41. Trouble for Gondor
Ceure smiled as she watched the flowers drift over the street. How pleasant. What a happy day.
Narmacil II and his queen smiled and waved to the crowd. They made a lovely couple.
"What a glorious coronation," a woman to Ceure's right commented.
"Such a beautiful couple," her friend agreed.
"They will be a fine king and queen."
"I hear they already have a son."
"Ah, yes, Calimehtar. He's a strapping young lad."
"He will be a great king someday."
"Yes, indeed he will."
After the king and queen had passed by, Ceure returned to her villa. She enjoyed Minas Anor more than Osgiliath. The mountain air was most refreshing and the view was spectacular.
Unfortunately, the uninvited guest was both unexpected and not entirely welcome.
"While it's good to see you again, Khamul," Ceure said, "I wonder what you want."
"You've got a very nice place," Khamul said.
"Yes, I know. Why are you here?"
"Vorea's leading the campaign against Arthedain and it appears that Araval has reestablished ties with Gondor."
"Yes, I heard," Ceure said. "Does that impact you?"
"Well, it could make things unpleasant. So I'm down here to make some trouble for the good king."
Poor Narmacil, Ceure thought. Not even a day into his reign and already doom is calling.
"I'm afraid I can't help you there," she said. "Umbar has been destroyed, although I hear it's being rebuilt."
"Destroyed? By who?"
"One of the kings," Ceure said. "It was a long time ago. I can hardly keep them straight anymore."
"Huh. So, how are the Easterlings?"
"Mostly cowed, frightened of Gondor's power."
Khamul frowned. "Does Gondor have any enemies?"
"Besides disease? Not really. Everyone's still scared of another Great Plague," Ceure said.
"Would anyone like to be Gondor's enemy?"
"Many people. The Haradrim mount the occasional attack, but it's easily repulsed. The Easterlings chafe under taxes and tributes, but their mutterings are a far cry from rebellion."
"Seems like a bit of a shake-up is needed," Khamul said. "I think I could do that. What's Mordor like?"
"Deserted, as far as I know," Ceure said. "There're probably a few orcs hidden here and there and multiplying, but Gondor has relaxed its guard."
"That didn't seem like a good place to mount rebellion anyway," Khamul said. "Oh well. Southern Gondor is heavily patrolled, I'm guessing?"
"Quite right," Ceure said. "Rebellion is too common down there for there to be any relaxation of vigilance."
"So the Easterlings might have reason to attack and the ability to formulate a rebellion without getting caught and slaughtered by Gondorians?"
"They would be your best bet," Ceure said.
"Then I'll go see about them," Khamul said. "You coming?"
"No, I think I'll stay here."
"I would love to drive the soldiers of Gondor out of my land. I would love to burn their fields and steal their riches. I would love to watch their proud cities crumble. Except they would kill us."
"So that's your main concern?" Khamul asked.
"Yes," the Easterling chief said. His name was Ulfang, a name that did not inspire confidence in light of his First Age predecessor.
"If the odds were evened, would you rebel?"
"In an instant," Ulfang said. "Unfortunately, the odds aren't going to be even for some time to come."
I need this man and his tribe, Khamul thought. He's got command of the most Easterlings in Middle-Earth. I need him. But what can I give him? Ah well, let's try the normal strategy.
"If you fight for me, you can keep all the plunder."
Ulfang frowned. "All the plunder?" he asked suspiciously.
"Oh yes, all of it. I don't need it. And besides, I think having me on your side will even the odds considerably."
Ulfang's eyes narrowed. "What are you?" he asked.
Khamul grinned. "Someone who can give you vengeance."
"All the plunder?" Ulfang asked once more.
"Yes! All the damn plunder! Now fight for me, dammit!"