The two ringbearers crept back into the ruins of Laketown early the next day. It was despair, pure and simple. Families looked through the ruins of their homes, trying to salvage a few precious possessions. People stood around, surveying the destruction with empty or weeping eyes. There was, however, one man who stood out from the rabble. A calm, collected man with black hair and a beard. The bow slung over his shoulder suggested that it was he who had killed Smaug.
"I've got a plan," Khamul said with a grin, pushing Morion away as she sidled up to the man.
"I did not know we had Haradrim living in Laketown," the man commented.
"I was part of a trading party. Tragically, my friends are dead, slain by the dragon in his death throes."
"I am sorry for you."
"It is a great tragedy. Such wise, fine men will never been seen again."
"I would offer you compensation, but all merchandise is gone. We have no money, our belongings are waterlogged, we have nothing."
Khamul tapped her chin as if deep in thought. "Was he a poor dragon then?"
"The dragon. Was he poor? In my land we are told tales of the fabulous wealth of dragons."
The man frowned. "Well…the Lonely Mountain was once the hold of dwarves. Dragons don't spend anything so I suppose…I suppose…"
"I suppose all the gold and jewels will still be there."
Khamul clapped her hands together. "Excellent! Enough to rebuild Laketown, compensate the villagers for their grievous losses, and perhaps a little for my poor friends as well!"
"There's just one problem."
"There are some dwarves living there now."
"Ah, but surely they would share. After all, it was you who killed the dragon and saved their fortune. Not them."
"Well, yes, that's true, but it's theirs by right. Their leader, Thorin, is the descendant of the King Under the Mountain."
"But he did not slay the dragon. You did. Surely you deserve some of the treasure?"
The bowman scratched his chin and looked around at the ruins of his town.
"And was not the dragon sleeping before they arrived?" Khamul whispered. "Did they not, by seeking their treasure, wake it up and cause it to attack and create this destruction in the first place?"
"Well…yes, I suppose they did… But…but… No, the dragon awakening was their fault. As is the destruction of Laketown. They could not have known, of course, but they should pay all the same. There is more than enough gold for us all."
"Exactly," Khamul said. She slunk away as the bowman continued to ponder.
"Masterful work," Morion said. "The dwarves won't surrender an ounce of gold, the most worthless gem, or the most battered mail. That will –"
"Inflame the Men, who will curse the dwarves, who will take offense and start a war, and then goodbye dwarves."
"You should have been in charge." Morion meant it as a joke, an acknowledgment of Khamul's intelligence and shrewd dealing.
"I should've been," Khamul snapped. "And I would have. If it wasn't for you." That wasn't true, but Khamul had wanted to be the first ringbearer, to have all that power, so badly… It was still a festering wound even after all this time.
"I see," Morion said. "Well, I suppose there is still a chance to kill the dwarves and gain…it."
"Yes, it. That filthy little Halfling won't be in the battle though. He's too fat and soft. He'll be hiding somewhere safe in the mountain."
"Perhaps we should sneak in and murder him while he sleeps?"
"Sounds good to me," Khamul said. "Maybe we should leave the dwarves alone though. If they fight the Men, they'll be killed for certain, but so will a lot of the Men."
"That would certainly work in Sauron's favor. Although I suspect he would have preferred if Smaug lived."
"Too late for that. He's at the bottom of the lake. Say…"
"His stomach's got all those gems glued to it, doesn't it?"
"What if we peeled them off? We could buy quite a few allegiances, eh?"
Morion shook his head. "Bad idea. First of all, how would we get them?"
"We can't drown, and it'd be simple to weigh ourselves down and pry them off his decaying flesh."
"Dragon gold is cursed. I don't want anything else ghastly to happen to me because of greed."
"You're going to let a fortune slip through your fingers just because you're scared of some stupid curse that might not even exist?"
"Yes, I am."
Khamul cursed and rolled her eyes. "Fine. Well, let's just sit back, relax, and watch the dwarves and Men rip each other apart."
They did not have to wait long.
When Bard the Bowman returned from 'discussions' with Thorin, he was in a rage. "They refuse to give us even a bent piece of copper!" he thundered. "How dare they! It was their doing that roused the dragon! It is their fault that our homes lie in ruins and so many of us are dead!"
"They're building walls, I hear," a young man said. "They're going to fortify the place."
"It already is fortified. Even without the dragon it is damn near impregnable. Except there are only thirteen dwarves behind the walls. There are several hundred of us."
The arrival of Thranduil and retinue sent Khamul and Morion scrambling for the brush, but the elf king sided with the Men, though the alliance seemed uneasy. Things were turning out better than Khamul could have planned.
"They'll kill the dwarves," she predicted. "And then the Men and the elves will turn on each other. The elves will want all the gold, but so will Bard. And then they'll fight and kill each other! This couldn't get anymore perfect!"
"I suppose so," Morion said, watching the elves carefully.
"What? What's wrong?" Khamul frowned, worrying that her splendid plans were starting to fall to pieces.
"There's our friend." Morion pointed to an elf a few paces from Thranduil. There was no mistaking the dark hair and ancient eyes of Feanor.
"Huh. Who cares though? He hates the Sindar as much as us. He won't interfere."
"No, he won't. But who's that over there?"
Morion gestured to a tall figure in a gray cloak, the hood pulled down over their face.
"I don't know," Khamul said. "Another elf, I suppose. Why's he hiding though?"
"That's what I'm wondering."
As the elves and Men headed off toward the dwarves' encampment, Morion and Khamul followed them, moving in the shadows and staying out of sight. Feanor likely already suspected they were there; no reason to confirm his suspicions. Morion might think that Feanor wasn't going to cause trouble, but Khamul trusted the elf as far as she could throw him.
The two found an excellent hiding spot among a jumble of rocks. Bard was talking to Thorin, who was cursing and yelling furiously. Thranduil just glared.
There was a loud gasp from the dwarves, followed by such strong oaths that Khamul raised an eyebrow. "Somebody show somebody else a severed head?" she muttered.
"No," Morion said, frowning and peering down at the assembly. "It looks like the elf in the cloak has shown the dwarves a very large white gem."
"That's what the fuss is about?"
"It looks quite valuable."
"Everything in that mountain's valuable. What's so special about this?"
"I don't know, but I assume it's sentimental value."
"Hang on. How did the elves get the gem in the first place?"
"I don't…oh, it's the Halfling."
"What do you mean?"
"The Halfling gave them the gem. Thorin is threatening to throw him over the wall. Oh my."
"No. The man in the gray cloak has revealed himself."
Khamul cursed. "I should've known! Ah well, it was fun while it lasted."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean it's over now. Gandalf's here, he'll clear everything up. He'll claim the Ring, send it off to Imladris or something. We'll never see it again. Actually, he'll probably destroy it."
"Well, he'll find someone who can then!"
"It can only be destroyed in –"
"In the fires of Mt. Doom, I know. Still, it doesn't matter. Gandalf will know the second he looks at that Halfling that he's got the Ring. He'll get the dwarves, elves, and Men to reconcile and that'll be that."
"I'm not sure about that," Morion said.
"Thorin still looks furious. He's lowering down the Halfling now."
"Get a good look at him. We can kill him after this is over. That's the least he's owes us."
Morion chuckled quietly, certainly not loud enough for Khamul to notice. "Oh, wait, looks like something's got their attention."
"What is it? Has Sauron died and the rest of the ringbearers with him? Has Gandalf saved the day again?"
"No… Oh dear…"
"They seem to be preparing for battle."
"Against each other?"
"No… Let me get closer." Morion left the little ledge and scrambled down so he was closer to the crowd. He returned a few moments later, his face grim.
"What is it?" Khamul demanded.
"The goblins of the Misty Mountains have united and are bearing down on the Lonely Mountain as we speak."
"And you're disappointed why?"
"They were still at each other's throats when this news came. If it had been delayed, the dwarves might well have started a war. Dead dwarves are good news."
"You've changed a lot."
"And not for the better, I know. My soul is as black as Morgoth's own now."
"Not that bad," Khamul muttered under her breath. "So what do we do now, O fearless leader?"
"We stand by and watch the battle. When all becomes chaos, we step in and kill as many elves, Men, and dwarves as possible. The Halfling especially. If we kill him, or if he is killed, then we can get the Ring before Gandalf realizes it's gone."
"Will he even be fighting? He's a fat coward like all Halflings?"
"Have you even spent much time among Halflings?"
"I don't need to. They're fat, food-and-drink-loving, cowards!"
"Well, we'll see what happens, 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.