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 SEVENTEEN


"Our work here is nearly finished, my love. Even as I prophesied so it has come to be - Broggha is trapped and will not come out of his hole. Our siege upon Cameth Brin is a success, and thus this war, which I know you loathe, shall conclude soon. The Hillmen cannot last very long upon the Naked Hill without nourishment, which they lack. Dol Duniath in the north is ours once again. No help will come to Broggha from that way. Greatly shall Arthedain admire our victory here and look upon Cardolan with envy thereafter...I am in good health, as are our sons. So take heart, my precious one! With good fortune you and I shall be together again by the autumn!" ~ final letter from Calimendil to Amariel, composed during the siege of Cameth Brin, June, 1319]/I]

The guards received me with astonishment upon my return to Dol Calantir. They seemed to have full knowledge of the disaster of Cameth Brin, and at that I marveled. They did not anticipate the arrival of anyone from the King's host out of Rhudaur, for they had been told that all had perished, save two men only, who had thence returned from the north only three days before my own return. As they took me to the stables I immediately asked the identities of the two survivors, hoping desperately that one of them would be Bregardil.

"Alas no, lord," replied the guards, "the survivors are Odhril and a man who calls himself Vilthya, one of the king's mercenaries from the other side of the mountains. Yet they have come bearing grim tidings of the war and the death of Bregardil." Upon hearing this I very nearly quailed. The news was like a dagger to my heart. Everything was now lost. The end of things had come at last. The King was dead, as were both his sons. Berandil with his keen glance and sharp wit, Bregardil with his fierce determination and pride - both men had been well esteemed by their peers and loved greatly. High hopes had been penned on both of them in succeeding their father as worthy successors to the crown. They should have gone on to be valiant men; exemplary in holding true the noble line of Thorondor, First King of Cardolan, who was in turn descended from old Elendil himself. Now they were gone. Only in Calime, daughter of the king, was there any hope now of preserving the bloodline.

All of these thoughts passed through my mind at once as I left the guards and marched around to the gate of Dol Calantir. I thought now of the two names I had been given. Now Vilthya I knew not at all. But not so Odhril. He I knew full well, for he had been the King's banner-bearer. He had been given the honor of that position by Calimendil himself, who did so only at the request of Orodril, an influential prince who resided near the great downs of Tyrn Gorthad. Orodril petitioned the King to accept Odhril as one of his esquires during his march into Rhudaur. I counseled the King to refuse the request. Small love was there between the King and this haughty prince. But Calimendil was eager to unite the realm under his banner ere he marched away to war, and acquiesced to the request.

My mind flashed back to the night of the first attack by the orcs as we encamped about Cameth Brin. I vividly remember Odhril coming to my tent that night to alert me that I was wanted by the King. Yet I did not recall him following me out to the King. Nor did I ever recall seeing him in battle alongside the King, as was his duty. He seemed to vanish from sight shortly after the fighting had begun! There was little doubt in my mind that Odrhil had chosen to run and flee in the face of danger. My heart was hot with wrath now and I was eager to face him.

It was not long after I entered Dol Calantir that I was swarmed by folk who immediately pummeled me with questions. Already crowds were converging upon the court of the King to take in whatever tidings they could. Rumors would soon fly abroad of the death of Calimendil and his heirs. Lesser princes and nobles from all corners of the country were arriving each day to "offer their condolences and support to the Queen", or so they would proclaim openly. Yet in secret they would take thought of what this sudden change of the wind would bring. Already tongues were wagging among the princes with thoughts of usurpation.

I was whisked away by the guard to the chamber of the Queen, who had already received word of my coming. When I came into her chamber I saw Amariel gazing silently out her window as I entered her chamber alone. The room was very dark with only the light of the fireplace to provide illumination. Turning slowly to face me I could see that she had been crying well before I arrived. I immediately dropped to my knees before her and begged her forgiveness for my failures abroad and at home. But the Queen was merciful and forgave me in all things in regards to the war, in spite of her grief. Amariel was a remarkable woman of high intellect and wisdom, as many knew all along. We spoke long together that night in secret and I began the long and tedious labor of telling her the true tale of what happened to the army of the King in Rhudaur. Without any movement whatsoever Amariel sat in front of the fireplace in eerie silence as I spoke, seldom turning her unblinking eyes away from the glow of the flames. When I at last spoke somewhat of the death of her husband the Queen shook her head and bade me halt, saying suddenly and with great emotion, "Speak no more of that final misery, lest my heart altogether fail me! I feel the house of my spirit now on the verge of collapse, Iliandor. It stands on the brink of a black abyss that has no bottom. If I fall now never again shall I emerge from it as one whole. All the men of my family are gone. My authority here will be short-lived, I fear, and I will have need of much strength in the days to come, though I know not where I shall find it."

One character in this new forming scheme of events that was of utmost importance was that third remaining survivor of the war - Vilthya the mercenary from Rhovanion, who had been enticed to join the ranks of Calimendil's army with the incentive of receiving rich rewards following the death of Broggha. Having been denied his assured plunder from Cameth Brin this man returned with Odhril to Cardolan telling all who would listen of Odhril's desperate attempt to save Bregardil after he had been shot by arrows as they fled to the river. By then I had had enough. I knew the truth of the matter and I wanted to make sure my voice was heard.

I sent the Queen's guards to apprehend Vilthya and escort him perforce to Amariel and the council so that we might question him apart from the influence of Odhril. He was taken back by this move at first, no doubt fearing for his own safety and being caught up in a lie. But after twice being assured by the Queen that no harm would come to him if he would but reveal the real truth he at last began to tell us something of what really happened during the assault upon the village of Tanoth Brin and the final moments leading up to Bregardil's death, which he confirmed most resolutely. Vilthya had been one of those that had been sent down into the village to waylay any of the enemy that might attempt to flee from the tower that way. Just as Bregardil made his way down the lofty slopes of the Naked Hill a sortie was sent against them from inside the village. Being outnumbered three to one, all those who were not slain fled westwards to the river in hopes of seizing any boats along the rugged shoreline. The written testimony of Vilthya states that:

"...having found myself uninjured I made my way with the son of the King to the river. The Hillmen from the village followed us and launched another volley of arrows at us ere we reached the water. Their effect was deadly. Few then were left alive; perhaps four or five at most, including Bregardil and myself. Just as we began to make our way down the embankment we beheld a shadowy figure of a man setting himself adrift upon a small boat that had been tied to a wooden pier. It had been the only boat close enough for us to reach in time. By the glow of the man's torchlight we could see that the fleeing man was one of our own! To our surprise it was Odhril, the bearer of the standard of the King. We called aloud to him, begging him to return to us. But it was too late. Ere we could reach the water's edge an arrow had pierced Bregardil in the leg and he fell from the pier headlong into the dark waters of the Hoarwell. I never saw him again, as my natural reaction was to dive into the river and attempt the difficult swim to Odhril's boat, which I achieved with great difficulty under duress..."

This written testimonial from Vilthya the mercenary survives to this day, for I kept it locked away in secret for fear of having it stolen. I reveal it here with great satisfaction. Further still we discovered that Odhril had purchased Vilthya's initial false testimony with a bribe of gold. Normally the punishment for distributing such a falsehood as he had done would be to spend the remainder of his life in the dungeons or even death. But Amariel kept her promise and spared Vilthya any punishment whatsoever, on condition that he tell his tale to her entire assembled court so that all would know of Odhril's cowardice. Loath was Vilthya to do this, fearing retaliation from Odhril or prince Orodril. But I assured him that the Queen would see that no harm came to him in any way if he remained at Dol Calantir for the time being. And so it was done.

I soon busied myself with the reorganization of the Queen's private council. Many of the members of the old council were now dead, having marched to war with the King. Yet some few still remained. Of these Amariel retained the services of five of them, discharging the remaining two from their office for fear of treachery. Her fears were later justified, as these two men quickly joined the ranks of prince Orodril in his attempt to seize possession of Dol Calantir.

Not long after my return the Queen and I drafted a carefully worded letter to king Malvegil in Arthedain, informing him of the late and sudden death of Calimendil and his male heirs. At my urging, Amariel had decided to remain at Dol Calantir and claim complete control and sovereignty over all of Cardolan as Queen, marking the first such woman to rule over any sister-realm of Arnor and the old North Kingdom of Elendil, the Tall. Though I no longer possess the document that I drew up in those days I recall it well enough:

"...Regarding the death of Calimendil, my beloved husband and King, and furthermore regarding the subsequent loss of Berandil and Bregardil, my only sons, I, Amariel, Queen to the people of Cardolan, openly proclaim my intention to carry on the legacy my late husband has left behind him by taking up the sovereignty of Cardolan. I ask the King of Arthedain to acknowledge my authority to wear the crown of Cardolan and to govern this realm as Queen in the tradition of all the kings before me. Ere his death the King severed all ties with the realm of Rhudaur by casting it out of the realm of Arnor due to the evil treachery of its new and unrightful overlord, who has aligned himself openly with Angmar, the one true enemy of our two remaining sister-realms of Arnor. Now is the time for Arthedain and Cardolan to learn from my husband's untimely fate by uniting together once and for all to defeat our new enemies which threaten to devour the way of life, as we have known it. Yet I will not be without enemies of my own here in the south. Since I am not a native of Cardolan there will be those here that seek to challenge my authority and usurp my throne. Already the princes and other nobles throughout the lands arrive uninvited at my court almost daily. With the sudden loss of so many of my husband's finest men at arms in the war we shall surely find ourselves outnumbered here ere long by men with questionable integrity and suspect motives, many of which, should they succeed in seizing power, bear small love towards Arthedain and King Malvegil. It is in both of our interests to see that nothing of the sort ever happens here. Yet should you see fit to lend me your aid in our time of need by sending to me an appropriate number of calvarymen and warriors to keep the peace in this awkward period of transition and mourning, I shall be indebted to the King of Arthedain for many years to come and shall pledge a never-ending friendship to him and his people. I eagerly await your response.

The Lady Amariel, Queen of Cardolan,
18 July, 1319 ~

So urgent was our plight that the letter of the Queen wash dashed off to Arthedain by errand-runners even before the ink upon the parchment was dry. Yet at best I reckoned that the letter would reach Malvegil no earlier than a fortnight after the 18th. Our hope was high that the King of Arthedain would respond favorably to our request for aid considering that Amariel was of kin to the King. Further still her father, Rathmir the Noble, was a councilor to Malvegil and would surely send aid to his daughter, regardless of their strained relationship from before. Weeks went by and still we received no word from Arthedain.

It was not long before a sort of feud evolved between Odhril and myself over his alleged heroism during the Battle of Cameth Brin and his remarkable escape thereafter. Together with prince Orodril, who was also his cousin in the second degree, Odhril went about the lands and villages around Dol Calantir with false tales of his heroic conduct in Rhudaur, shamefully exploiting the tragedy of Cameth Brin for his own selfish purposes. He went even to Vorondil's abode of Dol Argond and the city of Tharbad to tell all who would lend him their ears his own twisted version of the disaster. And always by his side was the prince, who hailed his young cousin as a hero. It was not long, of course, ere tidings of these events reached the ears of Amariel, who now began to see the two cousins from Tyrn Gorthad as a potential threat to her crown. My one regret now is that I did not take heed of Odhril's motives at once, for I was quite busy in those days after my return from the war in securing the Queen and her daughter's safety and securing her newly formed council.

Now Odhril was at that time away in Tharbad with his prince, presumably spreading his false tale to the people there. To counter the fabricated lies of Odhril I sent a well-armed team of righteous men from the court, whom I deemed loyal, to the mayor of Tharbad to warn him not to lend ear to Odhril or prince Orodril. These men bore with them not only an authentic copy of the testimony of Vilthya, but also a direct and personal message from myself, proclaiming that Odhril was the official banner-bearer of the King; a position that required him to remain at the King's side until the very end, regardless of the consequences. Therefore it was obvious that Odhril had chosen to abandon the King in order to save his own neck. It was not long ere the two cousins returned in a fit of rage, and they demanded admittance to the Queen. With them was an unsavory group of cutthroats they had undoubtedly picked up in the City of Thieves. But the guardsmen, whom the Queen had had wisely reinforced in greater numbers, turned them away and refused them admittance. They quickly turned their steeds away from Dol Calantir and galloped away northwards along the road that led hence to their homes in Tyrn Gorthad.

Having still received no reply from King Malvegil in Arthedain the decision was made to commence with the official coronation of Amariel as the supreme Sovereign and Authority and Queen of all of Cardolan. The ceremony was carried out quietly and without much ado out of respect for the late Calimendil and his departed sons. Indeed, Amariel took no joy whatsoever out of ascending to her new office without her husband, whom she loved. Only her daughter Calime remained to her now and she took her side next to her mother as the crown of Cardolan was placed upon the head of the Queen. By now Calime was coming into her full womanhood. She resembled her father in face and demeanor, though her eyes were that of her mother's. It was a difficult period for her especially, for not only did she miss the company of her beloved father, but also she feared deeply for her mother's safety and wished that she had named another successor to rule Cardolan in her stead. She desired rather to depart Cardolan with her mother and return to the safety of mighty Arthedain, though she had never been there herself. She also feared Odhril, who had sought permission to court her before he marched to war with the King. She bore no love at all for him before the war and, now that it had been revealed that he abandoned her father in battle, certainly detested him now.

Only three weeks following the coronation of the Queen two messengers on horseback arrived at Dol Calantir from Arthedain bearing a message, not from the king, but rather from Amariel's sister-in-law, Arriana, and her arrogant husband, Girwaedh of Arthedain. We had heard nothing of these two for several years by then and I thought that a good thing. Indeed, I had seldom given any thought at all about Calimendil's absent sister. But by now tidings of the death of Calimendil and his sons had reached the far corners of Arthedain. The message of Arriana was one of condolences and sympathy for the death of the King and also one of friendship. But also it proclaimed her sudden renewed interest in Cardolan and her right to the crown, being Tarandil's only surviving child and heir. "Furthermore," she added, "let it be known to the widow of Calimendil that I, Arriana, only daughter of Tarandil, never once waived my natural right to succeed my father after his death - only that I entrusted the rule of the realm to my younger brother, Calimendil, who is now gone. In this matter not only am I the eldest of the bloodline of Thorondor of old, but also am Cardolani by birth." Amariel was nearly sent into a fit of rage after reading the letter twice over. It was perhaps the only time that I had ever seen her as such. Relations between the two women had never been good, and now they had become bitter rivals.

We sent the messengers back to Arthedain with a letter of our own that concealed not at all our derision and contempt at her unrightful claim to the throne of Cardolan. The Queen chided Arriana for her callousness towards her own kin, and referred to her claim as "mischievous and evilly calculated." Amariel went on to say, "Very well do I recall the day, following the death of your father, when you stood before the assembled court at Dol Calantir to renounce your father's kin and court, calling them `miscreants' and `villains'. The day that you renounced the throne you relinquished any natural right you may have had to become queen. Nothing has changed since then. News may be slow in reaching you in the north, but I am Amariel, wife and widow to the late King Calimendil, son of Tarandil of Thorondor's line. Already have I been crowned Queen of Cardolan and that title I will hold whether you will it or no. I also add this council to you and your ambitious spouse: Look to your own borders in the north and east where you will soon feel the first bite of the teeth of Angmar upon your skins."

Even with the death of the King, his rival of old, Girwaedh had found no peace within himself. He could not content himself with outliving Calimendil and taking to wife his sister. His bitterness at loosing the heart of Amariel so many years before no doubt haunted him throughout the years. He had been waiting and biding his time to further his revenge upon not only upon the King but also upon Amariel herself, who had once scorned him in Arthedain. I have always felt most sure of myself that the future course of these sad events were guided not by Arriana, but rather from her inexorable husband, whom I still hold chiefly responsible for the present pitiful state that Cardolan lies in today...

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