Khamul's Sulfurous Exfoliants by Independence1776

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Story Notes:

This was written for Back to Middle-earth Month 2015 and makes use of the setting for the event. The descriptions of who is running the market stalls and what is in them can be found here on the B2MeM LJ community.

The prompt used is: "When the Dark Tower is thrown down and the Dark Lord defeated, the Eight, leaderless, find themselves out of work. In order not to die of boredom (can the undead die, anyhow?) they start up a business in Sulfurous Exfoliants. Who would their customers be? How well would their business thrive? Would they be allowed to remain within Mordor, or have to take their custom elsewhere?"

Khamûl sat with the surviving Wraiths in a circle on top of the pile of rubble of the Dark Tower. None of them said anything for a long while Khamûl watched the volcano erupting in the distance; it not yet having recovered from the Ring’s disintegration. (How could they have failed so desperately to catch a simple Hobbit?)

Wraith Three finally spoke. “So now what do we do?”

Khamûl looked at him. “I suppose… Pumice and other materials have been in demand for beauty products. We could start a business; keep ourselves out of trouble and not drawing attention from the West.”

Eight said, “Or we could fight!”

Everyone looked at him and Four said, “What if they have more of those swords that defeated the Witch-King? I’m not risking it. I agree with Khamûl; let’s get into the exfoliant business.”

So it was decided. Eight of the most deadly and feared beings in all of Arda would go into business for themselves.


* * * * *

Khamûl stared at the invitation that Three had handed him, saying it arrived in the morning’s mail. (They had a truly successful mail-order business going. Overnight delivery available! Orcs were useful at things other than war.)

He didn’t know what to think. It almost seemed like a trick of some sort to draw the Nazgûl out from hiding. But it probably wasn’t. Not with the way business was growing. And they had talked about expanding to places other than Mordor.

“We’ll go,” he said. “Three, you’re minding the business here. Four and Five are coming with me; Six and Seven can help you. Eight and Nine will remain overseeing the production.”

He swept from the room, numbers of inventory and images of what they should bring dancing in his head.


* * * * *

Khamûl reined the horse to a halt and slid out of the cart’s driver’s seat. The other two carts, driven by Four and Five, stopped as well. He approached the Elf-woman wearing a somber gray cloak and sitting behind a wooden table. “I am Khamûl--”

Mistress Tanwë looked him over from head to toe and slowly raised her eyebrows. “You’re in Stall Nineteen. Just turn right here; it’s the last one on the row.” She handed him a packet. “Here’s the Faire rules, for both customers and business running the stalls. There’s a map of all of the stalls and their goods. And specifically for you and your… men: no shrieking. No frightening the customers or the other proprietors. And don’t pick fights with your enemies.” Her Aman-bright eyes gleamed. “Am I clear?”

Khamûl nodded. “Perfectly.”

“Good.” She turned to the next person in line and Khamûl walked back to the cart, tossing the packet onto the seat and climbed up. He drove the short distance to the stall and they began unloading their merchandise.


* * * * *

After everything was set up, Khamûl left the stall and went roaming the Faire, seeing what else was available for purchase. He nodded at the dark-skinned, blue-clad Maiar in the stall next to his, paying little attention to the goods from the South and East for sale, as he’d seen similar things in Mordor. He was curious about the music being sold at the next stall, but the argument between the two Elves about who was the better singer made him think better of lingering. He avoided Nali’s stall entirely, because while the Dwarf was clearly in charge, his helpers were both Men dressed in outlandish outfits and people he was certain were not human. The hobbit’s eclectic goods looked interesting, but he didn’t have the time before the Faire opened to inspect everything to see if they were of any use or if they were just knickknacks.

He eyed the crowd gathering at the gate to the Faire and hurried onward in order to see the rest of the stalls. He ignored Mistress Tanwë’s information booth in the center of the square, despite wondering how many translations of the guidelines were available (he saw at least half a dozen at a glance), as well as the tables and wide green space behind the booth. He admired Vairë's tapestries from a distance (being unwilling to come too close to one of the Valier), spent a few minutes at the stall selling Noldorin artifacts talking to Mirë about some of the things they’d seen over the years, and spent a while longer talking to Melian (despite her being one of the Maiar) about a partnership given the common audience of their respective goods. The Dark Rider was rather terrifying, and Khamûl promised to return when the Faire closed to examine some of the Rider’s more esoteric creatures.

He skipped Aldarion’s stall selling sails and rigging, having no desire to go on the open water, and likewise avoided Celebrimbor’s jewelry, having no wish to be ensnared by yet another ring. The souvenirs at Eärendur’s stall were oddly familiar, and he only glanced at the weapons on display at Denethor’s stall to ensure that none were capable of killing him. (Unfortunately, some were and Denethor looked ready to use them all.) He skipped the next two stalls, having no need for food of either the fresh or cooked variety, examined the saddles at Elfhelm’s stall (quality crafting; if he bought a beast from the Dark Rider, he’d come here), skipped Thranduil’s wine (though he’d dearly love a drink; it had been millennia) and the Dwarven toys (having no use for them), and spent as much as time as possible looking at Elrond’s books, despite said half-Elf standing with his arms crossed and glaring at him (though Elrond did keep glancing at the arguing Elves in the music stall for some reason).

Finally, when Tanwë announced the Faire was officially opening, he scurried back to his stall and sent Four and Five behind the curtain to the “storeroom.” There was no sense in having three of them in front right now. As the crowd poured in-- Elves, Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and other beings beside-- he plastered his best smile on his face (even though no one would be able to see it) and prepared to greet his customers.

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