26. The Hunt Begins
"Although I can see you have been enjoying your stay, regrettably I must ask that you travel north," Sauron said.
"Good," Khamul said. She had been taking a nap. "Where am I going and what am I doing?" She had been in this place for far too long.
"Kill the Dunedain," Sauron said. "Kill their leaders, and make sure you do it this time. I don't care if you have to travel to Rivendell itself and sneak in. I want them dead."
"What's brought on this sudden rash of hatred?"
"The time is drawing near. It is the year 2928. Soon I will leave Dol Guldor. Soon I will return to Mordor. And then my plans will begin in earnest. I cannot have the Dunedain interfering with this. I cannot have a king in Gondor."
"They wouldn't accept any of them as king," Khamul said. "The people in Gondor are pigheaded idiots!"
"Be that as it may, the line of Isildur must end."
Khamul smiled. "It will," she said. "The last heir will die by my hand."
"Good," Sauron said. "Hurry though. There is not much time."
"What's going to happen?" Khamul asked.
Sauron's gaze went to the window. The Misty Mountains were shrouded with fog and cloud, but you could just see the dull red slopes.
"Oh, not Caradhras again," Khamul grumbled. "What part is it playing in all this?"
"A very large one. If Grish succeeds, all of Gandalf's hopes will fail."
"Who's Grish and what does he need to succeed at?"
"Grish is a goblin. The one who was supposed to slay Eorl. Regrettably, he failed."
Khamul frowned. That arrogant goblin! She remembered him. He'd ignored her! Her! A Nazgul! The filthy little creature…when she found him, she'd…
"Caradhras wishes to be rid of the balrog in Moria," Sauron continued. "I can do that, but Gandalf may also be able to. It has opened the playing field to us. Upon its slopes the fate of the world shall be shaped."
And mine as well, Khamul thought. It'll only let me pass when it's time for my 'destiny'. Stupid thing, destiny.
"If Grish knows what to do, then the possibility of victory for Gandalf will be gone," Sauron said.
That wouldn't be so bad, Khamul thought. Maybe it's me and not Grish who's supposed to do whatever it is that's got to be done.
"Soon," Sauron whispered. "So soon. Go to the north and make sure all is ready."
"Yes, sir," Khamul muttered. She snatched up her sword from where it lay nearby. On her way to get her horse she paused near a rack of weapons.
"Something take your fancy, Shrieker?" a one-eyed orc asked.
"Is that a Haradrim bow?"
"Yes, Shrieker. Don't know how it came to be here, but that's what it is."
Khamul picked it up. It felt just like her old one. Old one. Ha. It'd been thousands and thousands of years since she'd held her old bow. It was nothing but dust by now.
"You want it?" the orc asked.
"Do you have some arrows as well?"
The orc nodded and picked up a quiver full of arrows. The arrowheads were leaf-shaped and the metal was painted black. Haradrim arrows.
All her carefully cultivated skills were gone now, but Khamul had the time to refresh them. It was always good to have a second weapon.
"Step quietly, men!" Arador hissed, pressing a finger to his lips.
"What is it?" one of the Rangers asked.
"There's something up there."
"Has the scout come back?"
Arador shook his head. "I don't know if he will."
"Do you think it's orcs, Chieftain?"
What else could it be? The Trollshaws were south of here, and the goblins had been killed almost to a man during the war with the dwarves.
"Be ready for a fight," Arador said.
The Rangers quickly brought arrows to bowstrings and drew swords. They crept forward, quiet as whispers.
"Trolls," a Ranger breathed as they looked on a small clearing.
A group of huge, hulking beasts sat around a campfire, snorting and growling at one another. They were more civilized than Cave-Trolls at least, in that they wore clothes and it seemed they were making some kind of conversation with each other.
Arador frowned and glanced up at the clouded sky. "It is day," he muttered. "How can they be out?"
"They must be Hill-Trolls, sir," a Ranger whispered. "Those don't turn to stone."
"Bah, there are too many types of trolls in this world."
"There are about to be five less."
Arador nodded. He gestured to the archers and then to the trolls. The bows went up and the arrows were pulled back.
Six arrows flew, embedding themselves in troll flesh. The Rangers burst out of the trees, swords raised.
Roaring in pain, the trolls leaped to their feet. One had a club that Arador hadn't seen. It took two Rangers out with a single swing, smashing them into trees. There was a ghastly crunch of bone and gristle.
"Men!" a troll growled. "Food!"
"Sharp bits," another troll grumbled, picking an arrow out of its arm.
"Here's another sharp bit," Arador growled, driving his sword into the troll's gut. It howled and thrashed, hurling Arador into a tree. The Chieftain's breath was knocked from his body and he collapsed onto the ground.
The world wavered and blurred. When it finally cleared, everything was quiet.
With a low moan, Arador sat up. His head and ribs hurt.
Looking around, he saw the bodies of his men. The trolls – all five of them – were back to sitting around the campfire. One of them had the body of a Ranger in his hands and was rending it into pieces.
"Tasty, tasty," it said.
Arador turned away from the grisly sight. He was about to vomit. He could still hear the noises, the cracking of bone, the rip of meat, the crunching…
Staggering to his feet, Arador tried to run away but fell after a single step, tumbling to the forest floor.
"There one! Almost got away!"
No! The trolls saw him! He had to run!
Dragging himself across the ground, Arador nearly wept in frustration. He could never escape trolls like this. He was going to die. His son would have this dreadful job now. And he would die, too. And his son, and his son, and so on and so on.
Someone stepped in front of him. They were too small for a troll.
Glancing up, Arador saw a woman looking down at him. She was dressed all in black. A quiver and bow were slung across her back and she wore a sword at her waist.
"Help me," he gasped.
"Food!" the trolls roared. Arador didn't need to look behind him to know the trolls were there, just feet away. A large droplet of drool fell on his shoulder.
"You want to eat him?" the woman asked, pointing at Arador.
"No," Arador said. "Help me! Please!"
"Food!" the trolls yelled.
The woman drew her sword. "Yes, all right," she said.
"No!" Arador couldn't reach his sword or dagger. It didn't matter though. The sword fell far too fast.
The man's head rolled from his shoulders. The trolls eagerly seized the body and carried it away to the fire.
Khamul kicked the man's head so it rolled face-up. Yes, there was Isildur in the face.
"Another one dead," she spat. Except there was still one left. She had learned that he'd married recently. If she acted quickly enough, she might end the line before another one was born.
Walking from the clearing where the trolls feasted, Khamul whistled for her horse. She set her eyes on the west. It was said that the heir of Isildur's wife liked Bree. They were living there now.
Bree was also the place Khamul had first met Aica and Ringe. It was about time for some revenge.
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.