"You stupid goblins!" Aica screamed. "Can't you do anything right?"
The goblins shifted from foot to foot, looking sheepish. "Isn't he the right one?" one daring one asked.
Aica cursed, jumped off her horse, and walked over to the goblin who had spoken. In one swift motion, she drew her sword and cut off its head.
"No!" she yelled. "He's not the right one!"
"They don't know any better," Ringe said.
"Stop defending them, you idiot!" Aica shouted. Her hand twitched and she wanted to slap Ringe across the face, but that would just make him think twice about coming back to her. He was hers again, not the Witch-King's. Hers. All hers. And Aica was never going to let him go again.
"You told them to kill a man with an emerald ring and a six-pointed star pin. This man has the pin –"
"Like all Dunedain!"
"But he also has an emerald ring."
Aica glared down at the mutilated corpse. A ring set with an emerald sparkled on its finger. "I guess you're right," she growled, loath to admit her mistake.
"And he's not the Heir? Are you sure?" Ringe asked.
"Yes! Of course I'm sure, dammit!" Ringe was doing a lot more doubting since his return. He needed to be beaten back into submission, but Aica wasn't sure how to do it without losing him again.
"How are you sure?"
"What do you mean?"
"How do you know? Can you be positive?"
Aica heaved a sigh and rolled her eyes. "Look at the ring. It's just a plain emerald. The Heir's ring is two snakes devouring each other. One of them's got a crown of golden flowers."
"You didn't tell us that," a goblin muttered, but quickly ducked into the crowd to avoid Aica's livid gaze.
"Well, I'm telling you now!" she shouted. "So go find him and bring his head – and his ring! – to me!"
"Yes, Shrieker," the goblins mumbled, and headed off into the snow.
"How did you know about the ring?" Ringe asked once they were alone.
"It's common knowledge," Aica said with a wave of her hand.
"No, it's not. I didn't know it."
"You're an idiot."
"You know so many things, Aica, but I've never seen you talking to a single spy. Are you using magic?"
A shiver ran down Aica's spine. Did her brother suspect her? If he was smarter, would he have already figured out that she was using a palantir? The only reason Morion hadn't was that he was too busy planning the war.
"Don't be an idiot," Aica snapped. "I'm just smarter than you."
Ringe sighed. "So why haven't we conquered Eriador yet?" he asked.
"Because of the damn Rangers! The Dunedain!"
"And you think that killing their chief will work?"
"I know it will! Watch me!"
Ringe rolled his eyes.
"Captain," an orc growled as he ran up. "I've come to report that one of our parties has made it through into the Shire."
"Excellent," Aica said with a smile. "How many are in it?"
"Several hundred, Captain."
Aica's smiled widened. "Lead us to them." She could find out where the orcs were herself by using the palantir, but she'd be damned if she let Ringe learn about it.
"The little Men call this the Northfarthing," the orc growled as he led Aica and Ringe through the pleasant land. It was pleasant. Even under all this snow, the trees were shapely, the land wasn't rugged or steep, and the rivers were slow and shallow.
"And where is…" Aica couldn't remember the orc leader's name.
"Golfimbul," the orc said. "The great chief should be around here somewhere," he muttered.
Aica scowled. "Is that smoke?" she asked, pointing toward black wisps drifting up into the sky.
The orc brightened. "No doubt Golfimbul has killed the small humans and burned their cities."
Aica's scowl only deepened as they approached the hill. She had looked across this land many times in the palantir during this campaign and she was yet to find a single building for many leagues in this particular area.
"Urhhh…" the orc muttered when they reached the crest of the hill and looked down.
There was a large bonfire, in which burned the bodies of hundreds of orcs. Mounted on a pike nearby was a large orc's head.
"Is that Golfimbul?" Aica asked, pointing at the head.
"Er…" the orc muttered.
"I'll take that as a yes."
Ringe frowned. "Did the Dunedian do this?"
"Don't be a fool!" Aica thundered. "They're all busy with the rest of the orcs! This is the work of the Halflings!"
"The little folk couldn't do this," the orc protested.
Aica turned a baleful eye on him. "You were one of Golfimbul's people, weren't you?" she hissed.
"I don't think anyone survived."
The orc's head fell from his shoulders seconds later. "Another one for the fire," Aica said. "Drag him there, Ringe."
She was pleased to note that Ringe didn't dispute her orders, instead hauling the orc's head and body into the pyre.
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.