76. Travelers in the Marshes
"So nice to be back in the air," Aica chortled as they soared high above the clouds. "What do you think, Ringe?"
Ringe started, unused to be asked his opinion. "It's nice," he said. He looked back at the Emyn Muil. "What do you think Khamul's going to do?"
"I don't know and I don't care. She probably won't be able to find her way out of there for a good long time. The war might even be over by then. Things are moving very fast, you know."
Aica hadn't been in this good of a mood for a long time. It must've been stealing Khamul's Fell Beast. Come to think of it, wasn't Khamul the only Nazgul who had refused a Fell Beast?
The more Ringe thought about it, the more sure he was. Khamul was the only one who still had her immortal horse, and she'd refused a Fell Beast for precisely that reason. But she had been riding one…
"Do you think Khamul stole someone's Fell Beast?" he asked.
"What? No. Why would she?"
"…I don't know."
Aica scowled. "Just shut up, Ringe. If this keeps up, I'm going to be the lieutenant of Mordor. Not her. She'll just fade into obscurity."
"Oh… Is that a good thing?"
"Do you know what obscurity means?"
"Oh yes," Ringe said.
Aica's scowl deepened. "Look down there!" she snapped.
"There's smoke there! What's smoke doing there?"
"I don't know."
Aica surveyed the land and then took the Fell Beast down for a closer look. "Valar!" she snarled. "Look at that!"
"That's a big orc," Ringe said, looking at the stake with the head on it.
"That's Grishnakh!" Aica pointed at a half-burned orc. "The Riders must've caught them all. Dammit! But did they get the Ring?" She jumped off the Beast and started poking through the smoldering corpses.
"I don't smell anything," Ringe said.
"You never could. Just keep the damn beast occupied and make sure it doesn't eat anything."
Aica searched for over an hour but found nothing. "Dammit. They must've escaped."
"Either the Riders took them with them or they ran." Aica looked around, searching for a good spot to run to. "The forest, I guess," she muttered. "Doesn't look very nice though."
"Oh, that forest's haunted," Ringe said.
"What'd you mean?"
"People say it's got monsters in it."
"Ringe! We're monsters! There is nothing in this world as terrifying as us!" Aica snapped. She jumped back on the Fell Beast. "I wish these things could breathe fire," she grumbled. "I'd have that forest in ashes and then sift through whatever was left for the Ring."
"What would you do if you had the Ring?" Ringe asked.
"Give it over to Sauron, obviously."
"No, you moron! With that kind of power at stake there is no way I would give it away!" Aica grinned. "We don't need another Dark Lord. What we need is a Dark Queen. I like that. It's got a nice ring to it." The smile disappeared. "Just need to find the damn Ring."
"I know what I'd do with it," Ringe said quietly under his breath. "I'd destroy it. Who wants another tyrant? Who wants to see the world destroyed?"
The huge beast covered land like no creature save perhaps a dragon. And there were no more dragons in the world, unless Vorea was mistaken. Alas for that, alas for Smaug's death. Lord Sauron could have used the dragon against the dwarves and the people of the north. There would not be a struggle going on there now. The dragon would have decided everything.
The north is unimportant, Vorea told herself. It is in the south that the matter shall be decided once and for all.
She passed low over the Dead Marshes, looking down at the diseased land. There was the occasional bubble from brackish water, but nothing lived there. Flames flickered and danced, trying to lure nonexistent travelers into a watery grave.
Vorea frowned and urged the Fell Beast lower still. Were her eyes deceiving her, or were there creatures walking the Marshes? Travelers? No, there were never travelers here. What fools then were braving the lights, the corpses, and the swamp itself?
The Fell Beast swooped down suddenly, like a hawk descending upon a mouse. There was no time to hide, no time to run. Whoever they were, Vorea would see them.
But there was nothing.
Frowning, Vorea stared down at the Dead Marshes. There had been people there. She was sure of it. But they were gone now, vanished somehow. The Marshes were strange; perhaps they were playing tricks with her eyes.
Very well, Vorea would settle with that for now, but she would return, and woe to anything that moved if she saw it then. She would take this marsh apart until she held the culprits in her hands.
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.