46. Arthedain's Prophecy
Two horses and their sopping wet riders straggled up to the gates of Fornost. The guards were wet as well, not to mention cold, tired, and hungry, and they didn't see the point in going into thorough questioning of a couple of travelers. What were the chances that they were going to be in league with Angmar? Pretty minimal.
"That was easy," Khamul said with a frown as the city gates shut behind them. "If I knew it was that easy I'd have persuaded Morion to try an assassination. And not just of the king. I could've gotten the entire royal family. Maybe I still can," she said with a gleam in her eye.
"I would advise against that," Malbeth said. "If you kill everyone, there's a very good chance of Harwan getting killed as well."
"If he's even still alive."
"He's a curiosity," Malbeth said. "People don't kill curiosities."
Khamul rolled her eyes. "We made it past the city gates," she said, changing the subject, "but we still have to get into the castle. That's going to be much harder."
"We could climb in through a window," Malbeth said.
"Yes, a window. Look there." Malbeth pointed at the huge castle that overshadowed the town around it. "You can just barely see it, but there's a window open."
"It's about a hundred feet up."
"You climb up and throw a rope down for me," Malbeth said. "We'll do it tonight when there's less chance of being seen."
"I can't climb," Khamul hissed.
"Have you ever tried?"
"No! That's why I can't!"
"Now's your chance to learn."
This was an extremely bad idea. It was a bad idea for a lot of reasons, but most of them had to do with climbing the wall of a castle by using two daggers. First of all, what would happen if the daggers broke? Second, what happened if she slipped?
One hundred feet, Khamul thought. One hundred feet of pulling myself up by my arms. Great. Oh, this is just so fantastic I can hardly believe it.
It was pitch black out and Khamul was worried she was going to miss the window or go right over the wall. Falling into the courtyard didn't seem like a great idea.
Finally, as she reached for another handhold, her hand went into a room. Still didn't bother to close the window, eh? she thought. Good for me.
Swinging herself through the window and sheathing her daggers, Khamul glanced around. It looked like someone's bedroom, but she didn't think there was anyone inside. Still, she had to make sure.
Walking over to the bed, Khamul poked the blankets and was relieved to hear no squeals or feel anything human.
Why does he need to come up? Khamul thought as she secured one end of a rope she'd kept over her shoulder to one of the posts of the bed, and threw the other out the window. Within moments the rope tensed as Malbeth began to climb up.
Suppose someone walks in, Khamul thought. What do I do then?
There was a simple answer to that question, but she wanted to avoid bloodshed. Violence had the tendency to draw more attention to a break-in.
"Is anyone here?" Malbeth asked as he crawled in through the window.
"No," Khamul said. "Not yet anyway. We've got to hurry though. Someone could be along anytime."
Malbeth nodded and glanced at the rope. "Should we do something about that?" he asked.
"We need a way to get back down," Khamul snapped. "Come on." She walked over to the door and peeked out into the hallway. It was empty.
"Is it empty?" Malbeth asked, glancing over her shoulder.
"Yeah," Khamul muttered. She frowned. "This is weird."
"This is a castle, home of the king, in a time of war. You'd think there'd at least be some guards wandering around. Or a bunch of maids. Someone."
"It is peculiar," Malbeth said, "but perhaps they're busy somewhere else."
"Somewhere else?" Khamul sneered. "I don't think so. There's something strange here."
"Are we just going to stand in the doorway then?" Malbeth snapped.
Khamul bit back a furious retort and walked out into the hallway, hand clenched on her sword.
"You walk like we're going to be attacked any minute," Malbeth said.
"We might be."
"We certainly are if anyone sees you walking like that."
"We're going to be attacked if anyone sees me," Khamul said. "I don't exactly fit in around here."
"Except for Harwan."
"If he's even alive," Khamul muttered.
Khamul's apprehension increased as they wandered down the apparently abandoned hallway. There was no noise, no sound, no sight of anyone. Fornost was alive and bustling with people, shouldn't its castle be the same?
"That looks like an interesting place," Malbeth commented when they reached an intersection of several hallways. He abruptly took the one furthest to the right and made for an ornately carved door.
"What are you doing?!" Khamul hissed, running after him. The old man could move surprisingly fast though, and he had already opened the door by the time Khamul reached him.
Inside the room was a horde of men sitting or standing, talking quietly. One man paced back and forth, wringing his hands occasionally. Near him sat an older man who looked like him, and occasionally glanced up with irritation at the pacing man.
The talking, pacing, and glancing stopped immediately when Malbeth and Khamul walked in.
"Who are you?" the pacing man asked, raising an eyebrow. Several hands went to swords.
"I am a great prophet!" Malbeth exclaimed, holding up his hands for silence. "Malbeth the Seer they call me! I have traveled unknown leagues to bear witness to this great event!"
The formerly pacing man suddenly looked hopeful. "Does that mean everything's going to be okay?" he asked the seated man.
"Don't be an idiot," the other man snapped, standing up. "Do you know who I am?" he asked Malbeth, ignoring Khamul completely.
"Yes, indeed, great sir," Malbeth said with a slight bow. "You are King Araval, the greatest king of Arthedain."
There were a few murmurs of agreement at this, but Araval silenced them with a scowl.
"I hate fawning yes-men," he snarled. "So," His attention was back on Malbeth, "you still claim to be a seer?"
"Yes, indeed, sire."
"And you've come to give us some sort of prophecy?"
"Yes, sire. You are most intelligent."
"About my son?" Araval's son asked.
"Yes," Malbeth said, nodding.
They breed like rats, Khamul thought. Araval, Araphant, and now his son… something that begins with Ar- probably.
"And what would this prophecy be?" Araval asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I cannot say, sire, until I see the baby."
"You will not be seeing any grandson of mine. How did you get in here anyway? And who is that with you?"
"This is my loyal servant, Khamul," Malbeth said, gesturing to the ringbearer. "I heard this unborn child's physic call from lands afar and journeyed here to deliver my prophecy. Mere walls could not keep me out."
Araval rolled his eyes. "Throw this buffoon out," he snapped.
A group of large men detached themselves from the rest of the crowd and began moving with purpose toward Malbeth and Khamul.
He's got nerve, I'll give him that, Khamul thought, watching Malbeth. Imagine! Me, his servant! I'd kill him for it if it wasn't a brilliant scam.
Just as the men were about to grab Malbeth, a door on the other side of the room flew open and a young woman rushed out.
"Great lords!" she exclaimed. She bowed to Araval and then to Araphant. "Your wife has given birth! To a son!"
Araphant breathed a sigh of relief. "Is she all right?" he asked. "It was a difficult labor."
"She is fine, great sires! Please, come see the baby!"
Malbeth and Khamul momentarily forgotten, the crowd began to move toward the other door.
"Now's our chance to get out," Khamul said, grabbing Malbeth by the arm. "We can find Harwan and be on our way back to Harad before they know we're gone."
"I don't think I'll be going back to Harad," Malbeth said, shaking off Khamul's hand and following the lords through the door.
"What are you doing, you idiot?" Behind her anger, a little voice in Khamul was saying, this is my chance. I can rid the world of the king of Arthedain and all his descendents. I can end the line of Isildur forever.
Hand straying to her sword, Khamul followed Malbeth and emerged in a crowded bedroom where a weary, sweat-soaked woman lay on a large bed, almost unconscious. Araphant knelt near her, holding her hand and talking softly to a small bundle in the crook of her arm. Araval stood nearby, looking proud.
Khamul was about to draw her sword, kill the nobles, end this millennia-long vendetta, but there was something… There was something about the scene. She didn't see a vengeful warlord in Araval's eyes, but a new grandfather, immensely proud of both child and grandchild. And there was such tenderness in Araphant's eyes as he looked at his infant son and wife. Khamul was ready to draw the blade, but for some reason her hand wouldn't move. It was stuck fast to the hilt and frozen there like stone.
Malbeth was busy pushing himself through the crowd as Araphant murmured to Araval, "What shall we call him?"
Suddenly, Malbeth froze. It was such a sudden lack of movement that it startled others and a space suddenly cleared around him. Malbeth still didn't move, and it attracted the attention of Araval.
"What's he doing here?" the king snapped. "Get him out."
"Arvedui you shall call him, for he will be the last in Arthedain. Though a choice will come to the Dúnedain, and if they take the one that seems less hopeful, then your son will change his name and become king of a great realm. If not, then much sorrow and many lives of men shall pass, until the Dúnedain arise and are united again."
Khamul blinked. Was this really Malbeth talking? It didn't sound like him at all. It was as if his voice was coming through a long tunnel. It was loud and reverberated in the room. It sounded like a real prophecy. Was it really?
"Arvedui," Araphant said quietly, touching the baby's head. "Arvedui."
"You are a prophet," Araval said quietly. "Last King," he whispered. "The last king of Arthedain."
"But for good or for ill?" a noble asked.
Araval looked at Malbeth and Khamul knew that the old man had the king in the palm of his hand.
"I do not know," Malbeth said. Khamul could tell he was back to his old self again. Whatever had happened, it was over.
"You have given us a great prophecy," Araval said. "Please, sir, what can we give you in exchange for our cruel words earlier and this gift?"
Khamul nudged Malbeth in the ribs.
"Sire, if it pleases you, I would like your captive, a Haradrim called Harwan."
Araval frowned. "Harwan? Why him? I'd gladly give you as many riches as you ask for."
"No, sire, please. I wish for Harwan…and a position here at court."
So this was Malbeth's motive, Khamul thought. All right, fine. She could get back to Harad and deal with the Haradrim herself.
"Very well," Araval said. "What do you want with Harwan though?"
"Harwan is my servant's brother. I promised her her brother and a trip back home to Harad."
"I will provide the boat," Araval said. "The journey is dangerous and long. And besides, Harwan has become a friend of mine. I never heard anything about a sister though." He frowned at Khamul briefly, but then shrugged.
"Thank you, Your Majesty," Malbeth said with a bow.
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.