86. The End of All Things
It was their last battle. If the Halflings were caught and the army obliterated, Sauron would be able to extend his power over all Middle-Earth. And if the Ring was destroyed, then Sauron and the ringbearers would fall.
The army Elessar had managed to round up was pathetically small. It would be crushed in less than an hour. Such an amount of time was trivial; the Halfling could not reach the Cracks of Doom in that time.
You damn fool, Khamul thought, spotting Elessar dressed in the armor of his ancestors. You're going to die just like Elendil. And just like him, it's going to be for nothing. You damn fool. I keep giving you life, and you keep throwing it away.
The orcs cut through the army of the West. Vorea's spear found its mark in a tall man of Rohan. Khamul kept thinking of Eorl.
She struck down a man of Gondor and saw Isildur in his face, and then it changed to Elendil and she was shaken. Khamul did not serve Sauron anymore. There. She'd said it. She didn't serve him anymore. So why should she kill his enemies?
Khamul turned her horse from the battle and rode through the orcs. She cut off a few heads here and there. Nothing special. Just to motivate the little bastards.
And then, just as she was about to leave, she paused. The battle raged around her, each side ignoring the Haradrim on the horse.
Why should she just leave like a coward? She didn't serve Sauron anymore, and she'd rather see Elessar live. So why didn't she kill his enemies?
Grinning a savage smile, Khamul raised her sword against the orcs, who fled before the look on her face. She laughed as she sliced them to pieces, enacting revenge for every little injustice they had ever done her.
In the sky, Nazgul came shrieking down on Fell Beasts. Khamul saw the light glint off an orb and knew it was the palantir. Aica never went anywhere without it now.
Someone started saying something and Khamul was about to ignore them when she realized that it was horribly, horribly familiar.
"The eagles are coming! The eagles are coming!"
"Oh Valar!" she exclaimed. "Not again!"
Swooping down out of the sky, the eagles struck the Fell Beasts, wrestling with them. Several riders fell out of their saddles, and even the Fell Beasts themselves started to tumble to the ground after a while, their throats bitten through by the sharp beaks of the eagles.
And then, the ring began to burn. Gasping, Khamul bit her lip as pain seared through her hand. The gem was glowing bright as Sauron's voice cut through her mind.
*The Ring is at Sammath Naur! Hurry to it! Claim it before the Halfling does something rash!*
Khamul shook her head and wrung her hand. "Solve your own problems," she muttered. "I'm done with you." Except she wasn't. Not as long as the ring was on her finger.
The few Fell Beasts with riders whirled away from the eagles and sped toward Mt. Doom.
They were too late.
A tremor went through the world. Khamul felt her bones shake as if they would shake themselves apart. The burning gem on the ring slowly dimmed until it was just a piece of a metal. Truly a piece of metal. Not an ounce of magic in it.
And then it turned to rust and fell onto the ground and was lost.
Looking up, Khamul saw the Barad-dur tremble and collapse, falling to pieces before her eyes. The Morannon crumbled as surely as with the strange explosives of the dwarves. The Towers of Teeth followed suit, and all Mordor fell into ruin as the Army of the West cheered and thrust their swords into the sky.
The orcs stared in horror as their home collapsed. Then they ran, perceiving that Sauron was gone.
And he was at that. Khamul felt a lightness in her heart that hadn't been there since…forever. Sauron was gone and he could never return. He was gone forever into the Darkness, beyond the Door of Night.
She raised her sword and cheered with the men until her voice was hoarse.
Ceure and Metima flew toward Orodruin, forced on by the will of Sauron. They were shaken to their cores as Sauron departed the land and the rings broke apart.
"We're free," Metima whispered, staring at her empty finger.
"Free," Ceure echoed.
The Fell Beasts were still heading for the mountain. What would happen when they reached it, Ceure had no idea. She could return to Minas Tirith now, and live a fine life until she reached her natural end…
No. There was no return from the darkness in which she had walked. For some, perhaps, but not for her. She wished only to die in a fashion suitable for a lady of lost Numenor.
And then the mountain exploded, shooting flames everywhere. A great ball of fire arched out of the volcano's mouth and came roaring at her.
Ceure remembered the tales of her mother, the tales of the ancient kings who died when their lives were at an end, immolating themselves in a great pyre.
She stood up on the Fell Beast and spread her arms, welcoming the fire.
Far, far away in Dol Guldur Ancalime felt the Ring's destruction. "Oh dear," she whispered, looking at the broken, twisted pieces of metal on the ground. "Oh dear." What would she do now? Even Ancalime knew that she could not hope to control the orcs without the power of the Ring backing her.
And the elves were at the gates too. It was a bleak situation, no doubt about that.
Ancalime left her room and slipped down the stairs, carefully avoiding all the orcs and any sound of fighting.
Reaching the dungeons, Ancalime opened a sewer grate and, grimacing, jumped down into the abandoned tunnel. It led into some place in Mirkwood, but anywhere was better than here.
There were no orcs here, nor elves. She was on a side of Dol Guldur that few went. And beyond her lay a path to…somewhere else.
I tried, Ancalime thought, looking to where the arrows blackened the sky and the screams of orcs and elves alike filled the air. I really did try, Khamul. I hope you understand.
And then she turned away from the fortress and followed a rough path out of, into, the forest.
Aica lay stunned after the fall from the Fell Beast. She heard Sauron's voice pound in her head, and then she saw the ring fall away.
"Dammit," she muttered. Immortality, invulnerability, gone. At least she still had the palantir, though where it had fallen, she wasn't sure. She could regain the others with time. They could not be all lost with Sauron.
A rumble behind her alerted her to the fall of the Morannon and the Towers of Teeth.
Cursing, Aica ran as the rocks and steel tumbled down. A large piece landed not far from her, and she fell to the ground, not moving until the rumbling had stopped.
Aica jumped to her feet and saw Ringe lying some distance away, underneath the shadow of the Ash Mountains. Mountains that were trembling and seemed not done with their shaking and dropping of rocks. Even now small pebbles rained down.
"What're you doing?" she snapped.
"I can't get up! Please, Aica! Help me!"
Aica sighed. "All right, all right," she muttered.
And then she spotted the palantir. It lay near Ringe, the glistening orb of dark crystal. Her salvation.
I'll get the palantir and then come back for Ringe, she told herself.
A deep rumble shook the ground and Aica looked up, seeing a massive boulder shake itself loose from the mountain. It was coming straight down and would crush both the palantir and Ringe.
"Aica!" Ringe screamed. He saw the rock. He knew his death was nigh. Unless his sister saved him. She was his sister. Of course she would save him.
Aica made her choice. Ringe's hand was outstretched, straining, waiting for her to pull him to safety.
Aica's hands closed over the palantir and she ran without looking back. Ringe's tortured scream followed her for a while before being suddenly cut off with such a thud that it buried any crunch.
"Shouldn't've betrayed me with Morion," Aica spat. "You just got what you deserved, you little bastard."
"Hello, Aica," Yanta said, stepping into the seventh ringbearer's path.
"What'd you want?"
"I see you made it. Good for you."
"What'd you want?" Aica demanded again. She clutched the palantir close to her.
"You left Ringe behind."
"He deserved it."
Yanta shrugged. "Have you seen Metima?"
"No. She was still on a Fell Beast."
Yanta sighed and closed her eyes. "So she's dead then. All right."
"Get out of my way."
"You know what?" Yanta asked, her eyes snapping open.
"What?" Aica growled.
"I've always hated you." Yanta's sword was in her hands and Aica was carrying the palantir with both of hers.
There were three thuds as the palantir, Aica's head, and her body hit the ground.
"Finder's keepers," Yanta muttered, picking up the crystal ball and tucking it under her arm. She looked toward Mt. Doom and saw nothing.
"Have we now turned even on our own?" Vorea asked softly. She was covered in dust but was otherwise unharmed.
"Yup," Yanta said. "Have you seen Metima?"
Yanta nodded slowly. "I'm leaving. Coming?"
"All right. What're you going to do then?"
Vorea looked back toward the battlefield. "I do not know."
There was a rain of rocks and then someone rolled down the side of the mountain to the ground.
"Metima!" Yanta exclaimed, helping her up. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine!" the former ringbearer said cheerfully. She dusted herself off and smiled weakly. "Ceure's dead."
"Why aren't you?"
"The Fell Beast turned and ran away. It was attacked by an eagle up there." She gestured to where the scaly beast still fought with one of the lords of the skies. "So I jumped off."
"How are you alive?" Vorea asked.
"Good luck. Also, it was flying pretty low when I jumped."
"I'm leaving," Yanta said.
"Where're we going?" Metima asked.
"East. Vorea? You sure you aren't coming?"
"Aye," Vorea said quietly. "Ah, here comes a horse. One of the Rohirrim's, I suspect. A fine beast."
With the horse came a pack of orcs. Big orcs. They were glaring fiercely at the former Shriekers and drawing their weapons.
"I don't like our odds on this one," Yanta said.
Vorea smiled and drew her sword. "Take this," she said, thrusting her metal spear into Yanta's hand. "And leave. I will handle this."
"You're going to die!"
Yanta handed Metima the palantir and then jumped onto the horse, pulling Metima up in front of her. "You sure?" she asked.
"I will have my redemption," Vorea said. She raised her sword as the orcs came forth, imagining that she was once more on the bridge in Enedwaith, guarding it against trespassers.
Yanta rode hard without looking back. She had to though, just once. There was no one standing there. The orcs were all dead, but so was Vorea. She couldn't make out the bodies, but she knew it in her heart.
"Where are we going?" Metima asked.
"Like I said, east."
"East of what?"
"East of here. We're going east and we are never coming back."
Eowyn washed the man's face and inspected the scars. They were healing nicely, but it didn't matter if he didn't speak. Why didn't he speak? What was wrong with him?
"What is wrong with you?" she snapped. She heard something hit the ground and looked, seeing bits of blackened metal. She tried to pick one up and it fell apart in her hand.
"I don't know," the man said. His eyes were still closed, but he was talking.
"You can speak!" Eowyn gasped.
"Yes, surprising, isn't it? I'm afraid I'm rather hungry, and thirsty. Oh, and I think I've got some amnesia. Could you tell me everything that's happened recently?"
Eowyn's jaw dropped.
"Are you there?" the man asked. "I would open my eyes, but –"
"Don't do that," Eowyn snapped. "The scars haven't healed yet!"
"Ah, scars. I feared there were going to be scars."
"You were very foolish to challenge the Witch-King to a fight."
"Yes, I believe I was."
"Hey! What bastard stole your ring?" The man's wedding ring was gone! Which one of those healers had snatched it? It was probably the chief healer. Well, Eowyn would have a very stern word with him about this. And probably punch him in the face too.
"Never mind it," the man said. "It never meant much to me anyway. Say, has a Haradrim woman been by here?"
Eowyn frowned. "No, of course not. We are at war with Harad."
"Ah, yes, of course." He sighed. "Tell me if you see her. There is something I want to tell her."
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.