59. Hide and Seek
There was something about the Shire that seemed less…wholesome. The leaves were crisp and many beautiful colors, the water gurgled in streams and creeks, the whole place looked like an idealized kingdom. But there was something in the air…something dangerous. And it was like a beacon, attracting all sorts of unwholesome things.
Like Khamul. She'd liked it when she'd been the only evil here, when this land had been pure and innocent.
Her horse crossed over a stone bridge, its hoofbeats echoing eerily. There was something wrong in the land. It was the Ring. It was like a rot in the soil, spreading its tendrils through the entire green world.
I'll be taking care of that soon though, Khamul thought. I'll take the Ring out of here and everything'll go back to normal.
She snorted. What a stupid delusion, she chided herself. When I get the Ring and give it to Sauron, this place'll become even worse. There won't be anymore trees or grass. The streams'll all dry up and the Halflings will die.
For some reason, this depressed her.
By the evening she had reached the beginning of the small houses that dotted the landscape. Some poor fellow was outside, sweeping off the large stones leading up to his house.
Khamul yanked on the reins and the horse came to a stop. She knew she must look like a creature out of the darkest nightmare. She was dressed all in black, her hood pulled up over her head. A sword hung at her side, and her horse foamed at the mouth and rolled its red eyes.
The Hobbit was trembling, clutching the broom to his chest like it could possibly save him. "C-can I h-help you, sir?" he squeaked.
"Shire," Khamul hissed, deciding to give the man a good fright.
"Y-yes, sir. This…this is the Shire, sir. Just crossed into it a m-mile or so b-back." He started backing toward his house, sweat glistening on his forehead.
"Oh, there aren't no Bagginses in these parts, sir," the man said, relieved that the creature would be moving on. "They live in Hobbiton, sir." He gestured down the road. "Just follow the road, sir."
Khamul nodded and kicked her horse. It took off down the road, eager to be on the move again.
Once they were far away from the Hobbit, Khamul allowed herself a laugh. She'd scared the pants off him! If all Hobbits scared that easy, she'd just have to give the Hobbit a fright that killed him and take the Ring from his corpse.
It was rather sunny the next day, which Khamul disliked, but then the clouds came and it started to rain a bit. She liked that quite a bit. Gloomy, depressing. It fit her mood well.
As her horse ambled down the road, taking its sweet time, Khamul admired the trees. Everything looked beautiful here. It was going to be a shame when it was destroyed in fire and smoke.
What would happen if she lost the Ring?
Say, if she took the Ring, but sort of tripped and fell and dropped it in the Anduin again, only this time it floated all the way out to sea? That'd be a shame, wouldn't it? No Dark Lord, no eternal reign of terror.
Good plan, Khamul thought. I like that plan.
She pulled her horse to a stop suddenly, sniffing the air. There was a scent there. Mt. Doom. The Ring was near.
Glancing from side to side, Khamul couldn't see a damn thing. The hood really hampered her vision. She sniffed again. It was strong. She was practically on top of the damn thing but she couldn't see it!
Jumping off her horse, Khamul wandered around the road, sniffing. She must look like the biggest idiot in the world. Still, if she found the Ring, it didn't matter.
Dammit! Where's the stupid thing? Khamul wondered. She stepped off the road, still sniffing. It was growing stronger.
Maybe the Hobbit was wearing the Ring, making him invisible to Khamul. That must be it. He was nearby, practically next to her, only she couldn't see him.
Khamul pawed at the air, frantically hoping she'd feel something solid. She did, but it was just trees.
As she searched for the Ring, Khamul almost fell over a rotting log. She put a hand on it to steady herself. If I'd fallen over that, she thought, I'd have to pray that Aica didn't see me in the palantir, because I'd never hear the end of it.
After another few minutes of frantic searching, Khamul had to admit that the Ring just wasn't there. Maybe a mushroom in the forest gave off a smell like Mt. Doom.
"Dammit," Khamul muttered under her breath, hopping back on her horse. She felt like a fool and an idiot. At least there hadn't been anyone around to see her.
Continuing on her way, Khamul didn't hear the scramble in the bushes as several Hobbits burst out of hiding and took off into the forest, scared witless. One of them was holding something very tightly in his hand. Something round and shiny. Something gold.
The days passed in relative quiet. Khamul was liking the Shire more and more. It was so relaxing, a huge difference from the tension of Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith. She felt like she could lose herself here, isolate herself from the troubles of the rest of the world.
But the rest of the world wasn't content to leave the Shire in peace. Evil was coming, seeping in at the borders.
She caught a whiff of the Ring late one night as she rode along a river. She could see in the night, a gift of Sauron's power, and there was a ferry by the river. She could see small creatures moving, climbing onto it.
Snarling, she spurred her horse along the road, giving a shriek like Aica made in the heat of battle. The creatures jumped and worked on untying the rope, praying that they could escape the terror that hunted them.
More Hobbits with the Ring! Khamul was beginning to think the Ring liked Hobbits more than it did Sauron.
Her horse came to a screeching halt at the edge of the river. The ferry was already halfway across. She could see the terrified faces of four Hobbits, watching in trembling fear, wondering if she'd cross.
I would if I could, Khamul thought, considering the distance she had to jump and deciding that she couldn't. Landing in the water would destroy any awe and terror she'd instilled in the hobbits.
With a snarl, Khamul turned her horse away from the water and galloped down the road. She'd come to a bridge eventually. And then she'd get those miserable wretches.
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.