19. The Report
"Things did not go well, I gather?" Morion asked, looking up at the five faces. They shared a common quality among them: a slight or pronounced guilty look. "Khamul, Vorea, you start." He nodded at them. They looked least guilty.
"We burned Gondor's main shipyard in Pelargir," Khamul said. "Then we traveled up the Anduin, burning and pillaging. We almost made it to Minas Tirith."
"And then what happened?"
"Gondor got its act together and wiped the Corsairs out."
Morion nodded. "I expected as much. At least Gondor is greatly weakened."
Khamul and Vorea exchanged a glance.
"It's not?" Morion gasped. "You burned its shipyard!"
"They're already rebuilding it," Khamul said. "They're making a very, very speedy recovery."
Morion sighed. "Yanta?" he asked.
"The Dunlendings had taken over this place called Isengard. From there, I led them on an attack on Edoras, which we took. The king and his sons escaped to the Hornburg, a very strong fortress. The king went a bit mad and would wander around at night, killing Dunlendings. Eventually he froze to death. His sons died as well."
Morion nodded. This was good. Far too good for the expression on Yanta's face. "What happened?" he asked.
"The Dunlendings all got slaughtered by the king's nephew and a bunch of Rohirrim."
"They retook Edoras and are in the process of driving the Dunlendings out of Rohan completely. They're doing a very thorough job of it as well."
"You two?" Morion asked, dreading to know how Aica and Ringe could destroy a plan as good as leading a bunch of blood-hungry, half-crazed orcs on a raid across Eriador.
"Everything was going great," Aica said. "Lots of the Dunedain are dead from the orcs."
"Not the Heir though?"
"No, not him. Probably not anyway."
It had been too much to hope for that the Heir of Isildur had be killed. "Why is Eriador not destroyed?" Morion asked.
Aica took a deep breath. "The Dunedain killed them, and then the…" She hesitated.
"The what?" Morion growled.
"The Halflings killed their leader."
"Halflings. The little short things?"
"The short, fat, peace-and-flower-loving things?"
"That's them," Aica said through gritted teeth.
"They killed an orc chieftain?"
Morion sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Gondor has been dealt a blow, but it is recovering at phenomenal speed. Rohan has solidified its claim on its land and is wiping the scourge of the Dunlendings from its kingdom. And Eriador is just fine, sans a few Dunedain. It seems like we've accomplished nothing at all."
The Witch-King glanced up as Ancalime poked her head in. "What is it?" he asked.
"Are you busy? It's just that Ceure sent a message from Minas Tirith."
"What is it? Are they preparing to march on Minas Morgul, perhaps? Have the Valar descended from Eldamar to join them?"
"Oh…no, I don't think so. Maybe though. I'll have to read her letter again."
Morion sighed. "Give it to me," he said.
Ancalime walked in and handed him the letter. "It looked very important," she said. "I didn't really understand it though."
Morion glanced at the paper, then leaned forward and read through it again. His grip on the parchment tightened as he read it a third time.
What is it? Khamul thought. The last thing we need is bad news.
Morion set down the letter. "Well, you managed to accomplish something lasting, Yanta," he said.
"What? What's happening?" Yanta asked, looking very worried.
"The steward of Gondor has decided – upon the insistence of the Rohirrim – that Isengard, being the place where the Dunlendings launched their attack from, is too dangerous to be left unguarded."
"So they're putting in a wizard."