62. The Prancing Pony
"What a miserable town," Melkor said.
"Disgusting bunch of shacks," Yanta said.
"Should be burned down," Metima agreed. They exchanged grins.
"That seems awfully mean," Ancalime said.
"You do realize that Aica's extensive spy network could be listening to you right now?" Ceure reminded them cheerfully.
"Dammit," Yanta muttered. "You ruin everything."
The five Nazgul traveled down the muddy road and up to the gates of Bree. They were closed, as was usual for the night. Didn't want anything nasty and unnatural getting into their precious town.
Melkor looked the gate up and down. He reached out with one long pale hand and touched the wood. "Frail," he commented, his voice quiet. He smiled faintly. "So unlike the walls of Gondolin."
The ringbearers were old, but Melkor was ancient. Not to mention a Vala, albeit a fallen one. Still, the other four couldn't suppress a shudder.
"Who are ya?" a man asked, throwing open a little window in the gate. He looked out at the ringwraiths with one bulging eye, the other sunken into his face.
"Greetings," Melkor said, smiling. The uneasy feeling grew among the other ringbearers.
"Who are ya and what's yer business?"
"We wish to enter the town."
"Have to wait until sunrise."
"And why is that?"
"Well…you could be some unnatural creatures."
Yanta started to laugh but turned it into a cough. Metima elbowed her in the ribs. Melkor shot them both a sharp glare.
"I assure you, we are not such things," he purred. "Let us in. We are cold and tired and fear the unnatural things of the night ourselves."
"Well…all right," the gatekeeper muttered, shutting the window. A few moments later the gate itself creaked open.
"Thank you," Melkor said, giving a respectful nod to the man as he rode past.
"You're good at that," Yanta said.
"Groveling to the Valar is occasionally of use," the Dark Lord said. He sneered. "Their precious Arda, ruined again."
"Do you smell something?" Ancalime asked.
"What?" Yanta asked.
"It's pouring rain! How's it going to be burning?"
"Shut up!" Metima hissed.
"What?" Yanta asked.
"The Ring! It's got to be the Ring!"
"What'd you mean?"
"The burning smell. Morgoth isn't smelling it, is he? He isn't quite like us."
"Oh yeah…" Yanta grinned. "Doesn't know it's here, does he?"
"I think he's got an idea," Metima said, watching Melkor suspiciously.
"There is an awful lot of whispering going on back there," the Dark Lord said, turning around. He was beautiful. Really. Angelically beautiful. But there was such evil, such hate, such malice hidden under the surface that it spoiled the effect. The ringbearers could see the evil of the Dark Lord seeping through his fair face like a swamp creeping up through the cracks in a marble street.
"Just talking about how much it's changed," Yanta said.
"I thought we were talking about the smell," Ancalime said.
Yanta could've throttled her, but then she'd still be alive.
"What smell?" Melkor asked.
"Sewer thing," Yanta said. "Towns old as this, no proper sanitation."
"I thought it smelled like something on fire," Ancalime said.
"Do tell me more, Ancalime," Melkor purred.
"It just smells like something's burning."
"Where is this coming from?"
"I don't know." Ancalime sniffed the air. "Over there." She pointed at an inn with a swaying sign. A sign of a horse.
"Indeed," Melkor murmured. "We shall go there then." He drew in a deep breath of air.
"Smell anything?" Yanta asked.
The Dark Lord ignored her. He couldn't smell it. All the other ringbearers knew that now. The Lord of the Nazgul couldn't smell the Ring.
"I will find it," he said.
"Not if we find it first," Yanta muttered.
"What would you do if you had the Ring?" Metima asked.
Yanta thought about it as they made their way slowly through the streets of Bree. "First I'd kill him, and then Sauron. Then I'd make peace with Gondor and everybody else before settling down to live in Minas Morgul. I don't like the Barad-dur. In fact, I'd have it torn down."
"Could I live with you?"
Yanta snorted. "Of course. You could even grow your apples."
"I'd like that," Metima said. She smiled. "I'd like that a lot. What would you do if you had the Ring, Ceure?"
The older woman frowned. "I don't know," she said. "I suppose…well, I would like to live in Minas Morgul as well. I like it much better than Mordor. Far too dark and dreary, though I suppose with Sauron's demise it would be much better."
"Why would you kill him?" Ancalime asked.
"Sauron? Because he treats us like servants," Yanta said.
"You took the rings though. He just offered them."
"Yeah, but I wasn't signing my soul away. I just wanted some power. Some control in life."
"Seems a bit mean," Ancalime said. "Turning on him like that."
"Shut up," Yanta snapped. "No need to ask what you'd do. You'd probably just drop it somewhere and forget about it."
Ancalime watched the road. "I wish Morion was here," she said quietly. "He was always very nice to me."
"Oh Valar!" Yanta groaned.
"Another intriguing discussion of the sewer system?" Melkor asked. He was standing by the door to the inn, watching the still-mounted ringbearers with interest.
"Yeah," Yanta muttered, jumping off her horse. "Just plain fascinating."
"Is there a plan?" Ceure asked.
"As a matter of fact, there is," Melkor said. "You two," He pointed at Yanta and Metima, "go inside and scout out the place."
"Why us?" Yanta asked.
"Because, unfortunately, you blend in. Ceure and Ancalime are of Numenorean descent and thus rather unusual for this land. I, as you have undoubtedly noticed and whispered about, exude a rather strong aura."
Muttering under her breath, Yanta stormed over to the inn, closely followed by Metima.
"Hello, ladies!" the bartender called as they walked into the inn. "What can I get for you?"
"Two mugs of your best ale," Yanta said, slapping some coins on the counter. She surveyed the room as the bartender nodded and hurried off to fill the order. Nothing too unusual.
"Halflings." Metima elbowed Yanta in the ribs.
"Stop doing that."
"But there're Halflings."
"I can see them." There were four of them, dancing merrily, drinking, laughing. None of them looked possessed by a demonic piece of metal.
"Do you think they have it?"
"Do they remind you of Sauron, Morgoth, or any of us?"
"Then they don't." Yanta accepted the drinks the bartender brought and passed one to Metima. "Drink up."
"Aren't we going to tell the others?"
"In a while."
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.