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 FIVE
Word of Vorondil's shadowy and uncertain fate spread quickly throughout the realm of Cardolan. Many tongues were wagging among the other Cardolani princes who were scattered hither and thither across the lands. Vorondil had few friends among them. Many rumors and actual sightings of him began to make their way to court and quickly reached the ears of Tarandil. Yet in the end they were always false. Shortly thereafter the King decreed it a crime punishable by death to "...propagate counterfactual, slanderous or untrue claims..." concerning the fate of the king's eldest and most beloved son.
Little have I mentioned the king's daughter during this period. Arriana indeed took the loss of her brother to heart and for long refused to admit that he was, in all likelihood, deceased. She soon convinced herself that Vorondil must be alive somewhere, perhaps kidnapped or held against his will in a far away land; of this she was adamant. Her chief suspicion fell upon the Dunlendings, and even went so far as to urge her father to declare war upon Dunland. She might have succeeded in brainwashing the King as he wallowed in his own misery, as I was still banned from returning to Dol Calantir to intervene in such a foolhardy enterprise. Fortunately Calimendil had since returned from his excursion in neighboring Arthedain with his future bride, Amariel. Calimendil was greatly saddened by the tidings of his brother, but he went straightaway to Dol Calantir to see his father with Amariel at his side.
When Calimendil learned that his father was becoming increasingly influenced by his daughter and of her desire to invade Dunland his heart filled with anger and he went straightway to the King at ultimately dissuaded him from waging war upon the Dunlendings. Vorondil was not in Dunland. He was gone and would not return. Of this I felt certain, as did Calimendil. Alas! Time would go on to prove it to be so. Thus Arriana was once again (and not for the last time) defeated by her young brother and she was filled with bitterness toward Calimendil, and remained so for many years thereafter. Over the next few years Amariel would serve as the intermediary between brother and sister, for neither would speak to the other. As a gesture of consolation Tarandil granted Arriana the privilege of residing at Vorondil's keep at Dol Argond "...while Vorondil is away or until he returns".
A year passed away without further tidings of the King's Heir. All this time I resided at Tharbad. Calimendil came to visit me often, for he considered Tarandil's ban upon me as unjust, and we soon struck up a friendship. From him I learned of the King's condition. Tarandil had become careless in his role as a sovereign. He gave small heed to matters in the north and his relations with Arthedain and Rhudaur. Amon Sul now seemed of little interest to him. We were surely jeopardizing our rightful claim to the Palantir and the tower at this time. Tarandil spent much of his time in his own dungeons conducting his own interrogations of Gelharm and other prisoners regarding Vorondil's fate. His health was also in a state of rapid decline. He seldom wore his crown and he let his beard grow very long. Arriana visited him often at court at this time. I suspect that many royal decisions and decrees coming out of Dol Calantir were coming from the mouth of the king's daughter, including an official list of names of people that were not to be permitted upon the grounds of Dol Calantir. I soon learned that my name was on that list.
In the spring of 1272 Calimendil came to my house before dawn and informed me that the King was dying and that I was to come with him back to Dol Calantir to see him ere his spirit passed away to the care of Mandos. As for the ban upon me, Calimendil had had it revoked by Tarandil, though grudgingly. It was the first time I had set foot in Dol Calantir in two years. When we arrived at the King's chambers I beheld Arriana and Amariel attending to the ailing Tarandil, who now looked to be at death's door. There were also guards from Dol Argond present that had come to protect Arriana. Only a small handful of Tarandil's former advisors were in the room that morning, including myself. The King was scarcely able to speak by then and coughed up much blood as he lay upon his bed with a raging fever. By mid-morning he was dead. He died thus as did Elenarian several years before. Ere long the body of the King was taken secretly to Tyrn Gorthad, where he was lain next to his wife in a great barrow-tomb. Great was the sorrow for all those at court and for many of the folk in Cardolan. Tarandil had been a good king and possessed many of the fine qualities requisite of a sovereign, especially for the farmers and shepherds in the north. He was not popular among the folk of Tharbad and the other princes that were not related to him by blood, for he limited their authority greatly. But after the burial had been completed and the lords of Cardolan were assembled together at court it was not long ere the bickering and quarreling began among them.
By right and traditional Dunedain laws handed down since the time of Elendil Arriana would become Cardolan's next sovereign and first ruling Queen, as she was older than Calimendil. Yet not all were willing to accept her. But Arriana's supporters insisted that the crown of Cardolan now fell to her as the oldest surviving heir of Tarandil and Elenarian. It was not long before preparations were underway for Arriana's coronation. But she had many detractors both in and out of court. Most of the other princes mistrusted her, deeming her policies would follow too closely to that of her father's. Many feared she would pull many of Cardolan's cavalry and men of arms away from Amon Sul in the north and send them to war against Dunland to capture Ulbor and others connected with Vorondil's death and disappearance.
Only one month after Tarandil's death a scandal emerged within the court at Dol Calantir. A former advisor to Tarandil came forth with accusations that Arriana had had intimate relations with her brother Vorondil. His name was Berhan. He had been one of those that had been placed upon the list of names of men to be banned from court by Arriana and the King. He claimed to have proof by procuring two witnesses that had seen the two together involved in amorous acts. Berhan threatened to make her secret public knowledge unless she relinquished her right to the crown of Cardolan and handed it to Calimendil. No doubt Arriana was shocked and angered by the threat. When I learned of this matter I went to Calimendil, knowing that Arriana would not see me. Despite is estrangement from his sister he threatened to thrash Berhan for disgracing his family name in such a manner. But he was too late; the damage was already done. Rumors were already flying at court that Arriana was her late brother's lover, and she desired to send Cardolan to war with Dunland.
Next evening Arriana made a startling announcement. She made known to all that she would not accept the crown of Cardolan as Queen, preferring to allow Calimendil to ascend the throne as Tarandil's next heir and King of Cardolan. She did not even attempt to mask her resentment towards her foes, and remarked openly, "I will depart this place and return to Dol Argond to act as its steward, so long as the new king wills it. The fortunes of our age are changing, and not, I deem, for the better. I have neither the will, nor the desire to rule over a lawless city that harbors enemies and spies. Nor will I dwell among such conspirators and collaborationists here at this court. Tharbad and Dol Calantir; what difference remains between them now? Both are infested with villainous miscreants. I go to seek a better fortune elsewhere, for my heart is cold here." Then a clamor rose up in the hall and harsh words were spoken among those that favored Arriana and those that did not. But Arriana slipped away from the hall almost as soon as she had spoken and went with her guards to a private carriage that lie in wait outside. Ere anyone could stop her she was gone and departed Dol Calantir under the cover of night. I did not see her again for some time afterwards.
With Arriana gone Calimendil was now officially free to accept the throne of Cardolan, for he was Tarandil's heir and a descendant of Thorondor, Cardolan's first King. But Calimendil did not want to accept the crown in the beginning and desired to wait yet a while in order for his sister's temper to calm and her wits to return to her. Further still he wanted time to delve into the Berhan's allegations and call forth the two alleged men who witnessed Vorondil and Arriana together. But Arriana had sealed her fate by her offensive words to the lords at court and they would never permit her to become Queen without a fight. Calimendil also must have surely recalled the night when he saw his brother and sister together outside his window late at night only a few years before. He came to me and sought my advice on the matter, but I urged him to accept the throne as soon as possible. It was a thing very dangerous indeed for a realm to be without a king even for a short while. It would not be long ere Cardolan's enemies and rivals would catch word of the events that were sweeping through Dol Calantir and take advantage of Cardolan's instability.
In the end, of course, Calimendil accepted the throne and became the fifth King of Cardolan. His coronation took place at court only two days after Arriana's departure, whom did not attend the ceremonies. It can scarcely be argued that Arriana would have been a disastrous sovereign for Cardolan. Much pain and misfortune was avoided for all by her acquiescence of the throne to her brother. A war upon Dunland at the time would surely have hastened Cardolan's demise and our claim to Amon Sul would have been lost. Calimendil was indeed reluctant to become king at first, as he had spent his entire life up to that point believing that he would forever be a Cardolani prince and nothing more. But one's fate seldom unfolds in the manner we anticipate it to.
The wedding of Calimendil and Amariel took place in Calimendil's abode of Metraith in a quiet and secretive ceremony immediately following their flight from Fornost Erain. As I mentioned, King Tarandil had ordered that all of Calimendil's servants vacate the estate and leave the castle empty and wide open as punishment to his son for disregarding his orders. Calimendil was furious upon his return but refused to cower to his father's will and opted to remain at his abode in spite of its robbed halls and poor condition. Wolves and other animals of the wild had ventured inside the empty abode and left their tracks and their droppings. But Calimendil cleaned the excrement away and called upon a handful of folk whom he deemed as true friends to come to Metraith to witness his betrothal to Amariel of Arthedain. Calimendil later told me of his father's stoic reaction to the news of his marriage to Amariel. Tarandil felt little enthusiasm at the time, for the King was too far down his road of personal destruction by then. Yet ere he died he at last gave his blessing to his son and his wife.
Calimendil brought many changes to Cardolan as King. His first order of business was to arrest Berhan for disgracing his sister and the royal family's name, and he was thrown into the dungeons of Dol Calantir. This came as a surprise to some, for if it were not for Berhan's courage to reveal Arriana's true character Calimendil would never have become King. But Calimendil was a compassionate man and did not wish to see his sister humiliated regardless of how low their personal relationship had fallen. For his part he forgave her for her past behavior and decreed Arriana as sole guardian and steward of Vorondil's keep at Dol Argond.
The next year King Calimendil officially declared his brother missing and presumed dead. By then it had been over four years since Vorondil's sudden disappearance. The King ordered Echormoth in Tharbad to diminish his ranks of soldiers in the city by half so that they may return to their duty at Amon Sul in the north. The mayor objected strongly to this and insisted that they remain in place by persuading Calimendil that already new and more secretive guilds were blossoming in the dark recesses of Tharbad and posed a real threat to his crown. But Calimendil was unmoved and would not yield. He feared, and rightly so, that Celebrindor in Arthedain would increase his forces at Amon Sul even more now that Cardolan had a new and unripe king. Indeed, doubly so once they realized that Amariel, daughter of Rathmir, had fled Fornost with Calimendil in secret.
It was at this time that Calimendil called me to him in his quarters and asked me to take the role as his most trusted advisor. I would be given the official title of Chief Councilor to the King, amongst which duties I would have of becoming the Official Protector and Guardian of the Queen and their children, should any harm befall the King.
I accepted the King's offer on the spot and remained in that post up until the very end of Calimendil's reign.
The beginning of Calimendil's kingship was a joyful and fruitful period for those of his court and many throughout Cardolan despite he being a neophyte sovereign. Indeed even as a ruling prince he seldom exercised much governing authority over his provincial subjects. He preferred the hunt, the horse and the harp to his duties as prince, and even though Calimendil was an excellent swordsman he rarely displayed his talent and skill for it. Yet now he was the unexpected King of Cardolan and he was required to play that role. I begged him to put away his lute for a while and dedicate himself to his kingship, which he did.
Many monumental events occurred at this time, which I must certainly mention here. Only six months proceeding Tarandil's death we received word form our informants that Celebrindor, King of Arthedain had also died. We knew not the official reason; yet he was older than even Tarandil and his span of years was drawing to a close by then. Thus we concluded that his death was nothing unnatural. Celebrindor's eldest son, Malvegil, then became Arthedain's next ruling King. Calimendil remembered Celebrindor rather coldly from before due to his own banishment from Arthedain and certainly did not mourn his passing. As a reciprocal gesture for Celebridor's actions after Tarandil's death Calimendil immediately ordered scores of reinforcements to swell the number of the garrisons already residing at Amon Sul. For the first (and last) time in Arnor's history Cardolan equaled, if not bettered Arthedain in the number of guards and cavalrymen stationed at Amon Sul. This of course enraged King Ermegil in Rhudaur but we paid him small heed at the time.
Shortly following Celebrindor's death we received the remains of an alarming letter that was discovered on the body of a slain man found by Arthedainian rangers in the wilds of eastern Arthedain nigh the banks of the river Metheithel. The man's identity was a mystery. He was most likely slain by wolves or died from exposure. But the letter revealed information much to our shock and horror. It was written by none other than the accursed Ulbor and was addressed to his superiors "in the north". It told of how he maliciously achieved the death of Vorondil and his men, the latter of which had been either slain or taken prisoner before being sent to the regions of the north. I cannot imagine why such an important document had been kept by Arthedain instead of it being delivered at once to Tarandil!
Calimendil read the letter in anger and great sorrow and demanded that Malvegil explain his late father's justification for keeping such a sensitive document from Tarandil. In reply Malvegil sent word to Calimendil that he had no knowledge whatsoever that the document existed until then. Furthermore Malvegil suggested that even his father had been unaware of the letter and even went so far as to suggest that it had been found by rogues who sought to keep it for themselves until it could be ransomed or perhaps traded.
Calimendil became furious and responded by saying that Celebrindor had surely become an imprudent dotard in his old age if he had truly been unaware of the document discovered in his own back yard. He added, "...and what shall be said of your spy-work in such a case? Is this an example of the legendary Arthedainian vigilance? If so, I expect the enemy to be crossing your borders at any moment."
Malvegil raised tensions between them further still and called Calimendil a kidnapper, "Does the new King of Cardolan really believe that we know nothing of his most recent illegal exploits here in Arthedain? You imprison your guests that travel from great distances to greet you as friends before forcibly kidnapping another man's maiden and betrothed? Aye! We know a great deal regarding Calimendil's deeds as of late. For this alone was my father's ban upon you justified. Let the King of Cardolan be thankful that he has such a neighbor as Arthedain at this time instead of orcs and brigands."
Sensing that tensions between the two kings was rising high, I begged Calimendil not to offer a scathing rebuke to Malvegil. I implored him to let the matter rest for a while, for I felt deeply that we would need the aid of Arthedain in the years to come and must not alienate them from Cardolan forever. It was at this time that I began to fear that a great scheme of evil was being concocted against all the Dunedain, not only from orcs and other foul men in the frozen north, but also from within the wilds of Rhudaur itself. We had only a few spies left in that sister-realm by then, and of them we had heard nothing for some time. When at last they returned they told us of a hidden threat in the highlands of Rhudaur. The Hillmen had become restless. Even more so than usual. Conflicts between the various tribes began to wane around this time and attacks upon the Dunlendings allied with the few Dunedain that remained in that land began to increase. Of King Ermegil we had heard little or nothing. Nevertheless, Calimendil sought to assuage old griefs between the two realms by sending word to Ermegil that he wished to mend the hard feelings that had existed between him and Tarandil in the past. Further still, Calimendil offered to send Ermegil horses and a heavy shipment of arms and other necessities as a gesture of his goodwill. A good while later Ermegil finally replied by accepting Calimendil's kindly offer, though he would say nothing regarding the Hillmen unrest.
On the fifth anniversary of Calimendil's Kingship there was a great celebration at court. I got to know Queen Amariel very well by then and thought of her as a true sister. In the summer of that year she conceived and soon after gave berth to twin boys whom they named Berandil and Bregardil. I acted as their god-parent and was very honored to do so. It was the happiest time I had ever spent at Dol Calantir. The King and I went abroad together at that time, and we rode far to the south and west through wild Minhiriath. We visited the ruins of Lond Daer and gazed out upon the western sea together. Calimendil would have entered the dark forest of Eryn Vorn out of curiosity had I and others in our company persuaded him not to.
The next year the King desired to pay a visit to Echormoth in Tharbad. The Queen begged him not to go, for she claimed to have a dream in which she saw evil factions at work in Tharbad where the city's fountains and canals ran with blood. But Calimendil thought the trip necessary at the time and added that he would be frequenting Tharbad periodically so long as he was king so as, "to keep an eye on it."
In the winter of 1279 I accompanied the King and his guard to Tharbad where we were to meet with Echormoth, the mayor to discuss the state of the city. By now Tharbad had deteriorated significantly. Crime had doubled since Tarandil's death. Many of the city's dark streets and alleys were littered with homeless folk. Dead bodies were collected regularly before being carted off to the countryside. The canals did not run with blood as Amariel had dreamt, though they did run with other foul things.
On the second day of our visit to Tharbad an unspeakable crime was committed. I shall never forget it! I and several others walked with the King along the streets of a crowded market place on the city's northern bank nigh the river. Echormoth and his own guard accompanied us as many regular folk and peasants clamored beside us in order to get a look at their King. Calimendil enjoyed handing out alms to the poor and did so generously that afternoon. As he and the mayor talked together amid the noise of the crowd, an assassin disguised as a poor peasant leapt out from the crowd and stabbed the King in abdomen with a long-dagger! No doubt the blow was aimed at Calimendil's heart but missed. The King doubled forward and would have fallen had I not assisted him at once.
Those that witnessed the attack were stunned at what they had seen. No one had anticipated it, as our guards were strong that day. Immediately the assassin attempted to flee into the darkness. But he was tripped up and seized by our guards ere he could escape. Many in the crowd quailed at the scene before them, but the chaos was not over. An unidentified man leapt out from a nearby doorway while shouting, "long live the King!" and thrust a knife into the neck of the assassin, killing him instantly. The assassin lay dead. Yet his slayer was seized by many guards and was whisked away ere anymore bloodshed could occur. The body of the slain assassin was also taken away to be examined and identified.
Many others and I rushed the King to Echormoth's quarters. He had lost blood and his wound was deep, but the blade had missed his heart! Next day we departed the city and returned to Dol Calantir with the King. Amariel wept when she saw the condition her husband and King was in. But the Queen was skilled in the art of healing and she summoned forth all her skill that she had been taught by the Noldorin elves in Arthedain and nursed Calimendil back to health with her love. Thus the great Calimendil ultimately survived his first attempted regicide, but it was not to be the last...