8. Eorl's Fury
Khamul rode back into the small village some time after she'd given up the hunt for the wretched Halfling. Time was meaningless to her, and she had no idea how long it had been since she'd been here last. Things looked different, including a fine horse at the tavern stable.
"Nice horse," she commented to the barkeeper as she walked in. He looked about sixteen.
The reactions were strange. Several of the women in the tavern gasped, a few even began to cry. The barkeep threw down a rag he was using to wash off the filthy counter.
"Let's talk outside," he said. He had a very mature bearing for one so young.
"I take it the horse is a sensitive subject?" Khamul hissed, following him out. What had prompted these odd reactions? Was the horse some kind of sacred object?
"Two things," the man said, holding up the appropriate number of fingers. Well, at least he could count. "One, that horse killed my father. Two, you are a vile creature."
Did he learn this from someone else, or had he come up with it on his own? Khamul wondered. "Really? And what's your proof?" she snarled. Maybe I should just cut off his head.
"I assume you're talking about yourself. I hardly need proof that my father was killed by the horse."
"Yes. Me. What about it?"
"I remember you," the man said. He had bright yellow hair and a tan complexion from working outside. His eyes were blue-gray and sparkled with intensity. "I was only a newborn at the time, but I remember evil."
Eorl? No. She couldn't have been gone that long. "You're Leod's son?" Khamul gasped.
"Yes. And you haven't changed at all," Eorl said with a malicious smile. "Evil can preserve itself for eternity, it is said. Apparently that's true."
"I didn't come here to get in a fight," Khamul snapped. "I want some food and wine. That's it. Although if you want a fight, I'd be more than happy to oblige."
As Khamul's hand went to her sword, Eorl pulled out a knife from its sheath. "I'm very good with this," he warned.
Khamul snorted. "You're an overzealous youth. You think you're invincible. Well, let me tell you something, boy: You aren't! The only person who's invincible here is me!"
"We'll see about that!" Eorl moved very fast, but Khamul dodged his strike to her arm. She drew her sword in a fluid motion while kicking him in the back of the knees. Eorl went down like a rock.
"Your father struck me as a very decent person," Khamul hissed, her sword at Eorl's throat. "The only thing I do to decent people is kill them. Let's call it even if I don't kill you."
"Why would a minion of evil not strike?" Eorl muttered, looking at the blade.
"I'm tempted, believe me."
"…Very well," Eorl said after some thought. "I…believe you. If all you want is food and drink, we can provide that."
"Good," Khamul said, sheathing the sword. "And no more of that nonsense. You're liable to get yourself killed."
Eorl rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath.
Khamul was enjoying a very good meal of mutton stew, wine, and the excellent bread, when a bloody man ran into the tavern.
"Eorl! Orcs!" he cried. "They ride beasts! They mean to destroy the village!"
Eorl shot Khamul a look of pure hatred and seized a spear leaning against the wall. "Rally everyone who can fight! Make sure they have weapons!" he ordered. "So you didn't just come here for a meal," he hissed to Khamul.
"This isn't my doing," Khamul snapped. She sighed and stood up. "I'll go talk to them." She quite enjoyed this village and it would be a pain to have to travel around Middle-Earth without someplace to stop.
Eorl's eyes widened. "You're just going to go out there and talk to them?" he gasped. "They're orcs!"
Khamul smiled nastily. "I'm worse than an orc," she said. "Better get your people ready though. Just in case."
The village was in chaos as elders and children were herded into houses while all able-bodied men and women seized sharp farm implements or ancestral weapons.
The orcs appeared on the ridge of a nearby hill. They were riding wargs, Khamul saw. With a sigh she mounted her horse and rode out to meet them.
Surprisingly, there was no flurry of arrows. The lead orc raised a hand to stop his people. He was smaller than most orcs Khamul had seen. Ah, no wonder. He was a goblin. But what was a goblin doing in charge of orcs? This smacked of Minas Morgul, and Morion.
"Shrieker," the goblin said, managing a bow even from his position on the warg. The beast was snarling and spitting and foaming at the mouth. Its red eyes were wild with bloodlust.
"What are you doing here?" Khamul asked.
"I am here on the Lord Morion's orders to destroy this village and ensure a man known as Leod and his son are slain."
"You're too late," Khamul said. "Leod's dead."
"And his son?" the goblin asked.
Yes or no? Either way, the orcs weren't turning back until the village was rubble. And there were far too many of them for the villagers to fight.
"I don't know," Khamul said. "I didn't really stop by to see them."
"Very well. Burn the village," the goblin said to his orcs. "Leave no one alive."
"Hang on," Khamul snapped as the orcs tensed, ready to charge. "I'm a Nazgul! Let me handle this."
"Lord Morion's orders were very specific," the goblin said.
"I'll bet they were. But I outrank you. And I say Leod is dead and I'll handle his son!"
"I have my orders," the goblin snarled. "Get out of my way or we'll run you down."
A goblin dared to give her orders! Khamul drew her sword. "I'll cut your filthy head off!" she screamed.
The goblin rolled his eyes and kicked his warg. The beast bolted down the hill, quickly followed by hundreds of others. Even the wargs – blood-mad creatures that they were – avoided Khamul and her horse, and they managed to escape the fray disoriented, but alive and unharmed.
"Treacherous scum!" Khamul snarled as she watched plumes of smoke go up from the village. "Filthy goblin trash! I'm going to kill him!"
"You won't get the chance to," Eorl hissed.
Khamul whirled around. Eorl was seated on the fine horse she'd seen in the stables. He rode bareback but seemed completely at ease. His clothes were bloody, but his spear was dripping red.
"This isn't my fault," Khamul hissed. "My superior," She hated that word, "ordered it!"
"Why?" Eorl shouted. "Why did he want the village burned? We didn't do anything wrong!"
"I don't know! He ordered it, and it got done! Nobody questions orders!"
Eorl looked down at his home. "Everyone's dead," he said. "Felarof saved me from a pack of orcs and he ran here."
Khamul was about to ask who Felarof was. Oh, it's the horse, she thought. He named his horse? Well, the boy's bound to have some peculiarities.
"You say this isn't your fault," Eorl said, gesturing to the burning village. Behind his grief-stricken eyes, despite his youth, there gleamed the cunning spark of a mastermind.
"No…" Khamul agreed warily.
"Yet it occurred on your superior's orders. Therefore, I ask you to help make amends."
"Yes. My people live scattered throughout these lands. Help me rally them together."
"Why? For what purpose?"
Eorl's eyes hardened. "Our lands are no longer safe if orcs may roam so freely and attack without fear."
"And you think you can change that?"
"I know I can. I have a plan. Help me fulfill it and I will discharge you from any debt you have because of this."
"I have so much blood on my hands a little more isn't going to hurt," Khamul said.
"But wouldn't you like to wipe some of it off?"
Khamul snorted. "If I was to turn as good as Varda today, it would take the rest of eternity to clean my hands of blood."
"You certainly aren't going to get anywhere if you don't try," Eorl said. "Help me. Your superior said nothing about helping me, did he?"
"Actually, he said to kill you," Khamul said. And I'm beginning to see why, she thought.
Eorl chuckled. "Well then, go right on ahead. If you can."
"I didn't spare your life outside the tavern just to kill you now," Khamul said. "But I won't help you rally your people."
"Very well," Eorl said. He looked back down at his village and the orc hordes. "They have much to pay for," he said, his voice quiet and taut with fury. "This is personal now."
And woe betide anyone who makes things personal with Eorl, Khamul thought. Or any of his descendants, I'll be guessing. Probably find out, too.
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.