8. The Visitor
At last! Never had Khamul been so pleased to see the Brown Lands.
"These are the inhabited lands!" she exclaimed, gesturing to the lands that – though empty – still contained water and plant life.
"They do not look like much," Glorfindel said. "Which way to this Imladris of which you spoke?"
"North," Khamul said, gesturing towards the Misty Mountains. "Just follow the mountains. I'm sure you'll run into some elves in Lorien if you keep to the eastern half of them."
"Then I will go there," the elf said. "I thank you for your help, but I pray that we do not meet again."
"Likewise," Khamul said.
"Where will you go now?" Glorfindel asked. "You have told me Gondor has set a watch on Mordor. It seems all these lands are allied against you."
"Time has passed," Khamul said. "I'll go to Haradwaith and stir up some trouble for the king. I don't know who he is, but he'll have to reckon with the Haradrim if he wants to keep his crown."
They parted ways then, each hoping that they never crossed each other's paths again.
Khamul traveled across the Dead Marshes, laughing at the faces of dead elves and men she saw there. Sneaking past Minas Anor and Osgiliath took more skill, but Khamul pulled up her hood and bent over, walking like a frail old woman whenever she encountered a fellow traveler.
One day as she strode through Ithilien, admiring the land in spring, the clank of armor caught her attention, and she brought the black cloak up over her head and hunched over.
"Ah, grandmother," the traveler called but a few minutes later. He was a Gondorian soldier, there was no doubt about that. The seven stars and white tree had been beaten into his armor, along with more recently acquired dents. "You should not be traveling this way," he warned.
"Aye? And why not?" Khamul asked in a high-pitched voice.
"These lands are not safe, grandmother," the soldier said. "Hyarmendacil's war may be won, but there are still stragglers. You would not want to be spitted on a barbarian's spear."
"I will take caution," Khamul said, and continued on her way.
Hyarmendacil. The man's name did not sit well with her. Who was he? A king of Gondor, obviously. But which king? How long had Khamul been gone? And who had this king conquered?
A horrible thought occurred to her, and Khamul broke into a sprint, ignoring all caution, and ran down the road. She eventually came to the land of her birth, and stopped in the sands, staring in disbelief.
All around her lay the unburied bodies of Haradrim. Men, women, children, all lying rotting in the sun. A great deal had been cut to pieces in battle, but others had more clean wounds, suggesting a mass execution.
"What happened?" Khamul gasped.
Hyarmendacil. Conqueror of the South. That was what the name meant. Blood boiled in Khamul, and she ran across the lands, screaming in rage and fury.
She ran all the way to where Umbar had stood, passing more scenes of destruction and death. Not a single Haradrim village had been left standing. None of her people were left alive.
And Umbar had been rebuilt.
All her work, the mark she had left upon the Numenoreans of the south. It had all been erased. Erased by the years and by this man who dared to claim he had conquered the south.
"No!" Khamul snarled in defiance, sinking to her knees on top of a large sand dune. They were so similar, she wondered if it was the one she had stood upon all those years ago when she had led the charge into Umbar.
Far below her, a sea of metal-clad Gondorians were shoveling sand over a mass grave where hundreds and hundreds of Haradrim lay. Mumakil corpses lay smoldering nearby.
"No," Khamul hissed, clenching a fistful of sand, only to have it slip through her fingers.
A rash thought seized her. She would go running down this dune, screaming bloody murder, her bright sword flashing in the hot desert sun. She would kill these Gondorians. She would kill them all.
A blood-red haze descended upon her eyes, blinding her. She started to stand up, but then common sense took hold.
"No," she whispered, turning away from the grisly scene and walking away from the Haradwaith she had always known.
Khamul walked through the lands of Middle-Earth heading in one direction: away from Haradwaith. She walked through Gondor, she walked across the White Mountains and into lush green fields. She walked to the foothills of the Misty Mountains and continued walking. Her heart was hollow in her breast. It was all for naught. All of it. Haradwaith had fallen, her people were dead. There was nothing left for her in Arda.
She crossed the Greyflood River and within a week found herself walking alongside another river, the name of which she could not recall.
Finally, exhausted and grief-stricken, Khamul collapsed by the bank of the river and stared miserably at its depths.
A few hours later the sounds of battle reached her.
"I don't care," she muttered. "They can kill each other for all I care."
Shouts reached her soon as the battle drew closer. They were the shouts of Numenorean men, or else she was a fool.
That changed things.
Leaping to her feet, Khamul snarled in pure fury and drew her sword. "I will show them!" she screamed, racing toward the battle, fully intent upon killing each and every participant.
Sprinting up and down a hill, Khamul launched herself against a burly Numenorean, cutting him in half. They seemed worse for wear, these men. She suspected they'd had a falling out with whatever lord reigned now. Perhaps it was still Valandil here in the north. The man was fairly indestructible.
Screaming incoherently, Khamul slashed, sliced, and cut her way through two dozen of the fallen Numenoreans. They could not stand against her blind fury, raging bloodlust, and utter disregard for any wound she received.
"I suppose I should thank you," the object of the men's attack said quietly as Khamul stood in the midst of the slaughter, breathing heavily. Blood dripped from her face, her hair, her sword, everything. Very little of it was hers. These were fallen Numenoreans indeed; they had even forgotten the fighting ways of their people.
Turning her attention to the speaker, Khamul frowned. It was an old man dressed in shabby robes, leaning heavily on a twisted wooden staff. How he had fended off the attackers for so long, Khamul did not know.
"Do what you like," Khamul said, finding a scrap of clean cloth on one of the bodies and using it to wipe the blood from her sword.
"You fought like Tulkas himself," the man said.
"I suppose that's a compliment," Khamul said. "Why were these men attacking you, old man?" she asked.
"I fear that I did not wish to give them money for crossing a bridge," the old man said with a shrug. "They took it rather badly."
Khamul snorted. These were no Voreas, she thought, looking at the dead men. Though they had taken her old job, they were no match for the stern, one-eyed warrior.
"You could've been killed, old man," Khamul said. "It seems that there's chaos in these lands."
"Aye," the old man said, nodding. "That is why I have come."
The words struck her as odd, and Khamul glanced askance at the old man. He was looking away, off towards the Misty Mountains.
"I do not know where to go," he said. "Perhaps you could recommend a place? You seem a great traveler."
"Don't go to Gondor," Khamul said. "They are fiends and murderers there."
"Alas, that is sad news indeed."
"They murdered the entire Haradrim people," Khamul said. "I fear I'm the last one left."
"No," the old man said, shaking his head. "They are a cunning, resourceful people. Haradwaith is vast; they will survive."
"I know what I saw!" Khamul snapped. "Who are you anyway?" she demanded. "You just come here, seem like you know it all, but end up nearly getting murdered by a bunch of bandits!"
"I will learn," the old man said. He leaned more on his staff. "And who are you?" he asked.
Oh no, Khamul thought with a groan. Don't let this turn into another Glorfindel incident! I just seem to have the worst luck. "What is it, old man? Do you sense evil in me?"
"I sense deep grief," the old man said. "Your people are dead, you are distraught."
"But do you sense evil?" Khamul sneered.
"No," the old man said. "I sense destiny."
Khamul shook her head. "My destiny was to destroy Umbar and decimate the Numenoreans. Look around you, old man. Numenor has fallen, Umbar has been rebuilt, and they have paid my people back in more than full measure for what we wrought years and years ago. I am a thing of the past. No more than a relic."
"Some destinies take longer to fulfill than others," the old man said. "That ring you bear, for instance."
"Aha!" Khamul exclaimed. "So you are one of those accursed elves, or a friend of them! Some messenger from the Valar! An enemy of mine!"
"No," the old man said. "I am a visitor, not a messenger. That ring," he said, gesturing to the ruby-set band on Khamul's finger, "has eighteen cousins. Eight are worn by others of your kind. Seven belong to the dwarves or are scattered, and three were given to the elves."
"So?" Khamul asked, eyeing the old man warily. He was more than he seemed, she decided.
"One ring was given to Galadriel and kept since by her," the old man said. "The other two were given to Gil-galad and Cirdan the Shipwright."
"I've seen them myself," Khamul said. "I know that they bore them, that Cirdan still does. Vilya belongs to Elrond Half-Elven now."
"Ah, you know almost the whole tale," the old man said with a sly grin.
"What?" Khamul asked.
"Cirdan did not keep Narya," the old man said.
Khamul laughed. "And I suppose he gave it to you?" she sneered.
The old man held up his hand, and lo and behold, there was a sparkling golden ring set with a ruby. It looked so much like her own. Khamul had to check that hers was still on her finger.
"Elf!" she snarled.
"Must we fight?" the old man asked wearily.
"Yes!" Khamul hissed, drawing her sword.
"I am a tired old man. May I travel with you?" he asked.
Khamul sighed in exasperation. It was Glorfindel all over again. "Did the Valar drop you here out of the sky?" she asked.
"No," the old man said, shaking his head.
"All right, fine," Khamul snapped. The more she looked at him, the more she perceived a strength in the old man. There was power there; more power than she wanted to fight. "What are you?" she asked.
The old man shrugged. "In Valinor I was called Olorin," he said.
"That's a damn silly name," Khamul said. "Too elvish."
"What name suits me in these lands then?" he asked.
"I still think you're an elf," Khamul said. "One of those really high elves; the ones that never leave Valinor."
"Then why would I have left?"
"I don't know. Maybe you were ordered to."
"So you think I am one of the Vanyar then?"
"Yes," Khamul said, nodding. "I definitely think so."
The old man shrugged. "Perhaps I am," he said.
"You're an old elf with a staff," Khamul said. "It's magical, isn't it?"
The man shrugged again.
"What's that in the language around here?" Khamul muttered.
"Ah, you plan to give me a name then?" the old man asked.
"Yes, I do," Khamul said. "Gandalf," she said after a moment. "Your name is Gandalf."
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.