4. Parting Ways
With a little work, and a lot of roaming the land, the nine ringbearers finally had set up a building large enough to accomadate them all.
"It's not very pretty, but it's warm," Ceure said, warming her hands by the fire.
"And it's shelter against that," Khamul said, gesturing outside where a fierce blizzard raged.
"So we're safe now," Morion said. "And we've got shelter. I think the question that's on everyone's mind is 'what to do now'?"
"Wait?" Khamul guessed.
Morion nodded. "It has been five years since the victory of the Last Alliance. Five years since the fall of Sauron. It has not been forgotten. It will take centuries for Middle-Earth to be lulled into a state of content."
"And then we strike," Aica hissed, tossing a knife and catching it by the handle, the blade gleaming.
"Exactly," Morion said. "In the meantime, we need to travel to the greatest powerrs in these realms and sow a bit of havoc in them."
Khamul grinned. "Make things not work as smoothly as some might like?" she guessed. "Instigate a small rebellion? Spread dissent among the people?"
Morion nodded. "Vorea, if you would travel to Gondor, I think you would fit in best there."
"Aye, I would," Vorea said. "But I would still stick out. Better to have a Numenorean go, I think."
"That would be me," Ceure said with a sigh. No one even thought about Ancalime. "I doubt another old lady would be noticed there."
"And then we need someone in Arnor," Morion said, glancing around. "Any volunteers?"
"Are you saying any volunteers, or any competant volunteers?" Aica asked. "We'd sure join up," she said, gesturing to her brother and herself, "but I don't know if you'd want us."
"I think you would fit right in in Arnor," Morion said. "If you could depart as soon as possible, all three of you, it would be beneficial to have someone in these lands from the beginning."
"Got it," Aica said.
"I understand," Ceure said, nodding.
"And what about the rest of us?" Khamul asked. "Any plans for us, eh?"
"No, not really," Morion said. "We're neither elves nor dwarves so we can't do any spying on them."
Khamul sighed. "Years," she predicted. "I'll spend years here, wasting away until I do become a wraith."
"Things may change," Morion said.
"No, they won't. This is the golden age of those kingdoms. We aren't going to find anything for centuries at least."
"Then we'll get to know Forodwaith quite well."
Years and years passed. It was a terrible time for Khamul, who would spend months wandering the lands of Forodwaith, much as she had in Mordor, but finding nothing but a barren wasteland. One time she tracked a party of dwarves from their stronghold in the Misty Mountains all the way to near Moria, but learned nothing profitable from it.
"I can't take this anymore!" she exclaimed one morning, leaping to her feet and throwing on her cloak. "I need to get out of here!"
"Where are you going?" Morion asked.
"What year is it and who's king where?"
"It is the year one hundred and forty something, Anardil reigns in Gondor, and Valandil is still the king of Arnor."
"This is madness!" Khamul exclaimed. "There must be something to bring about the end of these lands!"
"Do not do anything rash," Morion hissed.
"I don't care," Khamul snarled, walking out of the building.
She trudged across Forodwaith for days, months, maybe even years, until finally she stood at the foothills of Gundabad, the northernmost Misty Mountain. Who controls it now? she wondered. The dwarves, who revere it as sacred, or the orcs? Either way, I doubt they'll be friendly.
Hesitating only a moment, Khamul looked further to the east and strode away toward the mysterious lands of eastern Middle-Earth.
The world was still recovering from the Last Alliance and Khamul encountered no outposts, no soldiers, not even a single caravan. It was as if she was walking through a world in which she was the only person.
When the Lonely Mountain was a distant memory, Khamul sat down on a small rock and looked around.
"Well," she muttered, "it seems I've come a long way."
It was an understatement of the grandest proportions. Her legs did not ache, she was not hungry nor thirsty, and yet she had walked for thousands of miles. And all without rest? Khamul considered this. Yes, it had been all without rest. Her anger and pent-up frustration had fueled her mammoth walk.
"And where shall I go from here?" Khamul mused, looking this way and that. With a shrug, she stood up again and continued walking towards the east.
She entered a land where the wind blew fiercly across flat plains, but she passed through that, drawing her black cowl up over her head. Then the land became desolate, with not a stir in the air. There was nothing living here, for there was no water nor plants of any sort. It was a terrible land, and utterly deserted, and Khamul found that she liked the emptiness of it.
Having long ago lost count of the days she had been gone, Khamul had no idea how long it had been since her departure when she saw the next living person. In this uttermost east, there was no change of seasons. Nothing changed here save for the sun and the moon rising and setting behind a layer of dusty clouds.
Nevertheless, in this most unlikely of places, Khamul ran across a man alone in the wasteland. He was crouched over the dirt, which seemed more than a little strange to Khamul.
"You there!" she shouted, trying to get a better look at what he was doing. "What in the name of the Valar are you doing?"
The man looked up. He had the look of someone who has lost something dear to their heart. Tears streaked his face, the only moisture for miles and miles. He looked like a broken soul.
Dangerous, Khamul thought, letting her hand fall to rest on her sword. Grief-stricken folk don't know how to take a friendly comment.
"I mean no harm to you," the man said. He had a strange way of talking. It irritated Khamul. There was also an unplaceable accent in his voice, and despite all her travels she could not determine from where the man had come from.
"I don't care," Khamul said. "If you meant harm, I'd cut you down where you knelt. What are you doing?"
"Mourning the loss of this great land," the man said, looking around.
"Oh, you're insane," Khamul said. "I'm so sorry I didn't notice immediately. I'll just leave you be then. Don't want to disturb your mad reveries."
"No!" the man shouted, throwing himself around her knees. "Please, I beg of you! Don't leave me here! I can't take it anymore! All I see is wasteland! This is not the land I was born in! It is a terror! A sham! It is a wasteland!"
"What'd it look like when you were born here?" Khamul asked. He must be insane. Who or what could possibly live in a place like this?
"A green land," the man whispered, his eyes glazing over slightly. "A land of forests and rushing rivers. It was a land to die for."
"Likely that's just what happened," Khamul said. "And then, just like with the Brown Lands, it rotted from the battles."
"I do not know what happened," the man said. "I have been away for many long years."
Khamul snorted. "Clearly you don't know who you're talking to. I've been wandering this land since the Second Age."
"What?" the man asked.
"Second Age? You know that? The one that came after the First Age?"
"I do not understand."
Khamul sighed. "Look, I don't have time to trade words with a madman. Let go of my leg or I'll cut off your arms."
"Take me with you," the man pleaded.
"I don't know where I'm going, I don't know how long you'd survive, and dead bodies are inconvenient."
"You do not have to worry about me. I have lived here for six months."
Khamul raised an eyebrow. "How?" she asked.
The man shrugged. "The Valar," he said, looking up.
"Take me with you!"
Khamul sighed. "I will regret this the rest of my days," she muttered. "Get up. Come on. I don't know where I'm going, but if we run into trouble I can always throw you into a dragon's mouth."
"Thank you!" the man gasped. He might've hugged her, but Khamul sidestepped away and shot him a warning glare.