30. The Palantir
This is pointless, Aica thought as she rode across the land. Why am I going to Arthedain when I can see it from the rock?
Because you don't want Morion to know you have it.
Aica heaved a sigh and her hand went to the rock. She'd taken it with her as she didn't trust leaving it behind. Someone might find it, and even if they didn't, Khamul would certainly steal it.
"Why am I doing this?" Aica muttered. "I don't want to go to Arthedain. I don't like sneaking around and spying. It's dangerous and a waste of time."
So why am I?
Aica jerked the horse's reins. There's no point in going, she thought. I can tell Morion everything he wants to know. But I can't return yet. I have to be gone for a while. And if I'm not going to go to Fornost, where am I going to go?
This was a puzzler. Aica had seen most of Middle-Earth, and she'd liked virtually none of it. So where to go on these three months or so she had to herself?
Aica took out the stone and looked into it. There was the new king, Argeleb II, with his advisors, discussing the plague no doubt. Nothing interesting there. Aica's gaze left Fornost and scanned the countryside. Lucky bastards. The plague'd hardly touched them at all.
Now, Gondor…how was it doing? Not very well by the sight of all those bodies lining the road. Aica frowned. If only Angmar was closer to Gondor! It would be easy to conquer the country in its weakened state! But no, they were far in the north and there were too many enemies between them and Gondor.
And there was Ceure, watching the city from a villa outside Osgiliath…no. It wasn't Osgiliath. It was somewhere in the city built on a mountain…Minas Anor.
Why wasn't she in Osgiliath? It was the capital, after all. No…maybe not.
Aica commanded the stone to look at Osgiliath and saw a city in ruins. It had only barely managed to recover from the Kin-Strife, and this new disaster had destroyed it. Cut to less than a quarter of its former population, Osgiliath was a wasteland. The king had probably relocated to Minas Anor. Interesting.
"Huh," Aica said. Maybe she should send Ringe down there to investigate… Except Ringe wasn't hers anymore. The little traitor was Morion's slut.
Aica burned with fury and it only increased as the stone, responding to her thoughts, showed her Carn Dum. There was Ringe talking with Morion. He looked happy and it made Aica's blood boil. How dare he laugh after betraying her! How dare he! She'd show him! And she would take Morion's head from his shoulders for stealing her brother.
Suddenly the scene in the stone clouded, the crisp image replaced by gray mist.
"What is this?" Aica snapped, scowling. Was the stone broken? Did it react badly to strong emotions?
~I was wondering when someone would find this one,~ someone said in Aica's mind.
"Who said that?" Aica exclaimed, whipping her head around. But she was all alone in the middle of the moors.
The voice sighed. ~I'm in the palantir, genius.~
"It's a what now?"
~Palantir. There're seven of them in Arda. You've got the master stone. Lucky you. Doubt you deserve it.~
"The master stone?" Aica asked, looking harder at the crystal. It didn't seem incredibly special. But then again, she hadn't seen the others. "And there're six more like this?"
~Yes. I don't know where they are, but Elros brought seven to Numenor, and they all made it to Middle-Earth.~
These were old then. Very, very old indeed. "So what are you? A ghost or something?"
~I wish. No, I'm a prisoner in this place…it's full of gray mist. I think someone called it the Land of the Lost.~
"Sorry about that, but I can't help you."
~Look, you wretched little wraith. I made the palantri, and you've been using that one for your own ends! I think you owe me something!~
"Who are you?" Aica snapped.
~I am Feanor, son of Finwe. You've probably heard the name before.~
Aica, not having had a formal education of any sort, hadn't. "No," she said. "What are you? An elf?"
~I was the High King of the Noldor!~
"What? Like Gil-Galad?"
"I don't like elves," Aica said. This one sounded different from all the other wordy, imperious ones she'd heard of though. He reminded her of some of the toughs who used to hang out in Bree.
~I don't like humans! And I like undead humans even less! But I need your help. Unfortunately.~
Aica's eyes narrowed. "What kind of help?"
~I presume that you at least know who Morgoth is?~
"Yes, of course. I'm not an idiot."
~I was beginning to worry. Anyway, he is keeping me captive in this land.~
"Again, that's a shame, but I can't go up against the Dark Vala." Although I'd like to, because striking a blow against him would put a dent in Morion's day.
~I'm not asking you to. I just need your help in escaping him.~
"That sounds dangerous."
~You're a wraith! You can't die!~
"You're dead, aren't you?" Aica asked. "And if he's got a hold on you while you're dead, think of what he can do to me!"
~Have some guts for once in your miserable life. Look, what do you want?~
~What do I have to promise you for you to help free me?~
What do I want? Aica thought. "I want Morion dead," she said.
~Who is Morion? Wait… Is he your leader? The one possessed by Morgoth?~
~I think I might be able to help you out there,~ Feanor said slyly. ~Free me, and I can give you his head.~
"Well, I've got some free time so I might as well do a good deed. Or something. What do I do?"
~The main issue is getting my soul from this place to Arda. I'll need a vessel for it…~
"Would the stone…er…palantir, work?"
~No. I could get in, but I doubt I could get out.~
"But you made it."
~It's a new type of magic! Ordinary magical objects I can twist and bend to suit my needs, but this…I've never tried with this before.~
"So what do you need?"
~Something magical…something powerful.~
"Like my ring?" Aica asked, holding up one of the nine rings.
~Are you mad? Sauron made that! You're suggesting I put my soul into one of Sauron's creations?~
"You seem awful choosy for someone in a mess."
Feanor sighed. ~I need to be able to get out, and I don't want to be captured by Sauron. Those are my only criteria.~
"Well, I'll look. But I'm not promising anything."
~Does Galadriel still live in Arda?~
"Huh? Yeah, in Lorien. Why?"
~She has many ancient objects in her possession. One of them should do nicely.~
"Getting into Lorien is a lot harder than it looks. And it looks pretty hard."
~As you said, you have time on your hands. And you're immortal.~
Aica sighed. What's life without a little challenge? she thought.