His sons had set out on the rescue over a month ago. Elrond was beginning to get worried. More worried. Perhaps there had been more goblins than they had anticipated. Perhaps they had been ambushed. Perhaps they were captives themselves.
He paced back and forth along the road to Imladris. He should be at the haven itself, he knew. Waiting for them on the road wouldn't make them come home any faster. Still, it made him feel better than sitting and waiting. Here he was pacing and waiting.
The sound of hoofbeats made the elf stop and look up. Two horses. Not enough for the party that had set out. But then again, perhaps only two had survived.
Elrond's heart pounded in his chest as the horses drew closer. He held his breath, waiting to see who would appear when the horses rounded the final bend in the road.
"You look pleased to see me."
Elrond's jaw dropped. Two black horses stood in front of him. On one was Khamul the Ringwraith. A figure was slung over the saddle. Presumably it was the owner of the other horse, which would make him a Ringwraith himself.
And on the other horse…oh Valar. Perhaps this was just a trick of his mind. He hadn't been getting much sleep lately. This had to be a hallucination.
"What is going on?" Elrond gasped.
"I've come to return your son to you," Khamul said. "Adopted son, anyway. You don't treat him very well for a son though, adopted or no."
The Ringwraith was giving him a lecture on parenting. Elrond was hallucinating. No, it was too strange for a hallucination. He must've fallen asleep. This was a dream.
"Are you glad to see me, Father?" Estel asked nervously.
"You stupid boy," Elrond muttered. "You went running off! Why? Why would you do something so incredibly stupid?"
"I went to rescue Mother."
"She's not your mother! She's my wife!"
"We've already had that talk," Khamul said.
"Does he know what you are?" Elrond growled.
"She's a Nazgul," Estel said.
"Do you know what those creatures are?"
Estel nodded. "They are servants of Sauron, but they have free will, Master Elrond. Khamul killed the Goblin King of the southern Misty Mountains!"
"You did?" Elrond asked, looking at Khamul with surprise.
"Yes, I did," Khamul growled. "I also happened to rescue your wife. She and your sons should be returning home shortly."
He had been considering attacking Khamul, but at her words the anger flowed out of him. Elrond fell to his knees, his legs having gone completely weak.
"Oh, thank the Valar," he whispered. "Thank the Valar."
"Should I tell him about the wound?" Estel – Firin, whatever his name was – whispered.
"No, not yet," Khamul said. "When I'm gone. Is Estel your real name?"
Firin nodded. "He calls me Firin when he's mad. Most people've taken to calling me that."
"What does it mean?"
"Estel means 'hope'. Firin means 'death'."
Khamul frowned. "Why would you name this kid death?" she snapped at Elrond, who looked close to tears of relief.
"Death?" Elrond asked. "Oh, firin. It means 'natural death'."
"What's the difference?"
"There's a vast difference. Most of the others here think it refers to his race: he's a Man, he will die one way or the other. However…"
"What?" Khamul asked.
"I Saw…I think… He will die a natural death. Not by the sword or from illness."
"Well, I suppose that's good," Khamul said. "There, something for you to look forward to," she told Estel. "I don't need to ask why you named him hope," she added to Elrond.
"You know?" Elrond asked.
"Guessed as much."
"Truly, you must not be under the influence of Sauron. Or else Estel would be dead."
"Why?" Estel asked. "What's going on? Is there something wrong with me?"
"Everything's fine," Khamul said. "Hop off the horse and go with Master Elrond. And don't even think of leaving Imladris until you're capable of surviving on your own!"
Estel smiled and nodded, jumping off the horse. "Will I see you again?" he asked.
"Yes," Khamul said. "But whether we'll be on the same side then, I don't know." She turned her horse and rode away without a backward glance. Like the good immortal beast it was, Morion's horse followed.
"Are you awake yet?" she asked as they left the valley of Rivendell.
"I've actually been awake for about half an hour," Morion said. "But you were talking to Elrond when I woke up. I decided not to make him any more anxious."
"Good plan. What exactly happened?"
"When you stabbed Celebrian and tried to kill Firin and me?" Khamul asked.
"I don't actually remember anything after entering the mountain," Morion said. "Well, I remember bits and pieces after that, but it's very choppy."
"You and Morgoth were switching off control."
"Ah. That explains it." Morion tried to rise and swayed dangerously. "Do you suppose you might stop and let me get on my own horse?"
"Maybe," Khamul said. "In a minute. So long as you don't pass out."
"I'm quite fine." Morion glanced back toward Rivendell. "Why is that human boy living with Elrond?"
"He's an orphan and Elrond's got a soft heart," Khamul lied. Mostly.
"Ah. Why was I trying to kill him?"
"I don't know."
"It's probably for the same obscure reason that Morgoth wanted me to kill Eorl," Morion muttered. "I've never figured that one out."
"Speaking of Rohan," Khamul said, "how do you want to get back?"
"Yeah, Minas Morgul. We are going there, aren't we?"
Morion nodded. "I suppose so. Where else would we go?"
"I don't know. You're acting kind of weird. Are you all right?"
Morion thought about this. "I think so," he said. "I feel a little sick, but I'm quite fine. It's just a bit…awkward."
"Er…sharing a horse with you."
"All right." Khamul jerked the reins. "You can get off."
"Thank you." Morion slid down, almost tripped, and walked over to his horse. He was staggering a little, but after spending nearly a month unconscious, that was to be expected.
"Who did you leave in charge?" Khamul asked as Morion adjusted the stirrups. Funny. There was a more-than-slight height difference between a diminutive boy and the Witch-King of Angmar.
"In charge of Minas Morgul? Please tell me you left someone in charge."
Khamul groaned. "So we're going to get back and it's going to be a pile of rubble. Maybe there'll even be Gondorian soldiers doing a little dance!"
"I'm sure Vorea will have taken over."
"She's in Ithilien!"
"Ah…yes…that's right. Oh dear."
Khamul rolled her eyes. "It's a little worse than 'oh dear'," she snarled. "Dammit! Where are we going?"
"To Minas Morgul," Morion said. "Why?"
"I don't know where we're going! The damn horses have just picked a damn direction!"
Morion sighed. "We have plenty of time. We'll find a landmark eventually."
"Did you get hit in the head or something?" Khamul snapped.
"You're not getting worried. You're very calm. Are you all right?"
Morion shrugged. "I'm sure something will happen. It usually does. And it's usually painful. So we should enjoy the peaceful time we have right now. Besides, this is the first time I've been out of Minas Morgul for a while. So I'm going to take my time."
Khamul cursed under her breath and tried to ascertain where they were going. "Are we heading back toward the Misty Mountains?" she asked, looking up at the looming gray peaks. "I think we are!"
"There is no way we can cut through this forest," Morion said, gesturing to the thick brush. "We'll just have to follow the road."
"I wonder where the road'll lead."
"We'll find out, won't we?"
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.