered. "To do that even to the dark elf…"
"Yes, it's horribly cruel. Not half as bad as what I've been doing to Feanor though," Melkor said. "So go back to your world. Fill your hollow heart with warmth," he sneered. "Try and stave off the darkness. It won't work. One day I'll claim you as my own and the Dark Lord will walk the land again!"
"Keep dreaming," Morion muttered as the Land of the Lost faded from his vision.
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.