"So you're back," Melkor said as Khamul rode up.
"Knew you couldn't stay away," Aica said.
"Shut up. There're some elves up there on the Last Bridge."
"Indeed. Any that I know?"
"Ah." Melkor licked his lips. "I am looking forward to that meeting."
"I confess myself surprised that you lack an arrow wound through the head," Vorea said.
"They're terrible shots," Khamul said.
"I see." Vorea didn't look convinced.
"Any particular reason you didn't deign to come with me?"
"I serve Lord Sauron," Vorea said, giving Khamul a sad look. "I see we are heading for a forked path."
"And you'll take the one that Sauron's blundering into," Khamul snapped. "What happens if it's a dead end, huh? What happens then?"
"The fate of the Nazgul is bound to the fate of the Ring," Vorea said. "Sauron is our lord, Khamul. You would do well to finally realize that."
Khamul growled. "Over my dead body."
"I pray it will not come to that."
It gave Khamul a start when she realized Vorea was serious. "You're crazy," she muttered. "You just…you don't understand."
"Understand what this world will be like if one of them gets the Ring."
"What would you do then? If the Ring is destroyed, we die."
"I wish it'd just get lost. Then we could conquer Middle-Earth the old-fashioned way." Khamul smiled wistfully, the first time Vorea had ever seen such a smile. "I like the old-fashioned way."
"You are changing, Khamul," Vorea said. "If you have not changed already. You are changing and I cannot tell what you are becoming."
"I'll still cut off the head of anyone who gets in my way."
Vorea nodded. "That is well," she said. "For the time being."
I'm not changing, Khamul thought. I'm still looking out for myself first and foremost, just like I always have. That involved following Sauron for a while, but now our paths are diverging. Fine, Vorea got a bit of it right, but I'm still the selfish bastard I've always been.
They reached the Last Bridge about an hour later. The elves had planted themselves firmly on the fragile wooden structure, bows raised.
"Destroy them," Melkor hissed.
The Nine drew their swords and rushed the elves. A few arrows flew, grazing horses and riders, but the elves fled in terror as the power of the rings bore down on them. Melkor probably had more to do with it though. The Dark Vala, the terror of the First Age, arisen and riding once more.
Glorfindel managed to hold his ground longer than the others, but terror showed plainly in his face and sweat trickled down his forehead. He'd never faced something like this before. A balrog, yes, but nothing like this. Nothing like this fear.
Just as they were crossing the bridge, Khamul reached into her pocket and took out the rock. She tossed it on the bridge where it lay, spinning and glittering. A green stone. A green stone given to her by an elf. Elfstone. Elessar.
Aragorn would find it. Khamul had no doubts about that. What he did with it after that was his own business, but Khamul had a feeling that whatever decision the great and wise made regarding the Ring, Aragorn would follow. And then he'd come to the south, Minas Tirith, and claim his crown.
It seemed only right that he should wear the crown of the Reunited Kingdom before he died.
After soundly the chasing the elves away, the Nazgul slowed on the road, scowling into shadows, watching for any sign of movement.
"No elves and no Halflings," Khamul said. "Looks like we lost them."
"I don't smell anything," Yanta said, sniffing the air.
"They are heading for Imladris," Melkor hissed. "We will find them."
"Sound quite determined there," Khamul said.
Melkor ignored her.
There was little talk among the ringbearers as they rode. Days passed and Khamul was getting bored. They were almost to Rivendell, which they wouldn't be able to pass into. Not yet, at least. Not yet.
Melkor pulled his horse to a halt at the edge of a river. "There." He pointed to the opposite bank. "That is where the power of the elves begins."
"Well," Khamul said, "seems to me we should just wait here for them to come to us."
"The Morgul blade will be close to the Halfling's heart by now," Melkor said. "He will have to reach safety soon or it will be too late." He looked back down the path. "We return the way we came."
"What?" Khamul snapped.
The Nazgul turned their horses around and headed back down the road. Khamul hung back, watching the water. She didn't like the looks of it. It was far too shallow to provide a serious defense against the monsters that might try to disturb the sanctuary of the elves. So why not strengthen it? Add a few watchtowers on the far bank. Towers with sharp-eyed elves with even sharper arrows.
"There's magic in that river," Aica hissed, sensing her thoughts. Khamul didn't like her thoughts sensed, least of all by Aica.
"Who cares?" Khamul snarled. "Magic's never done me any damage before."
Aica snorted and spurred her horse ahead so that she was riding by Morgoth. It made an unpleasant picture. The Dark Lord riding with Aica at his right. Once it had been Morion riding like that, with Khamul by his side.
Morion was dead. It was Morgoth now, and Khamul had fallen out of favor, leaving a bit of a power vacuum. Seemed Aica was going to fill it.
"There!" came the cry almost an hour later.
Khamul strained to see what it was. The horses ahead of her came to a grinding halt and she pulled hard on the reins to avoid running into Ceure.
"What is it?" she hissed.
"The Halfling!" Ceure gasped.
An arrow whizzed out of nowhere, nicking Metima's forehead before burying itself in the ground.
"White-fletched arrows," Khamul muttered, looking at the quivering shaft. "I think it's Glorfindel."
"What's he doing here?"
"Stopping us from getting the – Whoa!"
A blur of white shot between the Nazgul. The horses snorted and bucked, every bit as alarmed as the riders.
"What was that?" Yanta gasped.
"The Halfling!" Melkor roared. "After him!"
And then they were going back the way they'd come, thundering after the blur of a horse. It was an elven horse, and it had quite a bit of speed on it, but against the horses of the Nazgul? It was only a matter of time before they caught it.
Khamul cursed and urged her horse forward. She had to be the one to get the Ring. Not Vorea, not Aica, and certainly not Morgoth. It had to be her. And then she'd have power. Power beyond all reckoning.
She was neck in neck with Vorea, right behind Melkor and Aica. She just needed a bit more speed.
Foam was flying from her horse's mouth. Its eyes rolled wildly. It had pushed itself to its limits and beyond. Khamul started to slow and she cursed and slapped the reins.
Morgoth shot her a look of triumph.
"Dammit!" Khamul snarled. "Damn it all!"
The horses came to a halt at the edge of the river bordering Rivendell. The Halfling was already across but he wasn't going any farther. He was pale and shaking, his skin an unhealthy white. Still, he managed to hold up a sword in one trembling hand.
"Give me the Ring," Melkor hissed, riding out into the river. That seemed, to Khamul, to be an exceptionally stupid thing to do.
"You shall have neither the Ring nor me," the Halfling said. He was almost drooling, and what was gathering at the edge of his mouth looked quite bright green.
"Give me the Ring," Melkor snarled, riding farther into the river. Aica and Vorea began to follow him.
"I'm going to stay right here," Khamul said. "Don't trust that river a bit."
"Same," Yanta said, nodding.
"We've got company," Metima said, looking behind.
"What?" Khamul whirled around and saw Glorfindel and Aragorn standing nearby, torches in hand. "You bastards!" she hissed.
"Into the river with you!" Glorfindel shouted, advancing, waving the torches.
Ceure's horse was spooked and rushed into the water. Ringe followed her, and Metima slowly edged toward the river.
"There's just two of them!" Khamul yelled, drawing her sword. She wasn't going to kill Aragorn, but she had no compunctions about Glorfindel.
"I'm sorry," Aragorn said. He waved the torch and the horses went mad.
Within seconds, Khamul and Yanta were in the water, struggling to control the horses.
"What was that all about?" she snapped. "Why do they want us in the water so bad?"
The ground began to shake and tremble. The water started to increase in volume slowly, and then faster and faster.
"Oh damn," Khamul muttered, looking in horror as a wall of water appeared out of nowhere, aimed right at the ringbearers.
It hit them in seconds. Khamul was knocked off her horse and carried in a rocketing river of water downstream. It reminded her of the ride on the Fast Track in the Misty Mountains. Only it was with water and almost more unpleasant.
Khamul finally came to rest on a stony bank. Picking herself up, she looked around. They'd come a long, long way. Oh, and there were lots of lovely jagged rocks that she'd passed by at ridiculous speeds. Lucky she'd missed them. Maybe Morgoth'd skewered himself.
Like hideous beasts emerging from the sea, one by one the Nazgul dragged themselves onto the shore. Some had drifted farther than Khamul, and some hadn't drifted far at all. Soon they were all assembled, staring at the river.
"Where're the horses?" Khamul asked after a while.
"Dead," Melkor said.
"They can't be dead. They're immortal."
"It was a magical flood. They're dead."
Khamul jumped to her feet. "My horse is not dead!" she exclaimed and waded into the river, searching for something.
She found two dead horses, but neither was hers. She kept looking and found a third and fourth. And then a fifth, and a sixth. The seventh was in two pieces. The eighth was skewered on a sharp rock.
"There's only eight!" she proclaimed happily.
"Keep looking," Melkor said.
At that moment, a black horse walked out of the forest. It was sopping wet, but quite alive.
"I believe that is my horse," Khamul said.
"Good. Give me the reins."
"The Ring is in Imladris for now and it will take quite a while for those elven fools to figure out what to do with it. In that time we have to act swiftly. I must go to Sauron," Melkor spat the name, "and return with new, better mounts."
"Seeing as it's my horse, I'll be doing that," Khamul said.
"I am your superior! Not to mention a Vala." Melkor's eyes were dark and further darkening rapidly. If Khamul had an ounce of sense she would've surrendered the horse. But it was her horse. Hers.
"No." Khamul hopped onto the wet saddle. "See you in a few months." Digging her heels into the flanks, she glanced back to savor the expression on Morgoth's face as she rode away.
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.