The Rise and Fall of Calimendil, Fifth King of Cardolan - Comprising the war between Cardolan and Rhudaur, and the subsequent disaster of Cameth Brin - CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
I shall push forward now with the conclusion of my tale. The following months of August and September came and went with little or no exigency in regards to war or usurpation. But another letter was sent to the Queen from Arriana and her husband in the last days of October. It stated again that Arriana possessed the rightful claim to the throne of Cardolan now; a claim that was backed up by no less than King Malvegil of Arthedain. The king offered safe passage and harborage to Amariel and her daughter if they would but return to Fornost Erain and dwell there, where they would receive `honor and protection from the evil days ahead'. He also offered Amariel a high position upon his private council of advisors for as long as she wished. Amariel balked at the offer. Of old, Celebrindor had been her king in the days of her youth and early womanhood, and she knew him quite well, and even trusted him. But Malvegil, his son, was a stranger to her and she knew next to nothing of his character. When Calime learned of Malvegil's offer of sanctuary in Arthedain she pressed her mother hard to yield to it, though to no avail. Amariel was a proud woman and thought it unfitting and even negligent to abandon the realm and people her husband had fought so hard to preserve and protect during his kingship, and would not yield Dol Calantir to lawless usurpers. It seemed to me then that the relationship between mother and daughter became strained and Calime began to take her evening meals alone.
Winter arrived early that year with a fury unchecked. By November much of Arnor lie under a thick blanket of white. Even our court at Dol Calantir, which was in the south of Cardolan, did not escape the snow and wind. Our beloved horses suffered greatly with many of them dying almost daily. Many of the folk in the north of the realm succumbed to the cold. Only the heartiest among them remained at home. Many forsook their dwellings among the treeless hills and pastures and migrated south where the snow was not deep. The population of Tharbad swelled again with the arrival of the refugees. But all travel upon the great north-south road came to a halt that winter.
The month of March in the year 1320 arrived with a flurry of activity and unexpected affliction. On the 2nd day of the month I had found myself become seriously ill. I had been plagued with headaches periodically since my dramatic escape from the orcs in Rhudaur. But now they had intensified and the ringing in my ears seldom ceased for long, and it tormented me. I spent many days in my bedchamber at Dol Calantir, finding it difficult to rise and move about. The Queen visited me often during the following days and Calime even tended to my daily needs, which I was, and still am, deeply grateful. My spell of illness lasted for seven days, during which time a strange thing occurred: Vilthya the mercenary had vanished! With no warning or proclaimed intention to anyone he had simply disappeared and went wither he would, leaving no trace of his chosen route of departure. The only clue we had to his leaving came two days later when a guard from the Queen's royal cavalry complained that his coat of mail and helm were suddenly missing from his private inventory. To me it seemed plain that Vilthya had come to the conclusion that it was no longer wise for him to remain in Cardolan now that he had divulged the truth about Odhril's conduct in the war. He had chosen to flee in secret. With his departure our one real hope of bringing a charge of desertion against Odhril was now gone. His public testimony would have sealed Odhril's fate and perhaps might have aided in averting the evil days to come by eroding support for prince Orodril and his wretch of a cousin.
By the 12th of March I had recovered enough from my illness to conduct my daily affairs, though I still felt weak. Two days later the Queen received a astonishing letter from one of the captains of the guard that were stationed in the north at Amon Sul. His name was Daemroth(?), a man who had been promoted to the rank of captain by Calimendil shortly after he became King for his fierce determination to prevent Amon Sul from falling into the hands of Arthedain; a country he bore little love for. He was a proud man who had long served the crown of Cardolan faithfully. But now he had switched his loyalty and fealty over to prince Orodril of Tyrn Gorthad by announcing his resignation from the service of Queen Amariel. "For," he wrote to the Queen, "it is Orodril of Cardolan, not Amariel of Arthedain, who bears the right to rule this realm now that the king is dead, for he is of this land and has labored through many toils to preserve it throughout his lifetime." With him went three thousand of our bravest warriors over to the service of the prince! They now guarded and maintained a presence at Amon Sul in the name of Orodril, not the lady Amariel.
This was a devastating blow to the Queen and all those who were yet loyal to her. Amariel immediately called a meeting of the council, at which I was the head member. I advised the Queen to ignore prince Orodril for the time being and instead send word to Arriana and Girwaedh telling them of the defection of Daemroth and his men, and of the hostile intentions of the prince towards the crown. Though not one of us bore any love for Calimendil's sister I thought it best at the time to try and strike some sort of temporary alliance with them. The Queen would not acquiesce to my council, recalling that Arriana had forever renounced the throne after the death of her father. Furthermore she had refused to attend Calimendil's coronation many years ago and had even been caught up in a libidinous relationship with her late brother Vorondil. "She will never be fit to rule any realm," marked Amariel, "for she is indecisive and feeble, and has dishonored her house. If she were to return here you may be assured that Girwaedh would supercede Arriana's power as the new king. I have spoken my last word on this matter."
In the following month messengers from Tyrn Gorthad again arrived at Dol Calantir. They spoke in person before the Queen telling her that the prince Orodril had officially staked his claim upon the throne of Cardolan and would be the next king. His official proclamation was announced by the heralds, stating, "Since Calimendil, Tarandil's son, is now dead, and none of his sons yet live, Orodril, prince of Tyrn Gorthad, remains the eldest of the royal princes of Cardolan and the most fit to rule the realm. By our laws and customs of old the crown should be given to him that is nearest to the bloodline of King Thorondor, First King of Cardolan. Let the lady Amariel of Arthedain be aware that the prince bears her no personal grudge and means her no harm. Yet also let her know that the greater remnant of King Calimendil's army that remains now sides with the prince. It is to be hoped that the lady Amariel will assent to this proclamation peacefully so that no blood will be shed upon either side. But Orodril remains prepared for any future conflict that will arise on this matter."
This then was the beginning of a series of hostilities and squabbles over the right to rule Cardolan that has lasted even to this day. But the Queen would not yield the throne of her late husband yet. She sought rather to play for time and stall Orodril's intentions by feigning to consider his demands. She sent the messengers back to him with a counter-offer stating that she would consider abdicating the throne of Cardolan on condition that the rule of the realm be passed on to her daughter, Calime, since she was, after all, the daughter of the late Calimendil. In return Orodril would be given the mayorship of the great city of Tharbad to rule as a vassal of Queen Calime. But the prince refused the offer as being ridiculous, adding, "Why should I accept the lowly office as mayor of a sullied city when I can be its king?" The he added an astonishing footnote to his original demands by offering her and her daughter safe passage to Arthedain or wherever else she wished to go on condition that I, Iliandor, render his cousin, Odhril, an official apology for slandering his name before an assembled court. If she, or I, refused this I would be branded an outlaw to the realm and be hunted down and brought to justice! This, no doubt, had been inserted on the urging of Odhril himself, whose haughty courage and audacity had grown apace since his return from the war. The Queen assured me that she would never agree to such a ludicrous demand, as she, too, believed Odhril guilty of desertion.
While these negotiations were transpiring between Amariel and the prince the Queen renewed an older edict of her late husband by conscripting all males in the realm over the age of fourteen to come to Dol Calantir and fight against Orodril, and protect the sacred throne of Dol Calantir from illegal usurpation. Little success did we have in this. Many of the folk of the towns and farmsteads were angry with the house of Calimendil, for they had lost many men in the long war with Rhudaur and were unwilling to submit to Amariel's decrees. Indeed, some even dared welcome the idea of Orodril as the new king. In the end only a moderate handful of men, both young and not so young, came willingly to Dol Calantir to girt themselves with mail and sword.
Yet there was one among the other princes of Cardolan who offered his services to the Queen in her defense. His name was Telcaran of the northern woods that is called Greenrock by the folk there, so named for the evergreens that grow upon the rocks near the great east-west road. He was a younger prince who had been fostered in Arthedain in his youth after the death of his parents, who had been Cardolani. He had the friendship of many of the men from Arthedain who kept a watch upon the great road and Amon Sul. He was sympathetic to Amariel's plight and offered to lead one thousand of his finest horsemen and men at arms to defend the court of the Queen from prince Orodril, whom he loved not at all.
He arrived at court the following week as was welcomed with joy by all of us. The sight of so many bright-eyes riders with their spears tall and gleaming in the evening sun instilled a renewed hope in many of us, for then we surely had a number of warriors, riders and defenders that would at least match that of the prince Orodril. But alone among the Queen's court Calime was troubled and seemed to dwell in melancholia much of the time. But when the host of Telcaran arrived she came out from her bedchamber to greet this prince who had ridden far to help keep her and her mother safe.
Not long afterwards two of our scouts returned from the homesteads among the grasslands with ill tidings. Most of the folk they encountered afield were apathetic to the Queen and openly proclaimed Orodril as the next king. Some few were even hostile towards them and two others of their companions was dragged from his horse and beaten by armed men who lay in wait for them amid the thickets. Our remaining two scouts had barely escaped from what had become an angry mob. There seemed little doubt as to who had organized the ambush.
Now it had become plain that Orodril had struck the first blow in the dispute over the claim to wear the crown of Cardolan. Telcaran and his officers (for I was then beginning to feel the age of my bones) marshaled their men and led three teams of cavalry northwards towards Tyrn Gorthad and the dwelling place of the prince and his cousin: one company directly upon the road and one each a good distance on either side. I, too, was with them, though I took no part in its leadership. I thought it best that any assault we might undertake upon Orodril should be performed under the banner of another prince so that Orodril know that Amariel was not without alliances of her own.
We were met by a small group of horsemen upon the road at the village at the junction of the two great roads that lay on the border of upper Cardolan and and Minhiriath. The men were scouts of prince Orodril that had come bearing a warning from their master in Tyrn Gorthad. In the distance behind many men upon horseback with great spears could be seen in the twilight. They told us that the Prince of Tyrn Gorthad and royal Keeper of the Sacred Tombs of Cardolan had forbidden us from further approach upon the Greenway into his territory, "For," as they announced to us, "the Prince knows full well of your intent in these lands of his. You come hither with well armed companies to wage war upon his abode upon the Downs where it is forbidden by law for any to spill the blood of another. Therefore, turn back now and return to your homes in peace while you have a little daylight left to you - you will be glad of it later. Do not embroil yourselves needlessly in the affairs of Prince Orodril and Amariel of Arthedain!"
Prince Telcaran replied to them saying, "Sir, you speak of spilt blood. Already you yourselves have violated the ancient law of old by waylaying horsemn men of the Queen and dragging them from their steeds ere they were beaten to death by a mob of ruffians allied with your prince. But enough of this! We did not come to barter or parley with the likes of yourselves. We come to tell Orodril that all this land is under subordination of the Queen, widow of King Calimendil! The prince will comply with the commands of the Queen or surrender his authority over Tyrn Gorthad and be cast down forever! Choose swiftly!""
The man in the forefront of the horsemen looked stoically into the eyes of Telcaran without fear for many seconds as his companion whispered secret council to him. At length the man replied, "Such haughty words from the prince of Greenrock! We confess that we did not expect to see you so far from your dwelling of Barad Galen in the north where your allies from Arthedain are wont to look after you. You shall find none of them here on this night, I fear. But see here! One there is among our company that you may know. He is Daemroth, captain of great renown! He marches now under the banner of Orodril, and his army is before you. You are outnumbered here. Depart now and perhaps the new king shall find you blameless in your judgement after he removes to Dol Calantir to wear the crown. Yet if you choose otherwise things may go ill for you. What say ye? Shall we all return in peace to our homes or shall we draw swords?"
The prince did not answer the messenger, for a great commotion arose off in the distance to the east where we had a great host of our own layng in wait. A great horn blast was heard followed by two more in quick succession. Horses whinnied and swords were being drawn.
"So!" cried Telcaran, "you strike the first blow! And so does the serpent pounce upon the mouse at unawares! The latter choice we will take, and may the darkness take you!" The men around me drew out their blades and their spears with a cry of battle rage and ere I knew it I was deep in bloodshed. That night marked the last time that I drew my sword in battle in those later events in the defense of the Queen. Telcaran pursued the embassy of Orodril ere they could retreat back to their army and slew them. That was considered an ill deed by many, as it violated what all well diciplined warriors regarded as the messenger's right to return to his host ere battle was joined.
Things happened very quickly after that. Horns from all directions noised about us as our force clashed with that of Daemroth's in a great fury. The battle was a grim one that lasted well after dusk and is still considered by all to be one of the most tragic and sorrowful of the internal wars of Cardolan. Men on both sides of the conflict suffered great losses, and alas! Prince Telcaran was slain. Some say that it was at the hands of none other than Daemroth himself. No other details will I provide of that clash of arms here, save that in the end our army was scattered and hounded until few remained. I led what few men I could find in the darkness away southwards along the road until we came at last again to Dol Calantir.
Prince Orodril had suffered many losses in the battle upon the hills of the Greenway but ours were far greater, and the Queen's forces were well nigh decimated. Never was it discovered who had struck the first blow that fateful evening. Our men away from the road were ordered to stand and await the command for the charge from prince Telcaran ere they took to the offensive. But that order never came. More likely was it that Orodril had sent an overwhelming force in that direction to secretly initiate a skirmish out of view from the captains. Amariel was shocked upon hearing of the bloodshed, for she had anticipated a peaceful process of negotiations with the Orodril. So did I. Furthermore she was filled with grief for the death of the young prince Telcaran, whom she had invited to lead her cavalry. Calime wept openly after hearing of it. Not one person ever dreamt that his march to the court of the Queen that spring would be his last. We immediately sent messengers to his son in the north with the sad tidings of the death of his father. With the tidings we sent also a warning to the wife of Telcaran that she should be on her guard against the ambitions of Orodril who would surely see that no sire of Telcaran lived long enough to exact vengeance upon the slayers of his father.
Queen Amariel sought still to hold onto her rightful place as Queen even after our defeat upon the downs. She again had secret messages sent to King Malvegil in Arthedain asking for assistance in the defense of Orodril the Usurper. In this plea to Arthedain I felt reasonably satisfied that we would receive a favorable reply from Malvegil. But then another tragedy befell the court, and this time all our hopes of regaining a semblance of order upon the court of Dol Calantir vanished at last in a trail of tears...