80. All's Well
"How deep does Saruman's treachery run?" Sauron demanded as Vorea strode in, looking shaken. It took a lot to shake the third ringbearer, and already Sauron's heart was falling.
"Saruman's armies have been destroyed, Isengard lies in ruins, and the wizard is a prisoner in Orthanc."
Sauron raised an eyebrow. "What army of the Valar accomplished this feat?"
"Theoden's army was trapped in the fortress of Helm's Deep as Saruman's Uruk-hai lay siege. With the rising of the sun, Gandalf the White brought reinforcements, which, together with a large group of Huorns, destroyed the army."
"Huorns? The ents have awoken?"
"Indeed. A small army of them laid waste to Isengard. They call it Treegarth now."
Sauron nodded slowly. "I see," he said. "Well, we can expect no help from Saruman then." He frowned. "Did you get a look at the Rohirrim's numbers?"
"A very scant look, my lord. Helm's Deep was painful, but by no means a disaster. They will be able to send aid to Gondor, though how much aid, I do not know."
"Certainly nothing substantial," Sauron murmured. "Rohan has ever relied on bravery far more than numbers. And against the might of Mordor, what use is bravery?"
"Is a date set for the invasion?"
"In four days we shall march to Osgiliath. Melkor will lead the armies, and you shall accompany him."
"Yes, my lord."
"Try to ensure that he doesn't do anything remarkably stupid."
"He is a powerful Vala, I doubt he –"
"You can never tell with him," Sauron hissed. "Go. Get out of my sight."
Vorea raised an eyebrow, but bowed and left.
Though it had started slow, the Third Age was speeding toward a finish. Though what that finish was…
Sauron closed his eyes and propped his head up on his fingers. They are taking the Ring somewhere, he thought. Where? South, yes, but there are many things in the south. Minas Tirith? What fools they would be, and yet… I cannot have the Ring in Minas Tirith.
And if it is not Minas Tirith? Where then? They could have cast it into the Anduin long ago. So they do not mean to destroy it. No, they do not mean to lose it. To destroy it would mean to cast it into the fires of Mount Doom…
Sauron's heart skipped a beat. The Ring was headed south, either to Minas Tirith, as seemed likely, or perhaps Mordor where…where… They sought to destroy him utterly!
They couldn't though, Sauron desperately assured himself. They wouldn't be able to. The Ringbearer would have grown attached to the Ring by now. He would never be able to cast it away. Particularly if he were something as weak as a Halfling.
So there was nothing to worry about. Let him bring the Ring to Mordor! Sauron would be waiting for him. He would recall all his Nazgul, station them around Mordor. No creature, no matter how small, would slip through his net.
The words of Caradhras came back to him now. I let Lungorthin live, Sauron thought, and Gandalf fell fighting him. But he came back, stronger than before.
Two Maiar will die, two kings will die, and a tower will fall.
Two Maiar. Saruman was one, but the other? Gandalf. Gandalf died, and so did Saruman. There. The prophecy was fulfilled.
And as for the kings?
Sauron smiled. There was a battle coming and the king of Rohan was sure to be in attendance. His head would roll, as would that of the Heir if he dared show his face.
And the tower?
The Tower of Ecthelion when Sauron's armies marched through the streets of Minas Tirith.
Sauron leaned back in his throne. The world was right again. The Ring was coming to him, carried unwittingly by some idiotic Halfling, Saruman was imprisoned and powerless, and Minas Tirith was about to fall.
There really did not seem to be a downside to the happenings of the world.
And then the door of the Barad-dur flew open and Khamul stormed in.
"You're letting him lead the army?!" she demanded.
Sauron blinked, wondering if he was hallucinating. He hadn't been getting much sleep lately… When he was sure she wasn't a hallucination, he spoke. "Why aren't you in Dol Guldur?" he asked.
"I left someone really capable in charge," Khamul said.
"Never mind. Why is Morgoth leading the army against Minas Tirith?"
"Because he is the most powerful ringbearer, not to mention a fallen Vala."
"And why is Vorea going with him?"
"Because she understands tactics and is a very fine warrior. Besides, it is always good to have a capable second-in-command, just in case something…unfortunate happens."
"Why am I not in the army?"
"Because you are supposed to be in Dol Guldur. Why don't you return there? I know where every Nazgul is except for Ancalime, and if I find out you left her alone there with an exceedingly large army, I will not be pleased."
"I am the second ringbearer, not Vorea. Why am I not in the army?"
"You are untrustworthy, insubordinate, and supposed to be in Dol Guldur!"
"Fine," Khamul said. "Fine. I'll just go back there, shall I?"
"When's this battle taking place anyway?"
"Fine. We're attacking on the eleventh, just in case you don't want there to be any conflict. I mean, conflict between our attacking schedules."
Khamul left and immediately seized an orc that had the misfortune to be passing by. "When's the attack?" she hissed.
"They're leaving on the tenth!" the orc gasped.
"Good." Khamul dropped him and strode down the hallway. Now, all she had to do was find a place to lay low for a few days before slipping out with the army. She was going to see what happened, Sauron be damned.
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