"Khamul killed Narmacil II," Morion said as he glanced over the letter. "Ceure doesn't exactly seem thrilled by it."
"I think she likes Gondor more the longer she stays in it," Ringe said.
"It probably reminds her of Numenor," Morion said. He frowned. "Maybe I shouldn't've left her there this long."
"She isn't doing any harm."
"Not yet. When the time comes to destroy Gondor though…"
"She's still on our side. She won't protest."
"I'm not so sure," Morion said, setting the letter down. "Ah well, at least Khamul's taken Gondor's eye off Arthedain."
"There was another raid by Araval this morning, Vorea reported," Ringe said. "They torched a grainery and killed some orcs."
Ringe frowned, trying to remember. "Thirteen, I think."
"Damn, I need the orcs. There's a pretty much endless supply of goblins, and the Men keep flowing across the mountains looking for riches, but the orcs… There aren't as many of them as I'd like."
"Araval's trying to recolonize Cardolan."
Morion chuckled. "Some settlers are in for nightmares then. The Barrow-Wights there should take care of that idea quickly."
Morion was in a good mood. Ringe smiled. His lover was far too tense lately, mainly to do with Gondor and Arthedain's renewed contacts. But with this news from Khamul, it was as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Yanta and Metima are roaming the land, looking for elves," Ringe said. "They haven't found Feanor though."
"And probably never will," Morion said. "I think Khamul knows where he is, but she won't tell anyone." There was bitterness in his voice.
As long as the elf was still wandering Arda, Morgoth punished him, Ringe knew. He wished he could do something either about the elf or about Morgoth. The elf seemed the more likely option.
"You shouldn't be mad at Khamul," Ringe said. Even though she was difficult to get along with some – most – of the time, he pitied her, though he knew she would cut his head off if she ever suspected. She was in love with Morion, who didn't know, and certainly wouldn't reciprocate.
"Why not?" Morion asked, raising an eyebrow.
He couldn't tell him. Khamul would kill him. But… Maybe Morion wouldn't get so mad at Khamul then. "Khamul loves you," Ringe said.
Morion blinked several times. "What?"
"She loves you. She doesn't want to admit it, and she certainly doesn't want to tell you, but she loves you."
"She can't. She…she's always yelling at me! The barely-disguised insubordination! The thinly-veiled insults! How could she possibly love me? Why do you think this?"
"She told me," Ringe said.
"Well…not in those terms. But I could tell."
Morion rolled his eyes. "You thought wrong," he said. "She hates me because she wanted to be chief ringbearer. She doesn't think I'm doing the job right."
Ringe sighed. "All right," he said. "Maybe she doesn't. She seemed awful mad about us though. Even worse than…" He didn't want to say Aica's name. It still hurt that they had gone their separate ways. She had been his only friend for so many years. And now she wouldn't even talk to him. It had been years since they'd said a word to each other.
Morion shrugged. "Khamul never liked me, and she never liked you. Why should she like us when we're together? And besides, maybe she has Views."
"Views on what?"
"You know what I'm talking about. Views on us."
"I think she does. I think she doesn't like it because she's in love with you."
Morion sighed. Sometimes Ringe could be very thick. "She's not in love with me," he said. "She's jealous and spiteful. If there's another large battle anytime soon, stay clear of her. She'll probably take the chance to cut off your head."
"She wouldn't do that," Ringe muttered, but he wasn't so sure.
"My king, the Wainriders have moved their army to the plains of Dagorlad."
"Appropriate," Calimhetar said as he strapped on his breastplate. "That was the beginning of the end for Sauron, and so shall it be for the Easterlings."
His general nodded. He was a good man, a descendent of King Telumhetar Umbardarcil himself. "The full army is rallied. When will we be moving out?"
"Within the hour I hope."
"Yes, my king. Will you be saying farewell to your mother?"
Calimhetar shook his head. "She's locked herself in Rath Dinin with my father's body. She won't let anyone see her."
"A shame, my king."
"Vengeance will hopefully relieve her pain. At least, it will mine."
Once more soldiers of Gondor in shining mail rode out of Minas Anor and across the Pelannor Fields, heading toward the great battle plain.
"Come on, you lazy bastards!" Khamul cursed, kicking one Easterling in the ribs. "You drunk bastards!"
"It was a great victory," Ulfang said, though his face was oozing worry and he was wringing his hands.
"It was a victory against a bunch of wine merchants! Get up! I've known better goblins than you! Get up, damn the lot of you! Calimhetar's coming and you're all passed out drunk!"
"He won't be coming for quite some time," Ulfang said. "He will be in mourning."
"Don't give me that! Get these men up and moving about within the hour or I'll have your head! He's coming, dammit!"
Ulfang sighed and promised the Nazgul that he would have the men up. Oh yes, he thought. Calimhetar's coming. Oh yes. Calimhetar's coming as soon as pigs fly.
"I've known Easterlings," Khamul told him as Ulfang roused his men. "I've known many good Easterlings. And not one of them was as stupid as your men!"
"They like celebration."
"Well I hope they like having their heads cut off because that's what's going to happen to them if they stay drunk any longer!"
It took almost the entire day to get the Easterlings up and sober. And then night came and they all drank themselves half to death again.
"This is futile!" Khamul groaned.
The next day was cloudy and threatened rain. Khamul hoped it wouldn't storm and flood the nearby marshes. The last thing she wanted was the unburied dead of the Last Alliance floating around her.
"Are they conscious?" she asked acidly as Ulfang trotted over to her.
"Most of them," Ulfang reported. "A few are still sleeping."
"So Calimhetar's only going to catch us mostly drunk then? Oh, that's good. That's very good indeed."
"We moved camp precisely in case of the young king attacking us," Ulfang said. He gestured to the surrounding area. "I don't see anyone."
"Oh shut up," Khamul said. "It's only a matter of time. You better have your men in outstanding shape tomorrow."
"I will, I will," Ulfang said.
"That's what you said yesterday!"
"Everything will be fine by tomorrow."
Khamul rolled her eyes. "That's Gondor over there," she said, pointing toward Mindolluin. "That's not that far from here. Calimhetar can reach…oh dear Valar."
"What is it?" Ulfang asked, looking around frantically.
"They're attacking!" Khamul yelled, gesturing wildly toward the hill on which a line of cavalry had appeared. "Get up, you bastards! Calimhetar's here!"
It was, of course, an utter and complete slaughter. How could it have been anything but? The Easterlings were killed as they slept or staggered around trying to find their weapons or armor. Ulfang got his head whacked off by the vengeful king himself.
Every single Easterling was killed.
But not Khamul.
"Stupid, drunken bastards," she muttered as she jumped on her horse and drove it in the direction of the Dead Marshes. She hoped she could make it through without having an unpleasant encounter with someone she'd killed in the war.
The horse disliked going into the marshes, but Khamul managed to convince it that going into the swamp was the only thing that was going to stop her from kicking it, so it finally relented and plunged into fetid water.
In only a few minutes Khamul was soaked to the skin, but she didn't mind so long as they were moving away from the slaughter. None of the soldiers had noticed her running away, and she hoped that even if they did, they wouldn't bother pursuing one lone warrior across a dangerous, cursed land.
The major question was what to do next. Ulfang and his tribe were dead, what was left? Khamul wasn't certain. She couldn't go back to Angmar. Calimhetar looked like just the sort of person who would marshal an army and send it to Arthedain's aid. No. He needed more trouble.
The horse managed to find patches of dry land, but just as Khamul was beginning to dry off, it would plunge back into a pool. One was so deep it went to her chest and the horse floundered, not feeling the bottom of the water.
"Dammit!" Khamul cursed as the horse threw her off and into the water. It scrambled to land and waited for her to swim over. As she did, something grabbed her wrist.
The bodies! Looking into the water, Khamul saw faces. So many faces. Men, elves, orcs, even a few dwarves. They were all watching her with wide, dead eyes and pale faces.
Jerking her hand out of the water, terrified to see what might be gripping it, Khamul rolled her eyes as she pulled out a bunch of waterweed.
"I'm imagining things," she muttered, hauling herself onto shore. The eyes followed her though. They weren't imaginary.
Sauron's magic must've leaked out of Mordor and into the water, Khamul decided, mounting her horse. There's nothing peculiar about that at all. I bet it happened all the time in Beleriand. There's nothing dangerous about them at all. They're just faces, not bodies.
Khamul didn't rest easy until the faces were gone and the swamp water was swamp water again. It had been an especially uneasy night as small flames had sprung up across the marsh. They seemed to be pointing in directions, though Khamul didn't follow them. She'd have been mad if she did.
"Ah, dry land," she muttered as a line of brown dirt appeared on the horizon early the next morning. "I'm looking forward to that." But she was still in enemy territory. There was no way she could return to Rhovanion and recruit more Easterlings. Gondor's army would be keeping a very close watch on them from now on.
So where to now?
Khamul smiled. If Calimhetar had taken his entire army to deal with Ulfang, then he'd left certain places unguarded. Certain places he really shouldn't have.
The Haradrim were going to rise 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.