63. The Cursed Line
Melkor was starting to get impatient, but he dared not go in and drag Yanta and Metima out of the inn himself. He already had to stand in an alley some distance from the inn just to keep the mortal horses calm. He figured it was because of the anger raging inside him. He struggled to control himself, but it was becoming steadily more difficult.
The Ring should be his by now. He should have limitless power. He should have Sauron in his rightful place, kneeling on the ground, worshiping his lord and master. But no. He was still trapped in this pathetic body, still stuck in the mortal plane.
It was close though. So close. He could reach out his hand and grasp it, but he was reaching into the limitless darkness to find a thing as small as a grain of sand. It did not call to him the way it did to the others. The Ring saw the danger Melkor represented, the rival he was to its master. And so it did not call to him.
Melkor leaned his head against the cold brick wall and closed his eyes. He could rend this town to pieces, brick by brick, but the Ring would slip away. Blunt, immense magic was as effective as a catapult against an ant. He needed to discard Grond for this, and pick up Ringil.
Scowling, cursing himself for thinking of the damned elf, Melkor opened his eyes. The rage was building again. Damn the Valar for driving him to this. Damn the elves for opposing him. Damn the Men for rising against him. For the most part.
A very drunken Halfling staggered into the alley. Probably to take a piss. He saw Melkor through bleary eyes and raised a hand, trying to ward off the danger he felt emanating from the Dark Lord.
"You stupid little creature," Melkor snarled, about to smite the wretched thing.
The Halfling was gone though, running back to the inn, scared sober.
Tired of waiting, Melkor left the alley, storming back to where the other Nazgul stood. "Are they back yet?" he snapped.
"No," Ceure said.
With a snarl and curse, Melkor spun on his heel and headed for the inn, ignoring the other Nazgul's protests.
He flung open the door and found Yanta and Metima immediately. They were sitting with their feet up by the fire, enjoying a beer. Their faces paled when they saw him, but neither looked overly concerned. He needed them.
"You bastards," Melkor spat. He would never have picked such untrustworthy servants. At least, they'd be too scared to betray him.
"We haven't really picked up on anything, but we're going to give it another hour," Yanta said.
"Get up," Melkor snapped. "We're leaving."
"What? The town?"
"No. Get up."
With a sigh, Yanta rose, Metima following her, and the two ringbearers left the inn with the Dark Lord.
"Is there a plan?" Ancalime asked. "I like plans."
"You're going to stay here," Melkor said. He didn't trust Ancalime with anything complicated. Or simple.
"Watch the horses." Let's see if she can do that.
Yanta snorted. "Won't be there when we come back," she muttered.
"What are the rest of us going to do?" Ceure asked.
Melkor eyed the inn. "The Ring is in the inn. Evidently they," He nodded at Yanta and Metima, "can't find it."
"What about it?" Yanta asked.
"So we're going to storm the inn."
"All right. Something exciting to do at last."
"Lead us to the Ring," Melkor said. He laid his hand on the pommel of his sword. "I'll do the rest."
Yanta and Metima exchanged glances. "Don't think he's going to let us get out of this easy," Yanta muttered.
"He'll find it sooner or later," Metima said. "Might as well."
"All right. When should we do it?" Yanta asked.
Melkor looked up at the dark sky. "Now," he said.
"All right." Yanta drew her sword.
"I'm afraid I'm not very good with this," Ceure said, drawing her ancient Numenorean blade.
"Me neither," Metima said.
Melkor gritted his teeth. When he had the Ring he would shake Sauron until the miserable Maia told him just what had possessed him to give rings of power to such creatures as these.
He took a malicious pleasure in kicking in the door. It was late enough that the common room was empty, the fire out, the bartender gone to bed.
Yanta drew in a deep breath of air. "Upstairs."
Nothing would stand in the Dark Lord's way. He kicked aside chairs and hurled a table across the room as he made for the stairs. He would not give the Ring a chance to escape.
"You know," Yanta muttered to Metima, "I like the idea of Morgoth with the Ring even less than Sauron with it."
Metima nodded. "There's nothing we can do."
"Don't do anything stupid."
"Stupid is my middle name."
"At least she realizes it," Ceure said.
Melkor walked like Death up the stairs. Like an oncoming storm, like a tidal wave. He was unstoppable. Nothing could stand against him.
"Which room?" he asked, his voice as dark as thunder.
"Um…let's see… I bet it was those Hobbits, you know, who had the Ring."
Melkor growled. His eyes were going dark, his teeth elongating and sharpening.
"A small room," Yanta said.
"That one!" Metima exclaimed, pointing to a door. "The doorway's shorter than the others," she explained.
"Yeah, it's that one," Yanta said, nodding vigorously.
Melkor gave her a doubtful look, but kicked the door in anyway. No one was going to stop him. The ringbearers were giving him a wide berth, and any Men awake were huddling in their beds, too terrified to move.
"Someone's home," Yanta said, seeing four full beds. "I'm surprised they're not awake, what with all this noise we're making. Must've passed out."
"Not for long," Melkor hissed. "Each of you, take a bed."
Yanta nodded and moved to stand near one of the beds. Ceure selected the one across from her, and Metima and Melkor took the last two.
As one, the Nazgul and Dark Lord raised their swords and then plunged them down. Yanta watched the blankets, waiting for dark blood to well up, perhaps splattering her with the liquid.
Yanta stabbed again. The blade went clean through the bed, but there was nothing. "What is this?" she snarled, snatching the blankets aside.
Pillows. It was just a bunch of pillows.
"Tricked!" Melkor snarled. So he'd discovered it too. "Who did this?" he roared, and he looked very much the Dark Lord of legend.
"Don't look at me!" Yanta snapped. "I just knew this was the Halfling room! That's all!"
"I thought you said this was where the Ring was," Melkor hissed.
"I thought. I wasn't sure. This whole place reeks."
Melkor stared at her for a while. "You're lying," he said at last. "We can still catch the Ring though. Find it. Now." He glanced over at one of the mangled beds and casually overturned it.
"I'll go do that," Yanta muttered, fleeing the room as fast as she could. Even she, even a ringbearer, could feel the intensity of the Dark Lord's fury. He was close to snapping, and Yanta didn't want to be around when he did.
Creeping through the darkened inn like a shadow, Yanta sniffed the air at every door. She could only imagine what a fright she was giving the inhabitants. She doubted there was a single person asleep in the whole inn.
Reaching the top floor, she started down the hallway, but then came to a halt as she saw a flicker of movement. A man stepped out of the shadows.
"Nazgul," he said.
"Get back in your room before I cut off your head."
"I wish you to leave this place. You have no reason to listen to me, I know, but –"
"But nothing. Get out of my way," Yanta snapped. "Unless you can tell me where the Ring is."
"I can't, but you don't want your dark master to find it."
"Damn right I don't, but I don't really have a choice in the matter, do I? Sounds like you know where it is though. Tell me."
"He won't tell you."
Yanta jumped at least a foot in the air and spun around to see Morgoth standing in the darkness, his pale face staring out with its black eyes focused on the man.
"You are a Ranger of the North," the first Dark Lord continued.
"And you are no Nazgul," the Ranger said. "You're a far greater power than any who serve the Dark Lord. Many would think themselves correct in naming you the Witch-King of Angmar, but I know better."
"And I know your voice, Ranger. Many a long year has passed since I last heard it, and it's grown somewhat since then, but I never forget a voice. I can even hear the trill of Luthien in it, far, far in the distance."
The Ranger inclined his head in acknowledgment.
"The Heir!" Yanta gasped. "You're the Heir of Isildur!"
"The last in all Arda," Melkor said. "Blessed by Luthien's blood. Blessed, the elves say. Blessed, the Valar tell them for they fear the truth. Cursed, little Man. Cursed. You're tainted with the blood that I drank and defiled."
"Ever were you a liar, Morgoth," the Ranger said. "I see the long years haven't done you improvement."
There was an awful gleam in Melkor's eye. Even Yanta shrank away. What was the Dark Lord going to do?
"The body I wear belonged to a man of Numenor once. Nephew of Elendil, descendant of Elros Tar-Minyatur, son of Elwing, daughter of Dior, son of Luthien Tinuviel! Wherever her blood is, mine is also! Deadly poison and eternal corruption! You seek to unite the lost kingdoms, little Heir, but I find this shape tiring. How much better to be you!" Melkor lunged forward, his teeth bared in a snarl.
Yanta tripped him.
"Oops," she said as he slammed into the ground, hitting it so hard his teeth rattled.
The Heir looked at him for a moment, then he looked at Yanta.
"I'm so clumsy sometimes," she said. "Gosh, looks like I knocked him clean out."
"Why are you doing this, Nazgul?" the Heir asked. He paused, then laughed. "I see Sauron picked a fine group of helpers! It isn't just Khamul!"
"What about Khamul?" Yanta asked.
The Heir shook his head. "As I seem to say so much, we'll meet again under worse circumstances."
"You're just going to leave?" Yanta asked. "You don't care about what he said? I think he wanted to get your mind or something."
The Heir shrugged. "He didn't."
"Yeah. All right." Am I just going to let him go? Yanta wondered. "Hey! You don't know where the Ring is, do you?"
"Haven't the faintest idea."
"Right." Yanta looked down at Morgoth's unmoving form, then glanced back up. The Heir was gone.
"What happened?" Metima gasped, running up the stairs.
"I think it's time to leave Bree," Yanta said. "Preferably before he wakes up."