57. Sixteen Shrines
Raising a child was not an easy task, and by the end of two weeks the Lossoth was ready to go to the village and find himself a wife just so she could take care of the damn thing. Fortunately, a rider arrived to take the baby off his hands.
He was tall, with long brown hair, dark eyes, and a fine horse. The Lossoth suspected the horse would make excellent sausages. This rider was also well-fed and strong. Thus, the Lossoth made sure he had his ax with him when he met with the man.
"I am Elrond Half-Elven, from Imladris," the rider said. "Did a man call Arvedui come by here?"
"Yes," the Lossoth said. An elf, eh? Strange. "The Shipwright sent a boat for him, but it was crushed by the ice floes. He drowned."
Elrond closed his eyes. "Alas," he said. "And did a –"
"Woman named Firiel with a son called Aranarth also stop by? Yes. Firiel wandered off down south, but she left her son."
"An unlucky couple," Elrond said. "If you would permit me, sir, I would take the child to Imladris, there to be raised by the elves."
Raised by me, or raised by the elves? the Lossoth thought. The elves. Definitely. "Let me get him," the Lossoth said. He returned moments later with the child, who looked around with wide, excited eyes.
"Thank you," Elrond said, taking the baby. "Did Arvedui take everything with him on the ship?"
"Almost," the Lossoth said. "One moment." He went back to the hut and took the ring out of the bone box. That ring gave him the shivers. He wanted it out of his home as quickly as possible.
"The Ring of Barahir," Elrond whispered as the Lossoth handed him the ring.
"You can have it," the Lossoth said.
"Thank you. Did he happen to have two stones – or a large bag – in his possession?"
The Lossoth nodded. "That he took on the ship."
Elrond sighed. "This is more than I hoped for but less than I wished," he said. "Thank you, Lossoth. You have been of invaluable help. If you should ever need it, you have the elves' aid."
The Lossoth couldn't foresee ever needing the elves' help for anything, but he just nodded. The child was gone and he could go back to his life of fishing and adventuring in the snow. That was just fine by him.
Regrettably, the Lossoth's life was disturbed once more. This time by another rider, but a human one. It was a woman with strangely black skin and hair and eyes.
"If you're looking for Arvedui, he's dead," the Lossoth said hastily. The fish were starting to migrate to the shallows, and he wanted to get plenty before they left. Besides, he was tired of hearing about Arvedui.
"Good," the woman said. "How about his wife and kid?"
"A half-elf named Elrond took the child, and his wife went down south."
The woman frowned. "Where down south?"
The Lossoth shrugged. "Somewhere. I don't know."
"Did Arvedui leave anything behind?"
"If he did, I gave it to Elrond."
The woman cursed and looked at the Lossoth like she wanted to kill him. The Lossoth's hand went to his ax, but the woman did not attack.
"Fine," she spat. "I'll go south then!"
Khamul sped south, not knowing exactly where she was going. She searched through many ruins of Arthedain, but found nothing except some Dunedain refugees.
How long Khamul searched for Firiel, she didn't remember. She kept going further and further south though, and then finally the Misty Mountains loomed before her and Khamul knew where she was heading.
Somehow, through some internal compass, she was approaching the Redhorn Gate again. And Caradhras.
Well, I'm being guided, Khamul thought with a smile. Maybe it's destiny time.
The prospect of finally figuring out what Gandalf and the mountain had meant excited Khamul and she hurried to the mountains of Moria.
Khamul's horse, remembering the way, stubbornly refused to go on the treacherous path up to the Gate. Khamul finally had to dismount and lead it by the reins. And even then it would only move one halting step at a time.
The valley of Azanulbizar was strangely still, the lake without a single ripple. It seemed to Khamul that everything was holding its breath. It was waiting for something.
This must be some great destiny, Khamul thought. She looked up toward Caradhras. The mountain was covered in snow and dark clouds gathered about its top. Its neighbor, Bundushathur, was almost half obscured in clouds, but Zirak-zigil was completely clear. The top of Durin's Tower could be seen. It seemed to gleam in the light.
After almost a mile of leading it, Khamul's horse finally relented and allowed her to ride again. They made better time, but it stopped once more when they reached the Redhorn Gate.
"Oh come on," Khamul snapped. "Don't do this!"
Caradhras felt less…sentient, and Khamul was beginning to believe that she had imagined it talking. She felt like a fool for coming to the mountain, wasting valuable time that she could have spent searching for Firiel. But as she thought about turning around, a flash of gold caught her eye.
A ragged woman – little more than a wraith – stood only a few yards away, just inside the Redhorn Gate.
"Are you Firiel?" Khamul muttered.
"Yes," the woman said. Her eyes were hollow. "I am Firiel, daughter of Ondoher, heir of Anarion!"
"Well, like the rest of the heirs of Numenor, it's time to die." Khamul drew her sword.
Firiel laughed. It wasn't a sane laugh. It was the laugh of someone who had left behind the world of the sane a long, long time ago.
"The mountain called me," Firiel said, looking up at Caradhras's cloud-wreathed peak. "And it called you as well."
"Yes, apparently it's my destiny," Khamul said. "Come on, you stupid horse," she muttered, kicking the beast's sides. It wouldn't budge.
"The mountain called me," Firiel repeated. "The last heir of Isildur drowned in the Ice Bay. It is fitting that the last heir – the last true heir! – of Anarion should die in ice as well."
"If you want to die, let me do the honors," Khamul said. Is her kid dead? she wondered. She seems to think so anyway.
"Isildur and Anarion's lines have died out," Firiel continued. "Their separate lines. But they have been united once more in Aranarth. You can hunt him all you like!" she shrieked, pointing at Khamul. "You'll never catch him! The Valar promised the Line of Luthien would never fail!"
"The Line of Luthien has a lot more branches than just Elendil's heirs," Khamul pointed out. "And quite a few of them are elven. They've got a much better chance of surviving than your child."
Firiel laughed again. "I stand here!" she exclaimed. "And it is the beginning of your reign! But when He stands here, it will be the end!" She laughed once more and jumped off the path. Khamul caught a glimpse of her golden hair as she plummeted toward the rocks below.
The passage rang with Firiel's eerie laughter for some time.
Well, everyone's dead that I can kill, Khamul thought. Aranarth's in Imladris, and I can't get there. Oh well. I suppose I should go to Dol Guldor now and see what Sauron wants me to do."
"It has been a long time."
Khamul's blood froze. The mountain. Caradhras was speaking again.
Slowly, she looked up and saw that more black clouds were gathering around the mountain's peak. It was the center of a vast storm vortex.
"What do you want?" she asked. "Was my destiny to see that crazy woman give her final speech and jump to oblivion?"
"Can I cross now?" Khamul had no need to cross the pass, although it might get her to Dol Guldor faster.
"Thought not. I'll be on my way then."
"Many years have passed since Arvedui's death. Yet not so many for you and I. And even for the mortals."
"How many?" Khamul asked idly, wanting to be away from the mountain.
"It is now the year 1980 of the Third Age of Middle-Earth."
Khamul was about to say 'that's nice' again, but she remembered Sauron's words. "What is it?" she asked. "What's coming? Is it Morgoth?"
"The first Dark Lord wishes to return, but he cannot. As Sauron was his loyal apprentice, so will his loyal general return to him."
"Loyal general?" Khamul whispered. She looked around. Don't be an idiot, she thought. Some horror isn't going to pop out of the rocks.
But as Khamul watched, she saw the doors of Moria, far below in Azanulbizar, open, and a flood of dwarves stream out.
"Where are they going?" she muttered.
"They flee before Morgoth's general."
"A dwarf? A dwarf was Morgoth's general? Or has a dragon finally decided to do something about Moria?"
Caradhras didn't answer.
Khamul sighed and dismounted. She wasn't going to try the Redhorn Gate, but rather she was going to wait until the dwarves were far away to investigate Moria. She didn't want a confrontation now.
As she looked around for a place to spend some time and not get too wet or cold, Khamul spied little stone shrines. They had been set up near the Gate, presumably to fallen travelers. There were sixteen of them. The first was almost entirely covered in snow and ice. The fifth and twelfth were decorated with wolf fangs. A small carved stone troll sat on the fourteenth. The point of a Haradrim arrow lay on the fifteenth. The last was crowned with white flowers. Strange. One would think that flowers would have wilted in the cold.
Khamul started to reach for the Haradrim arrow, but something stopped her. It was the mountain. She was sure of it.
"Fine. I won't touch the damn shrines," Khamul snarled. "They're just monuments to travelers you've killed, after all."
Caradhras did not speak again and after a while Khamul realized she had been dismissed.
"Don't think I'm coming back!" Khamul shouted. "I'm not!"
If a mountain could smile, Caradhras certainly was.
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.