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 TEN
To Broggha, the Usurper -
"I have receiv'd your most crude and disparaging letter and have found little in its content that I deem salable or comprehensible. Tis plain to me that it was belch'd forth in untamable wrath with poisonous words, such is unbecoming not only to a king, but even a simple soldier. I know full well of you and your despicable deeds and need not a letter of babbling invective from a grunt Hillman such as you to inform me of your pitiable existence...Never before have I known any among men to have committed such heinous and barbaric atrocities as you have done. Do you think that you shall remain in power for long? Do not get comfortable in Ermegil's throne. Arthedain and Cardolan are of one mind when it comes to Broggha. Between the anvil and the hammer shall we have you! Your new allies in Angmar will not shield you from the wrath of the Dunedain! Nor shall Tharbad serve as a sanctuary for you or your minions, for I shall personally see to that... As for my men, and the king and queen of Rhudaur whom thou hast wickedly murder'd I say this to you, O Broggha - cling desperately to that lofty hill and enjoy the view for now. Ere long a power like the high winds shall sweep you and your legacy o'er its precipice unto a bitter end!"
Such was the letter dictated to me by Calimendil in the autumn of 1311. I was not overly fond of the idea of this mutual exchange of rhetoric with Rhudaur, preferring rather that the King leave all of Broggha's letters unanswered. But Calimendil could not resist the temptation to fire back at the lord of the Hillman, who was fast becoming the King's arch nemesis. Calimendil surely beheld visions of Ermegil's torture at the hands of Broggha and other displays of the overlord's evil deeds when he visited Amon Sul to gaze into the Palantir. He was sickened and horrified with rage with what was happening in Rhudaur and surely felt it his moral obligation to topple Broggha. He would rid not only Rhudaur, but also the halflings in the Angle of a malicious tyrant who would murder and enslave them all in the end. In this I had always been in agreement with the King. Yet I also desired to persuade Arthedain to join us in what would be a relatively speedy militaristic enterprise. But Calimendil would not hear of it. Nor would he take the time necessary to seek the aid of the Eldar, as Amariel urged him to do. Thus the war between Rhudaur and Cardolan began in 1312, and it lasted over nine painful years.
In the early months of spring in 1312 the King sent messages to the dwarves of Khazad-dum, asking for tidings of the high-passes of the mountains and of what folk were passing over them. They told us little, for they were still nursing their wounds from their long war with the orcs. Yet they revealed that the orcs were mostly in retreat and were scarcely to be seen in the passes around the upper waters of the Bruinen. This boded well for us, as we had no desire to wage a battle against two foes at once. Calimendil wanted full attention focused on Rhudaur alone.
On the 12th of March the King sent forth the first company of armed cavalrymen northwards up into the Angle ere they crossed the great road and entered into Rhudaur. They were to engage the Hillmen that yet resided in the foothills of the mountains and crush and scatter as many of them as possible. In this way their numbers would be diminished and they would be unable to aid Broggha at Cameth Brin after the full wrath of Cardolan fell upon him later on.
The old Dunedain tower of Dol Duniath in the north of Rhudaur was to be retaken at all costs. Broggha had sacked and taken that keep many years previous during his initial rampage as he made his way southwards to Cameth Brin. These company horsemen consisted largely of men whom had been removed from their guard duties in lower Minhiriath and hired mercenaries. The King had gone to great efforts to acquire the latter for his war and spent a good deal of money on them, I can assure you. Yet they were led by Barach, that wise and crafty spy of the King who uncovered the secret existence of the Assassin's Guild many years previous.
At the same time a fleet of ships, each bearing two hundred men, sailed up the river Hoarwell far to the north. They were to land on the rugged shoreline on the east side of the river and assault or harry the Hillmen of Tanoth Brin, the village beneath the tall hill of Cameth Brin. The naked hill stood in close proximity to the river, though out of bow-shot range. This was little more than a diversionary force sent by Calimendil to draw Broggha's attention away from our army that sought to retake Dol Duniath in the east.
Our fleets of ships began to return to us by mid-summer and were well nigh half empty! They told the King in full of what transpired during their assault upon Tanoth Brin and the various settlements that were scattered around the vicinity. They had succeeded in taking the latter, but not the village beneath the hill. Our men encountered stiff resistance from Tanoth Brin. Much more so than expected. Further still our captains reported that not only did they find themselves battling men that were surely Dunlendings, but also corrupted Dunedain in the service of Broggha! One of our men wrote: "...One may imagine our shock to see both Dunlendings and Dunedain fighting for Broggha! What a curse to their race they are! We prevailed in purging most of the communities that lay hither and thither along the riverbanks of these men, and we burned them all to the ground ere we left them. But Tanoth Brin could not be taken and we lost many men during our sorties with its inhabitants. I was fortunate to escape the fiasco unscathed, though many others were not. It was with great effort that we managed to board our ships and flee hence back down the river."
Most of the horsemen that had been sent into Rhudaur took a great deal longer to return to us. Yet a contingent of cavalrymen led by Barach did at length arrived at the riverside castle of Dol Argond. That tower was under the lordship of Berandil, the King's son, and he it was that harbored Barach as they came back from their long road to the north and their bloody battles with the Hillmen. Calimendil knew of their hardship and commanded them to remain and Dol Argond and rest and not travel on to Dol Calantir. Instead the King made the two and a half day's ride to Dol Argond to visit with them himself, so eager was he for news of their errand.
But the tidings he received pleased him little. There was not much in their report that was encouraging, save only that our men had managed to capture and take a lone outpost that was being used by the Hillmen as a sanctuary and haven in eastern Rhudaur. It was a very old fort and in poor condition, and the Hillmen did not prize it highly. Yet it stood only two miles distant from the road that Broggha had constructed to serve as a main thoroughfare through the wild and rocky foothills of the Misty Mountains. It commanded a wide view of lands to the west where all traffic could be watched from the tower. It was little more than a consolation prize, but Calimendil immediately ordered that a fresh supply of men and horses be sent there to swell the scant numbers of men that had remained there by order of Barach. Our men set to work on this castle and fortified it anew, naming it Dol Aglardin, the Hill of Glory. It was Cardolan's first major victory over the Hillmen and Dunlendings in the long war that ensued thereafter.
But Dol Duniath further to the north remained in the hands of Broggha. Barach came within sight of the old castle and saw the number of evil men both inside the fortress and in encampments around its perimeter. Broggha had it strengthened, probably expecting an attack from us. Thus our horsemen slipped away unnoticed.
Even as our team of horsemen returned many more were sent up into lower Rhudaur where the forests were thick and rugged. The King ordered that they wage a steady war of attrition upon the Hillmen in these areas. By the year 1314 we had purged all of lower Rhudaur of Broggha's forces which gave us control of all the great east-west road that separated the south of Rhudaur from the lands of the halflings within the Angle. But it was not without great cost to us. I reckoned that we lost well nigh two thousand good men in the battles for control of lower Rhudaur.
It was at this time that the King received messages and warnings from Malvegil in Arthedain regarding our war with Rhudaur. Though politely worded, the letters still insisted that Calimendil give an account of his actions to Arthedain, who surely felt that they had been left out of a good opportunity to loot and plunder Ermegil's vanquished throne. They knew full well of Broggha's usurpation of Rhudaur and desired greatly to see him overthrown, but thought the time was yet unripe for doing so. They counseled Calimendil to cease from any further aggression towards Broggha and wait yet a while longer, for, as Malvegil put it:
"...you do not yet fully realize the mysterious strength that Broggha wields in Rhudaur. Think you that he conquered Ermegil unaided? Nay, the Hillmen have never had the strength to do so before. We deem this shadowy realm of Angmar in the north deserving of both yours and our immediate attention. It is headed by one whom all name the Witch King. He is a far greater evil than Broggha to be sure. Furthermore we have found ourselves in constant skirmishes on our northern border with a new race of orcs that endures cold and hardship far greater than the kind we have fought before. Your war with Broggha is premature, O King Calimendil. We advise you to desist your activities in Rhudaur. Go no further, and instead turn your attention to our mutual nemesis in the frozen north."
Calimendil sent a reply to King Malvegil soon afterwards in which he refused to halt his war with Rhudaur. He countered (and rightfully so to my mind at the time) that to pull out of Rhudaur now would be a betrayal of trust to the halflings in the Angle and lower Rhudaur, "...whom Arthedain hath always neglected in afore times, and used the little folk as the butt of your witticisms." Calimendil had sworn years ago to protect and aid the Stoor halflings whenever the need arose and he would honor that vow. This was a trait that I had always admired in my king, who was also my friend. Yet at the same time I still felt a sense of doubt about our war and desired to persuade Arthedain to lend us their aid in the overthrow of Broggha, but I let the matter be for a while.
"Has the King of Cardolan learned nothing at all from the history of his ancestors, whom were far wiser than himself? If old Elendil could not tame the Hillmen in ages past what chance do Calimendil and his rag-tag team of horsemen stand? Rhudaur is our land! You accuse me of regicide and usurpation, yet you seem to have overlooked your people's own past by making such a claim. There has never been a more war-like race in this dark world than the Dunedain! Your foolish invasion upon my folk here has proven that fact once again. And now you must live with the knowledge that I possess no less than four hundred of your men as my prisoners as a result of your transgressions upon my people. You may be sure that measures to extract information from them in whatever way possible have already begun here..." ~ excerpt from a letter to King Calimendil from Broggha, T.A. 1314
The war with Rhudaur dragged on interminably. By 1315 we possessed complete control over lower Rhudaur. Calimendil ordered that new forts and outposts be constructed throughout these lands every fifty miles so as to facilitate the rotation of the King's soldiers and to serve as launching sites for our attacks upon Broggha's forces. They also served as jails for captured enemy prisoners. Yet in truth barely half of these sites were ever completed, for the trolls in that area had become fierce and savage and the very rumour of their presence struck fear into the hearts of our men, and their work was slowed. The Yfelwyd Forest was avoided altogether and no construction was attempted there.
The winter of early 1316 was especially harsh. Even as far south as Dol Calantir and Tharbad was it reported that the air was so cold that it was painful to even breathe it. Rhudaur was blanketed with so much snow that the ongoing war ground to a near halt on both sides. Our men in lower Rhudaur suffered greatly and many perished from the severe cold. Several groups of our hired mercenaries abandoned their posts and forsook the war, going off wither they would. Yet nowhere was it more bitterly cold than in Arthedain, where it was said that the Witch King of Angmar had somehow devised the snow himself with black magic and sorcery, though few truly believed it. But no one could deny that the winters had become more deadly since his arrival in the far north.
During this time I remained at Dol Calantir with the King and Queen and young Calime, who was seven years of age at the time. I seldom saw their sons that year. Berandil was occupied with his duties at Dol Argond, while Bregardil was snowed in at his abode of Metraith in the north of the realm, which had been given to him as a gift from his father. The King spent a good deal of time with Amariel and his daughter that winter, which brought them close together. Calimendil and Amariel taught their daughter the rudiments of high learning and Dunedain culture. From her mother Calime learned much of Arthedain and its lore, and of the history of the men and women of Westernesse, and of the Valar. From her father she was taught to read and to write. Calimendil also taught her how to play the lute and the harp, which he had not played for some time before then. He spoke to her of the Eldar and told her the story of his meeting with the Noldorin elves in the Hills of Twilight, many years before.
Calimendil's war with Rhudaur remained a bone of contention between the King and Queen. Realising that her husband could not be swayed on the matter Amariel ceased to vocally express her misgivings about it to him. But it was during this cold winter that the Queen confided to me in secret of her desire to travel to the court of King Malvegil in Arthedain to personally ask for his aid in assisting Cardolan to overthrow Broggha. I thought the idea unwise and urged Amariel not to do so, knowing that Calimendil would be furious if he learned of the idea. With difficulty I dissuaded the Queen from her plan, but she insisted that it would remain an option for her if the war proceeded unfavourably for Cardolan.
By the month of July of that year Calimendil announced that he himself would ride to the regions of lower Rhudaur and observe the situation there with his own eyes. With him and his company would go myself and Bregardil, whom we met at Metraith on our way northwards. If the previous winter and been frigidly cold, then that summer was annoyingly hot and most uncomfortable. But as we pressed northwards and on into Rhudaur the air changed. It seemed to us that a strange and menacing watchfulness was upon us at all times. We all felt it keenly and kept our hands upon the hilts of our swords as we rode across the lugged landscape.
When we arrived at one of our outposts that lay a mere two leagues distant from the Yfelwyd forest we saw that it was in poor condition; almost as if it had undergone an attack. Our men, who were much relieved and shocked to see the King there, greeted us at the gate. But their entire garrison consisted of only seven men! They took us inside and told us of how their keep was assaulted and laid under siege by marauding trolls out of the Yfelwyd. Only the day before we arrived the trolls and wolves emerged from the wood and laid a siege upon the very tower of the fort, for they had broken a hole through the outer wall. Some of the men that guarded the fort were seized and hauled away into the forest by the brutes as others were either torn apart by the wolves or else fled into the wild. It seemed plain to us that the troll's malice had been stirred to madness as of late due to the presence of men warring with one another and the scent of split blood around them.
We departed the outpost the next day and pressed onwards for two days to the north and east, hoping to reach the tower of Dol Aglardin by the third day. But on the evening of the second out from the outpost we were ambushed by the enemy! A host of Hillmen and Rhudauran Northmen lay in wait for us on either side of a narrow wooded valley that we passed through, as the terrain was too rugged upon the crests for our steeds. The cries of the Hillmen suddenly filled the wood and echoed among the trees as they fell upon us on foot. The scouts that we had sent ahead of us failed to report back, and thus I assume that they too, alas, were taken at unawares and slain ere they could return to us.
But the King was not unprepared for this. Though he was immediately surrounded and protected by our elite mounted guardsmen, he cried aloud and ordered that half of our company make a break for the entrance of the wood while the rest make for the exit, which was not far in front of us. The aim was to divide our foes and draw the enemy out of the trees and in to the open terrain where we could run them down and spear them from atop our horses. But whereas the King was in the van of the company, I found myself at the rear and responsible for leading my men back to the entrance of the wooded valley. Our foes were not skilled with horses but were expert warriors on foot and they wielded their spears with deadly accuracy. Short bows that were suitable for short range wooded combat were also used by the Hillmen, and our steeds were their favourite targets.
Though these events happened many years ago now I still remember this battle well, for I was nearly killed that hot and stuffy evening, and for that reason do I give brief mention to it here. Fortunately, Bregardil was near my side during the intense fighting that ensued and probably saved me from death.
As we drew near the exit of the wood we could see that our escape was cut off by the Northmen, who also rode horses. A volley of arrows was shot at us from different directions at once by the Hillmen. Down our horses went; first one, then another and yet another one. Men were thrown from their mounts. Some were badly hurt or even slain as they fell beneath the weight of their horses or fell upon twisted rocks and roots in the ground.
I manoeuvred my steed behind two large trees of oak where two Hillmen had lodged themselves as they fired their darts upon us. I rode the first man down just ere he knocked another arrow to his bow. He tried to rise up again, but I ran my spear through him. Yet even as I turned to ride down the remaining archer I suddenly felt a great weight fall upon me from behind, and I was thrown from my horse. A cunning and savage Hillman had leaped forth from atop a wooded ledge among the thickets and knocked me to the ground and I nearly had the wind knocked out of me. The fall caused me to drop my weapon and I was thus pinned beneath the weight of my foe. I could hear him calling aloud to his companion for aid as I wrestled with him upon the forest floor. The other Hillmen rushed towards me with a knife in his hand and I thought that my death was near at hand, but lo! A tall figure sprang before the man and cut him down with his sword. It was Bregardil. Just as my strength was waning beneath my opponent's weight I saw him sit up suddenly with a muffled cry as the point of Bregardil's sword emerged through the front of his chest. The blood spat out of his mouth and smote me in the cheek as I lay beneath him.
And so I was saved by the King's son, and I will never forget it. This was not the biggest battle in our long war with Rhudaur. Yet it was the one where I came closest to death, save the last and final stand that we made at Cameth Brin, which I shall recount in full ere the end of my tale. But we killed or drove away our assailants that day before proceeded onto Dol Aglardin. The King was victorious and slew three Hillmen alone upon horseback. I, myself, suffered only bruised ribs from the ordeal. Yet these Hillmen and their allies were tenacious fighters, and those that had not fled or were killed refused to surrender and fought unto their bitter end, which seemed strange me. They were instilled with an unusual hatred for us and refused to lay down their weapons...