"Put that rabbit on the fire," Grishnakh ordered, settling down for a nice nap before dinner was done. He was safe on the other side of the Anduin while those white-painted monstrosities slaughtered everyone on the western shore. He'd creep back over sometime and see if they'd left anything, but he was in no mood to follow those things. They were huge!
"What were those things?" an orc asked.
"Don't know, don't care. Stay well away from those, me lad. They'll tear you to pieces, they will."
"Big damn orcs, weren't they?" another orc commented. "Hope they all go off and kill each other somewhere far away, leave all the pickings to us, eh?"
"Won't do that," Grishnakh said. "Far too disciplined for that. You saw them. No looting, nothing. More like Men than orcs."
"Probably 'cause they are."
Every orc jumped to his feet and drew his weapons.
"Who're you?" Grishnakh hissed, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew the answer. "Shrieker." He put away his sword.
Aica and Ringe stepped into the orcs' camp. Both were muddy and covered in pine needles and twigs. Still, they were Shriekers, and thus extremely dangerous.
"What are you doing here?" Aica asked.
"Waiting for my rabbit to cook."
Aica glanced at the sizzling meat on the spit. She walked over to it and kicked it into the ground before grinding it into the mud. "Guess it's done," she said.
"What'd you want?" Grishnakh snarled.
"Don't tell me you didn't hear all that fighting on the other shore?"
"Those were big damn orcs!"
"They were Saruman's big damn orcs!" Aica roared. "And they are taking the Ring to Isengard! Now unless you want to serve the big damn orcs for the rest of your miserable lives, you are going to follow them and get the Ring back!"
The orcs did not look thrilled by this. There were a few mutterings and Grishnakh looked like he was going to protest.
"Now!" Aica bellowed, drawing her sword. Despite the mud and plant matter, Aica was still a Nazgul, and a very scary Nazgul when she wanted to be.
The orcs took off for the river at a run, uncovering hidden boats and hurling them into the river as they nearly trampled each other in their haste to get away from the Shriekers.
"Well, that took care of that," Aica said. "They'll find 'em, mark my words. Some of those orcs came out of Moria; they're good trackers."
"Saruman's orcs are stronger than ours though," Ringe said. "If it comes to a fight, we'll lose."
"It won't though. Grishnakh's smart. He'll arrange something so he can sneak off with the Ring with those orcs none the wiser."
Ringe nodded nervously. "Should we go after them?" he asked.
"Of course not," Aica snorted. "Now…I need another Fell Beast."
"How are you going to get that?"
"That's the question, isn't it? I can't contact Sauron with this thing, 'cause then he'll know I have a palantir. Doubt he'd be happy to find that out. The only other people with 'em are the Steward of the Gondor and Saruman. Neither of which I want to talk to."
"Then what're we going to do?"
"Guess I'll have to try something else then," Aica said, sitting down and placing both hands on the stone.
"So when we get to the borders of Lorien, I point at the forest and say 'charge'?"
"Yes," Khamul said, nodding.
"And what happens then?" Ancalime asked.
"Well, then the orcs will attack the forest."
"What do I do then?"
"You wait until they either come running back, in which case you run along with them, or until one of the commanders returns and tells you they won."
"Oh. Is that all?"
Over the past few days, Khamul had been giving Ancalime a very brief introduction into military tactics while instructing the most competent among the orcs in tactics to use against the elves. Hopefully it would all go well. At least, maybe Dol Guldur wouldn't get razed to the ground.
"Why don't you study that idea for a while," Khamul said. "I'm going to take a walk."
Ancalime nodded and her lips moved as she ran through the plan again and again.
Valar, what an idiot, Khamul thought. Spying her orc commanders up ahead, she grinned. She'd never thought she'd see the day where an orc was smart, but compared to Ancalime, even a worm could be a genius.
"You ready?" she asked.
"Indeed, Captain," a huge orc said, saluting. "The army's in fine shape, but if we stay in Dol Guldur any longer, I fear we'll lose more to the spiders."
"Speaking of which," a smaller, wiry orc said, leaning forward, "I've heard tell they're massing in the north for an attack against the Elven King's halls."
"We should lend them some help then," Khamul said. "It wouldn't do for us to take Lorien only to come back to a forest united under Thranduil. Since you mentioned it, take your force and go north. Kill all elves in your path, but your main objective is to keep them away from Dol Guldur."
"Yes, Captain!" The orc saluted and hurried off to inform his troops.
"Leave immediately!" Khamul called after him.
"Are you leaving us as well, Captain?" the big orc asked.
Khamul thought about this. "Yes," she said. "I am."
"The other Shrieker is a fool."
"I know, but you know your stuff. Should at least keep you alive."
"You think we will die, don't you?"
Khamul smiled. "It was nice knowing you all," she said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be taking my leave." She walked back to Ancalime's room and knocked on the door.
"Oh, hello, Khamul. Did you have a nice walk?" the ninth ringbearer asked.
"It was fine. I'm afraid I just got urgent orders from Sauron. Looks like you'll be leading this all by yourself."
"Oh…wow. I don't know if I can do that."
"Of course you can. I'll see if I can make it back for the fight, but listen to the orcs. Things shouldn't go too badly wrong then."
"Oh… I'll try!"
"Good." Khamul hurried out of the fortress. "Where are you, you great lizard?" she muttered, looking for the Fell Beast.
With a hiss, the creature's huge neck came snaking down, staring at Khamul out of two massive snake-like eyes.
"Glad to see you're around," Khamul snarled. "Now get down here. We're leaving."
The Fell Beast hopped into the courtyard, shaking the fortress to its foundations. Khamul hurriedly swung into the saddle, hoping that she didn't fall off. Just before she took off, she whistled.
A horse neighed and there was a crash as the stable door broke before the beast's hooves.
Khamul wasn't going to be stuck on the this oversized hairless bat forever, and she had no intention of having to steal a horse from some farm. Her horse would follow and find her, as it always did.
Her first flight on the Fell Beast was terrifying, though Khamul would never admit it. Her teeth were gritted tightly and her entire body was as tense as a bowstring. She was too high, going too fast. It was too cold and she was starting to feel sick.
"This is crazy," she muttered. Worst of all, she had a weird feeling in the back of her head. Kind of fuzzy, like how she felt when Aica was spying on her.
Khamul snarled and yanked on the reins. The Beast obediently turned in the desired direction, making Khamul even sicker at the sudden, sharp turn.
Where was she? Khamul was tired of these stupid stunts, tired of being spied on. Where was Aica? Khamul was tired of the ringbearers in general, but Aica in particular.
The feeling increased as Khamul flew south, toward the Emyn Muil. She was beginning to get the feeling that Aica was drawing her toward her, but right then Khamul didn't care. She was going to teach the seventh ringbearer a thing or two.
The Fell Beast knew where it was going even if Khamul didn't. But even Khamul could see the site of destruction. With a diameter of over two hundred feet, the area where a Fell Beast had crash-landed was utterly demolished.
Not there! Aica's voice snapped in Khamul's head.
"What're you doing?" Khamul snapped back, clapping a hand to her head. "Get out of my mind!"
I will! I just need you to pick us up.
"What'd you mean?"
An elf shot us down. We're near the Falls of Rauros."
Cursing, Khamul turned the Fell Beast around and headed back for the falls. Dammit. What an idiot Aica was. Getting shot down, what an idiot. But by an elf? There weren't elves around here.
Or were there? Suppose an elf had decided to accompany the Ring on its journey to Valar-knew-where. There were enough elves in Rivendell. It might even be Glorfindel.
No, it wouldn't be him. He was too powerful. Khamul would've been able to sense him. It was a weaker elf, at least, supposedly.
If there was one thing Feanor was, it was egotistic. He would love to think of himself as participating in one of the great events of the age. Although he probably had an ulterior motive as well.
Khamul cursed under her breath. Not only was Aragorn on this absurd journey, but so was Feanor. Whatever plan the Wise had made, it was big.
Where could they possibly be taking the Ring? Khamul wondered. Probably Minas Tirith. Not that it mattered. There was no hope for Men and elves now. It was just a battle between two Dark Lords. Khamul didn't really care who won anymore. It would just be the same fate, though sadly ironic if Saruman won. An Istari ruling as a Dark Lord.
Near the Falls, Khamul spotted Ringe jumping up and down, waving his arms. She briefly entertained the idea of swooping down, picking him up in the Fell Beast's claws, and throwing him over the Falls. Probably wouldn't be a good idea though. Besides, what was the point?
"Here's your damn mount," Khamul snapped, sliding off the Fell Beast. She wasn't riding one again. And certainly not with Aica and Ringe on it.
"About time," Aica sniffed.
"Shut up. What were you doing anyway that got you shot down?"
"Absolutely nothing! It just came out of nowhere! Bastard."
"How do you know it was an elf?"
"No Man could make a shot like that."
Khamul nodded. Feanor then. Definitely.
"Shame you're going to be stuck here now," Aica said with a sneer as she and Ringe jumped onto the Beast.
Khamul smiled and watched as the pair left. Good riddance, she thought. Would be even better if Feanor shot them again and they all went over the Falls.
Her horse found her several hours later. It was tired and ate almost all the grass on the plateau, but it was still there. Immortal horses. Greatest invention ever.
"Time to leave," Khamul said, swinging into the saddle. "Don't rightly know where we're going, but it's away from here."
Once they were out of the hilly Emyn Muil, the land flew by. Rohan was a flat, firm land with little in the way of marshes and jagged rocks. In other words, Khamul could ride absurdly fast with little risk.
I think it's time for another little chat with Saruman, she thought. This one's not going to end well though. For him, with any luck.