47. Khamul's Prophecy
"You're not my sister," Harwan muttered when the ringbearer finally met him.
"I know. Shut up," Khamul hissed. "I'm taking you back to Harad."
"I quite like it here actually. Although the weather is a little wet."
"You're going back to Harad. Your people need you!"
Harwan sighed. He was a very handsome man, and Khamul was rather looking forward to the journey back to Harad, provided she didn't get seasick again.
"Have you seen them?" he asked. "Is the old priest still there?"
"Yes, he's fine," Khamul said. "You'll come?"
"I hardly have a choice, do I?" Harwan's eyes narrowed. "What's this about anyway?" he asked. "Why are you impersonating a sister I never even had?"
"I'll explain later."
"I'd prefer it now."
"Your priest runs the tribe now, but he needs your help. If I rescue you, he'll call in all his favors and give me an army to destroy Gondor with."
Harwan's eyes widened. "You want to make war with Gondor?" he gasped.
"Yes," Khamul said. "Destroy, actually. I did use that word."
"No, not mad," Khamul said. "I've got a plan actually. A very good plan."
Harwan looked torn. On one half, he wanted to keep his people safe, and war with Gondor put them in incredible danger. On the other hand, if Gondor were vanquished, his people would never need to fear the Numenorean realm-in-exile again. What Khamul wasn't telling him though, was that she had no intention of actually destroying Gondor. It was just plain impossible.
"I'll do it," the Haradrim chief said at last. "But if Araval comes to Gondor's aid, I'm pulling out. He's a good man and I won't fight him."
"Fair enough," Khamul said. There was absolutely no chance of that happening, what with Arthedain trying in vain to fend off Angmar. And soon enough Arvedui would be on the throne…Arvedui, the last king of Arthedain. Might he be the last because Khamul would put a sword in his chest, ending the line of Isildur?
"I shall go pack," Harwan said. He gave Khamul a dark look as he left. Could he sense Sauron's malice in the ring? Did he know what she really was? Possibly. Or maybe it was just because she was a female taking the initiative. Nobody in any land liked that. Except for Lorien. And no one would say a word against Galadriel because she had an elf ring and could zap people. Probably.
Khamul took the long way through the castle and wondered at it. She'd spent three days here as Araval's honored guest. Ironic, wasn't it? She'd spent her life trying to destroy him and everything he loved, and here she was, his honored guest. And she wasn't trying to kill him either. Strange, that.
It'll end with Arvedui, Khamul thought. Not before, and not after.
"Enjoying yourself here?" Khamul asked as she ran into Malbeth near the gate of the castle.
"I think I will," Malbeth said with a smile.
"Was that a real prophecy you gave the king?"
"Yes. I told you I did them sometimes."
"But it was real?"
Khamul shook her head. "I can't believe it," she said. "You're a fantastic liar. You're a fraud!"
"This was real."
"It was," Malbeth protested. "Arvedui will be the last king in Arthedain. Just watch."
Khamul's eyes narrowed. She'd told Malbeth about her plans towards Gondor, but hadn't mentioned the ring. By the time Arvedui ascended the throne, she should be long dead. "I'll be dead by then," she said.
"Oh, yes, of course," Malbeth said with a knowing smile, "forgive me."
"So will you."
"Yes, yes, of course."
"So we'll both be dead."
"I'm going to get my horse," Khamul muttered. "Have a nice life."
"Wait," Malbeth said.
"I've got a prophecy for you."
Khamul rolled her eyes. "What?" she snapped.
Malbeth was as still as a statue and Khamul got an uneasy feeling. A few nearby soldiers and peasants crowded around, eager to hear this new prophecy.
What's he going to say? Khamul thought, starting to panic. He could mention Sauron or a thousand other things she didn't want anyone to know. Shut up, she thought. Shut up, Malbeth. Don't say a word!
"Over the land there lies a long shadow," Malbeth said in the prophetic tones, "westward reaching wings of darkness. The tower trembles to the tombs of kings. Doom approaches. The dead awaken. For the hour has come for the oathbreakers, at the stone of Erech they shall stand again. And here there a horn in the hills be ringing. Whom's shall the horn be? Who shall call them from the grey twilight, the forgotten people? The heir of him to whom the oath they swore. From the north he shall come. Need shall drive him. He shall pass the door to the Paths of the Dead."
There was some applause as Malbeth finished. Khamul slipped away in the crowd and hurried to the horses, hoping Harwan would be waiting for her.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," the Haradrim said. He was already on a fine chestnut mare, looking ready to be off. Several soldiers of Arthedain were around him, ready to escort their lord's honored guests to their ship.
"Malbeth gave another prophecy," Khamul said, swinging onto the large black horse. She'd left it near an inn the night of the break-in, but somehow it had found its way to the castle. It was funny like that.
"I don't know what it was about," Khamul said. The Paths of the Dead. What was that? Erech…I've heard that somewhere before.
Throughout the journey to Lake Evendim, and even during the journey downriver, Khamul hardly spoke to Harwan at all. Her mind was preoccupied with the prophecy. She tried to unravel it, understand what it meant, but she had no idea.
It's about some guy, Khamul thought as the sea appeared on the horizon. There's evil in the land – Sauron, probably – and it's all doom and gloom. Then this guy shows up from the north and summons these…oathbreaker people with a horn call. He's the heir of the man the people swore the oath to, so he's calling them to fulfill it. But what was the oath? And what are these Paths of the Dead? They sure don't sound good.
And, most importantly, how do I fit into this? Malbeth said it was a prophecy for me, but nobody's ever sworn an oath to me, and besides, I don't have kids.
"Are you still thinking about this prophecy?" Harwan asked.
"Yes," Khamul said.
"I thought about it as well," Harwan said. Khamul had told him the prophecy a few days ago, hoping he would catch something she'd missed. "Perhaps it's about Arvedui," he said.
"Another one about him? I think he's got enough prophecies."
"He is the heir of Elendil. That's a mighty heritage."
"It probably is about Numenor," Khamul said. She scowled. "Everything's about them, the lucky bastards."
"They were destroyed when their island drowned," Harwan said, shocked. "How could you possibly think they're lucky?" His face soured. "But then again, you think you're going to use the Haradrim to destroy Gondor."
"You agreed," Khamul growled.
"I did, and I don't renege on my promises, as these people in the prophecy apparently did."
"They got what they deserved at least," Khamul said. "I think I understand that part."
"Really? What is it?"
"The guy they swore the oath to died a long time ago if his heir – not son or grandson – is calling the people. The people must've died a long time ago, too, but they still answer the call. And then there's the little matter of the Paths of the Dead."
Harwan's eyes widened. "You think these people are dead?"
"Yes," Khamul said, nodding. "I think I do."
Harwan shook his head. "It must just be a saying or some such thing. They can't actually be…"
"They are," Khamul said. "I'm sure of it."
It took them months, but at last they reached Umbar, where the Arthedain ship deposited them before returning to the north.
"I'd forgotten all the sand," Harwan said.
"So did I," Khamul muttered.
Khamul grinned. She was back in familiar territory. With Harwan returned, the priest would rally the tribes, and then they would have a force to be reckoned with. However, if she really wanted to throw Gondor into panic, she was going to need something more than the Haradrim.
With the deaths of so many leaders, the Easterlings were in a panic. If they were to find a new chief then they could attack Gondor from the east while the Haradrim attacked from the south.
The priest and Harwan seemed capable enough to handle the Haradrim. It was time for Khamul to return to Rhovanion.
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.