There were screams of terror. Townspeople shrank away from shadows that blotted out the sun. Huge, monstrous beasts filled the sky, moving north steadily, heedless of borders, both man-made and natural. They flew easily through Mordor and into Gondor, soared gracefully above the Misty Mountains. Finally, in the dark of night, they came to rest as lightly as owls by the banks of a river.
"About time," Melkor hissed. "He took long enough."
"What are these things?" Yanta asked.
"Creatures as old as time itself. Hurry up and get on."
"What? We're going to ride them?"
"Of course." Melkor easily swung himself up onto one of the beasts. The creature shuddered and moved its neck back and forth.
"I don't like them," Ancalime said.
Ancalime nervously approached one of the creatures and touched it. "It's so cold!"
"Get on them!" Melkor snapped. "We don't have eternity!"
One by one the ringbearers mounted the Fell Beasts. The creatures seemed entirely fine with this arrangement, but only Melkor among the riders was pleased, or even comfortable.
"He should have broken these out a long time ago," the Dark Lord growled. "We would've had the Ring by now."
"This is weird," Yanta muttered.
Aica was clutching something to her chest and glaring at anyone who looked at her too closely. "Where are we going?" she asked.
"We cannot attack Imladris, unfortunately," Melkor said. "So we'll have to make do with scouting the area. On these beasts, we'll have little trouble seeing all the land."
"We're spies now?" Metima asked. "I thought that was Aica's job."
Aica glared at her. "I can't see everything," she snapped.
"All the land will be visible to us from these," Melkor said. "We can bring terror from the skies without ever having to put ourselves in danger."
"What danger?" Yanta asked. "We're immortal."
Melkor was quiet for a moment. "Indeed," he agreed. "Quite immortal." The two swords shone in his memory. He had to have that Halfling killed. Had to claim that sword for himself. And then he had to find the other, the pathetic Rohirrim who held the other sword. He would kill him, and then the prophecy would be complete. There would be nothing that could touch him.
"Open the gate!"
"…Who are you?"
"You know who I am!" Khamul bellowed. "Now open this gate right now or I'll bring 'em down around your ears!"
"We don't want to," an orc said, poking its head above the ramparts, staring down with little red eyes at the Nazgul.
"You heard me, dammit! Open the gates!"
"How do we know you're a real Shrieker?" another orc asked. "You could be...a spy. From the elves."
"Do I look like a spy from the elves? No! So open the gate! Now!"
There was a muffled conversation between the orcs. "Can you give us a few minutes?" one asked.
"No! Open the gate!"
Slowly, the great gate of Dol Guldur ground open with a terrible squeal of rusted bolts.
"Has anyone kept this place up since Sauron left?" Khamul asked, riding in.
Two cowering orcs met her, the same ones from the wall. Khamul fixed them with her best threatening glare.
"You might've been a dangerous enemy," one muttered.
"I am. Fortunately, I'm not your enemy. Now…where is everyone?"
The two orcs exchanged looks and shrugged. "They must be…inside. Eating."
"Where is everyone?"
"Are they gone?" Khamul asked.
"Several thousand orcs just walked out of Dol Guldur? Did they do it the moment Sauron left? They did, didn't they? Those bastards!"
"Most of them went to the Misty Mountains," the first orc said. "We just stayed behind because it's so crowded there."
"And there's the balrog," the second orc added.
"Oh, yes, the balrog. Can't forget about him. He's very nasty, and those goblins he's got are positively vicious. Kind of brainwashed though. They think he's some kind of Vala."
"Close enough," Khamul muttered. "So everyone's in the Misty Mountains except for you two. Anybody else in the forest?"
"There're some spiders further north."
The orcs scratched their heads. "I suppose there're some of us scattered around. Harrying the elves and all that."
"But no substantial force."
"Well, that's no good."
"Why did you come here anyway?"
"To rally an army of orcs and lead them against Lorien."
Khamul nodded. "Yeah. Oh." What was she going? Dol Guldur was empty, and the closest den of orcs was in the Misty Mountains, currently presided over by a vicious balrog who didn't think twice of ripping Nazgul to shreds.
Except there was someone else in the Misty Mountains. Well, not someone exactly. More like something.
"I've got an idea," Khamul said.
"Is it a good one?" the first orc asked.
"I don't know. You two stay here and shut the gates. Don't open them to anyone except me."
The orcs saluted. "You can count on us!"
"I better, otherwise you two are dead meat." Khamul turned her horse around and rode out the way she came.
It was a longshot. Quite a longshot indeed. Caradhras had its own problems, specifically, the balrog. But hadn't it been working for a very long time to get that problem sorted out? Well, Caradhras's problem was now Khamul's problem. That balrog was standing in the way of her getting her army. So it had to go.