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 SEVEN
By the year 1294 Calimendil had sat upon the throne as King of Cardolan for over twenty years, during which time the people enjoyed a fruitful period free from war and invasion. Though his initial popularity eventually waned in Tharbad most everyone else seemed content with his rule, save a number of the noble princes who dwelt in various places throughout the realm. They strongly resented Calimendil's control over them and their diminished power following the death of Tarandil, who had been more willing to grant special favors and privileges to them. I must admit that I never fully understood Calimendil's reasoning for doing so at the time, for it seemed to go against good sense. Yet as time wore on it seemed to me (and others as well) that by then Calimendil had acquired an appetite for power that resembled that of his late grandfather, Ardornil, Third King of Cardolan.
I became increasingly alarmed by reports of violent raids and skirmishes upon our subjects in lower Minhiriath by orcs, which hitherto had been almost unheard of. During Tarandil's reign Echormoth had been a champion among the people for achieving the near eradication of these foul creatures. Now they were multiplying once more. Our scouts and spies that kept their eyes and ears focused ever upon Rhudaur and the mountain passes told us of increased activity in the Misty Mountains between the dwarves and orcs, and by 1302 we heard that a full-scale war had erupted between them. All traffic coming over the mountain passes ceased completely. Rumors of a great shadow of evil in the north soon reached us by way of Arthedain; an evil that bore great hatred for all the Dunedain. The weather we experienced became severe during this period. The winter of 1304 was especially harsh, even as far south as Tharbad. Heavy snows and ice fell upon Dol Calantir and much of Cardolan causing great suffering and hardship. The river Gwathlo froze over, allowing wolves and other undesirable creatures to cross into lower Cardolan. It was also the first time that we heard the name of the Witch King, lord of Angmar. Yet we still knew next to nothing regarding who or what he was.
Now Ermegil had been King of Rhudaur for well nigh seven and thirty years by then. His relationship with Tarandil had always been poor and the two kings seldom communicated with one another. When Calimendil took the throne he generously offered Ermegil a fresh supply of horses and arms as a goodwill gesture so that the outnumbered Dunedain there could fend off threats from the Hillmen. This was a good move by Calimendil, as no one desired for the Hillmen to overrun Rhudaur. But alas! That was indeed to be its fate.
Sometime between the years 1304 and 1307 Broggha became the first of the Hillmen to achieve and alliance between the rival tribes of Hillmen that dwelt in the green and rugged country of Rhudaur. The tale of rivals Broggha and Calimendil and the long war between them comprises the bulk of the remainder of my tale and is at times grisly and even horrific reading. For this I do not apologize, as I feel that this is necessary in order to emphasize Calimendil's great personal sacrifice. I lived through most of these deeds myself, so you may be sure that I am qualified to speak on behalf of the King and his sons.
Ermegil marked the last of the Dunedain kings to sit upon the throne of Rhudaur. He was also undoubtedly the least effective. His obsession and jealousy of Tarandil and Arthedain's former king, Celebrindor, blinded his sight to such a degree that he stationed well over half of his garrison and soldiery in and around Amon Sul, leaving only a scant amount to guard him and his own territory. Ermegil made his abode at the castle of Cameth Brin. It was a very old and lofty keep that sat upon a tall and lonely hill of granite, the top of which jutted outwards impossibly far to a point like a crooked finger. The Hillmen in ages past had shunned that bald and naked hill fearing that is was haunted by the ghosts of dwarves that had long ago delved their tunnels within it. Far below the ramparts of Ermegil's castle was Tanoth Brin, a village that lay beneath the long shadows of the hill. In better days it used to house many a diverse population. In Ermegil's time it was largely infested with Dunlendings and men from far away places and uncertain origin. Many secret agents from Angmar dwelt there, as did Ermegil's cavalry.
There was nothing remarkable about Broggha in his early years. He was the illegitimate son of a chieftain among a tribe of Hillmen somewhere in the highlands of the Ettenmoors. We know that he had many siblings that later rallied around his banner for protection after he ascended to power. But they were never close to him and he conspired with others to evict them from his land. To prove his worth it was said that his father had him brought into the wilds of that mystical forest in the heart of Rhudaur that was called the Yfelwyd at the age of twelve. There he was left alone to fend for himself and find his way home with nothing more than the clothes on his back, which he did. He learned the ways of the wild quickly and was a skilled hunter. All Hillmen learned the skill at an early age. But unlike his fellows Broggha was cruel to the animals he captured and enjoyed torturing them ere he slew them. He was also said to have planned and achieved the murder of a rival chieftain at the age of fourteen.
By the time he reached adulthood he commanded a large brigade of warriors into a full-scale battle not only against orcs from the mountains but also against rival tribes. When his father was slain in combat against the Dunedain from Arthedain Broggha assumed temporary command of his entire tribe until another leader could be agreed upon. But Broggha would not relinquish his power and instead bribed other chieftains to rally around him and proclaim him to be their supreme chieftain. He gradually became known as the Lord of the Hillmen in Rhudaur, and the ranks of his men swelled to so great a number that few others would dare to resist him. Even more than a few Dunlendings, long the foes of the Hillmen, swore allegiance to Broggha and joined his army. It was not long afterwards that his fame and strength became known to the Witch King in the north and soon afterwards the agents of Angmar struck a secret deal with him.
King Ermegil knew full well of Broggha but failed to see him as a potential threat, for he never dreamt that the warring tribes of Hillmen would ever agree to unite under a single faction. It was a fatal miscalculation. The garrisons under his command resided in the village of Tanoth Brin and were comprised mostly of various Northmen and some Dunlendings. Well over half of the loyal Dunedain were commanded to dwell at Amon Sul in the west, leaving only a few residing at Cameth Brin and the village below. Of these few some had become corrupt and sold their king's secrets to Broggha's spies.
By the year 1306 Broggha had undoubtedly become the Hillmen's unrivaled leader. Many tribes swore allegiance to him and the Hillmen became a unified force as no other time before then or after. Broggha left the vastness of the Ettenmoors and migrated southwards where he sacked Dol Duniath, Ermegil's most favored northern outpost. The Dunedain that were stationed there were slain and the castle plundered. No one there would survive the assault and thus Ermegil knew not of the encroaching danger. Broggha made the castle his temporary dwelling-place, which now put him in close proximity to Cameth Brin, which lay nigh a great rocky bend in the river Hoarwell, some two-day's ride southwest of Dol Duniath.
There came a time of midsummer when Broggha mustered his forces together and led his people on foot to the lands nigh Cameth Brin. When they stormed their way through the countryside they sacked the small villages therein and burned many of the houses. The men living there were forced to join Broggha's army or else perish. Many of the women and children were enslaved and sent to unknown places. This was a reckless and evil deed to be sure, but it was not the worst.
When Broggha at last approached the hills that fenced in the lofty heights of Cameth Brin he met with resistance from a force sent out by Ermegil, who had got wind of Broggha's approaching army. A battle was fought amid the wooded hills and rocks of the region but the forces of Ermegil were too few and they were scattered and destroyed. A few of the officers of Ermegil's army were said to have begged for mercy from Broggha and offered to turn on their king by leading Broggha into the secret ways of Cameth Brin by way of the ancient dwarven tunnels delved in the hill. But Broggha refused them and had all them cruelly beheaded, save one whom he spared.
The Hillmen swept through the forests that lead to Cameth Brin unchallenged. When they drew nigh the eaves of the wood Broggha ordered his forces to halt. There he saw in the distance for the first time the treeless hill of Cameth Brin and the castle of King Ermegil, perched upon the very precipice. Ermegil knew well that Broggha would attempt to approach the hill by means of this route. Yet he knew not that Broggha had sent a force of warriors ahead of him and to the west where they turned away from the hill and circled it from afar in order to attack and quickly seize the village of Tanoth Brin from below while Broggha assaulted the tower of Cameth Brin.
The sack of Tanoth Brin was resisted more fiercely than anticipated. Many of Ermegil's remaining loyal Dunedain were garrisoned in the village and they mounted a stiff opposition to the Hillmen by showering them with arrows from over the walls. Rhuggha, son of Broggha and leader of the assault, was slain in this way. All the while swarms of Hillmen rushed up the steep slope of Cameth Brin towards the castle of Ermegil, who watched with horror from his high chamber window. More volleys of darts were shot through the air from the high ramparts of the castle inflicting their deadly damage upon the enemies, and for a while Broggha recalled his forces back down the slope nigh the eaves of the wood, just beyond the range of Ermegil's arrows.
Seeing that the long march up the bare slope was perilous and that the walls of the castle could not be breached, Broggha decided to lay siege to both Cameth Brin and the village below. Many months passed in this way. Ermegil sat in his chamber with his wife and Queen, Halmedis, who begged the King to surrender Cameth Brin to Broggha in exchange for their freedom. But Ermegil refused, for he had already ordered the flaring of the great beacon atop the tower in order to summon aid from the Dunedain outposts as far west as Amon Sul. He penned all his hope upon this last desperate action and trusted in the impregnable walls of his castle to hold his enemies at bay until help would arrive. But his pleas for aid were never answered.
The village of Tanoth Brin suffered the worst. Four months into the siege the folk therein had consumed well nigh all their remaining food supply and were said to have resorted to eating grass and leather in order to survive. Even the rats became hunted prey.
Now there was an ancient tunnel was delved into the hillside that ran up to Cameth Brin atop the hill. Ermegil could have eased the suffering of the people of Tanoth Brin by allowing food to be brought to them by this secret route, but he was a greedy man and horded it all for himself. Furthermore, he ordered the tunnel blocked and sealed up for fear of incursion.
After the sixth month of the siege winter set in and many of the population of the village had perished. At last they could stand it no longer and finally opened the gates to the invading Hillmen. The village was sacked and plundered, but not burned by order of Broggha. Only the fittest were spared and were summarily gathered up and sent into the Misty Mountains to live the rest of their lives as slaves to the orcs in their hellish mines. Those that were frail or weak were murdered.
Ermegil watched the sack of Tanoth Brin from the castle above. No doubt his heart must have quailed at the sight, for now his only possible route if exit was cut off by his foes. He was utterly trapped with no hope of escape. There he sat as the days, weeks and even months rolled slowly by as his enemies loitered around all the surrounding lands.
The winter became harsh and cold and ere long his supply of wood was gone and Cameth Brin became a dark and frozen dungeon to all its remaining inhabitants. The King's only daughter, whose name is now forgotten, died from the cold in the eighth month of the siege, as did many others. No aid ever arrived to deliver them from their fate and Ermegil openly cursed Arthedain and Cardolan for their failure to deliver him in his time of need and swore to exact revenge upon them in whatever way he could contrive...