9. The Necromancer of Dol Guldur
Khamul and Gandalf traveled together for a time, but Khamul found the old man so unnerving they parted ways after just a few days.
It was like being around a dragon that was pretending to be a sheep, Khamul thought. It might have a sheepskin thrown over its head, but it's still a dragon.
"We will meet again, I think," Gandalf said.
"Everyone seems to be making prophecies about when I'll meet them again," Khamul said. "Not never then? We'll see each other again? On the opposite sides of the field, I assume."
"Perhaps," Gandalf said.
It was frustrating meeting these fascinating, but disturbing, people yet knowing that one day she would either run them through, or they would her.
Without any clear direction, Khamul followed where her feet wanted to take her. Apparently, her feet wanted to take her across the Misty Mountains and into Greenwood.
"I don't know if this is such a good idea," Khamul muttered, eyeing the forest nervously.
She traveled under the tall trees for many days, encountering no elves. Have they abandoned the land? she thought. Have the last of them finally passed from the shores? Is Glorfindel the only one left?
"Halt and state your purpose!" a clear voice rang out, disrupting Khamul's thoughts.
She grinned. It had been too long since she heard that voice. "Vorea!" she exclaimed. "You don't recognize me?"
"Khamul!" the one-eyed ringbearer exclaimed, hurrying over and embracing her friend. "You have been gone for ages!"
"So it seems," Khamul said. "I trust it's still the Third Age though?"
Vorea nodded. "We have much to catch up on," she said.
"Yes, but first of all, what are you doing here?"
"Sauron has called us."
"Eh? He's alive?" A sudden knot of fear twisted her stomach. Did he know about the elf? Probably not, Khamul guessed. Sauron would have more important things to do than look for treachery from his ringbearers.
"Alive, mostly well, and has established a base here, in Greenwood, right under the elves' very noses!" Vorea said. "We're all here. Sauron said you'd be along shortly, but I feared that he was mistaken."
"Apparently not," Khamul said. "What year is it?" she asked.
Vorea looked pained. "What year did you leave us?" she asked.
"Two hundred something, I think," Khamul said with a wave of her hand. "What is it? Three hundred? Four hundred?"
"It is the year 1048 of the Third Age," Vorea whispered.
Khamul stopped in her tracks. "What?" she gasped.
"A thousand and forty-eight years have passed since the Last Alliance," Vorea said.
"No! That's madness! I can't have been gone that long!" Khamul protested, her mind reeling. "Who rules in Arnor? I know it's Hyarmendacil in Gondor, may he be stricken down by the vilest plague."
"It is no longer Arnor," Vorea said. "It split into three kingdoms after Earendur, the tenth king."
"So Valandil finally died, eh?" Khamul muttered.
"He died around fifty years after you left," Vorea said.
Khamul nodded. "These three kingdoms, which is the strongest?"
"Arthedain, ruled by Mallor."
"I see. And the other two?"
"Cardolan is an ally of Arthedain's after the initial bitterness wore off," Vorea said. "Rhudaur is estranged from the other two kingdoms. It is the northernmost kingdom, and the one Sauron thinks we have the best chance of taking."
Khamul nodded. She was nodding at lot, she noticed. It was difficult to take all this in.
"This Hyarmendacil," she said. "What number king is he?"
"It is not so bad," Vorea said. "Morion has told us that he will be the last great king of Gondor. In his words, 'Gondor has reached its zenith; it will now beginning its fall'."
"Poetry," Khamul sneered. "Right, so where is Sauron?" she asked, looking around.
Vorea smiled and kept walking. In a few moments they came to where a barren hill rose above the thinning trees. A squat black fortress covered the hill. It seemed to ooze dark power. Khamul grinned. It was Sauron all right.
"He calls himself the Necromancer of Dol Guldur," Vorea said. "He does not want to come into conflict with the great powers of the world, especially Lorien and the wood elves."
"Wood elves are weak," Khamul sneered.
"They are strong in great numbers. And they know the forest well. We are not as familiar with it as they are."
Khamul shrugged. "How do we get in?" she asked, looking at the fortress.
"Ah! The hero returns!" a familiar voice called out as Khamul and Vorea walked into a throne room that looked suspiciously like the one in Barad-dur.
"I should say the same of you," Khamul said to the thin, pale man who sat on the throne. It was Sauron, but it was Sauron greatly weakened.
"You wouldn't have, perchance, stumbled across the One Ring, have you?" Sauron asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No," Khamul said.
"Where have you been then?"
"Out in the east," Khamul said. "Beyond where anyone has ever gone before."
"There is nothing but wasteland out there," Sauron said.
"And there was nothing here either," Khamul said. "Though I can tell that's changed."
"Rhudaur is ripe for attack," Morion said. He seemed paler as well, Khamul noticed.
"Yes," Sauron said, tapping his fingers against the arms of the throne. "But not by me, and not by any of you either."
"Eh?" Yanta asked. "Who will destroy it then?"
"A king," Sauron said, thinking. "A king of a realm that no one will dare attack. A realm that we control utterly. Ah! I've got it!"
"What is it?" Metima asked.
"Do we get to rule it?" Yanta asked.
"Angmar," Sauron said with a wicked smile.
"What's that?" Aica asked.
"It is a realm we shall build," Sauron said. "Near Gundabad, I think. It is in the hands of the orcs once more, and they will be accepting to my demands."
"So we're going to build an invincible, unassailable country?" Khamul asked.
"Ah, it has been too long since I've heard your doubting words, lieutenant," Sauron said. "Yes, we will build it. It will not be invulnerable – no country is – but it will be feared throughout all Arda."
"And who will rule it?" Yanta asked once more, grinning.
"One of you, obviously," Sauron said. "Someone who can command dread."
Khamul smiled. There were few better at sending peasants screaming in terror than her. Although Vorea did come close.
"Morion, you are leader of the ringbearers, and so you shall be king of Angmar," Sauron said.
Khamul glowered in displeasure. Hardly fair, she thought. I hope Glorfindel skewers Sauron, or that Gandalf incinerates him. He's only just come back and already he's making my life worse.
"Khamul, you shall continue to serve him as his lieutenant," Sauron instructed. "Terrorize the people of Rhudaur. Kill the Dunedain that live there. Destroy any blood of Numenor you find."
"That's what I do," Khamul said. "I live to serve."
"Indeed you do," Sauron said.
Arrogant bastard, Khamul thought bitterly.
"Angmar," Vorea whispered. "A name that shall shake the foundations of Middle-Earth."
"I think you're giving his idea too much credit," Khamul said.