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 THIRTEEN
On the dawn of the 22nd of June our camp arose to another wet and cheerless day. There would be no more delay. The sack upon Cameth Brin by the Dunedain of Cardolan would commence at once, bringing our long war with Rhudaur to its final boiling zenith. We now rode due westwards at a gallop until we came upon more rugged hills that were crowned with tall forests of pine and fir. We ascended to the top of them and surveyed the path before us. The sight provided us with our first clear view of the Naked Hill and the tower of Cameth Brin, wherein sat Broggha, tyrant and overlord of Rhudaur. The hill itself certainly lived up to its reputation as being a place of twisted beauty, and the castle was indeed remarkable. It stood upon the very crest of the hill, which leaned impossibly far to the southwest, casting a long and deep shadow over the valley below it. At the bottom of that valley was the village we would attempt to seize from Broggha's control.
Men gathered around us to get their first glimpse of Cameth Brin. The sight was not a welcome one for most. Yet all knew that they had at last reached their final destination upon their long and dangerous road. Weather out one more clash of arms and arrows with their enemy and they could at last go home. This is what the King told his men as they looked wide-eyed upon that lofty hill before them, adding, "Now comes our final test, O men of Cardolan!" cried the King. "If we pass it those that remember us shall say that we were among the finest of the men of Arnor and worthy of old Elendil's ancestry, and that is saying a great deal! They shall sing songs of us and raise their drinking glasses in homage to our courage and valor for standing up to all those who seek to inflict harm upon the Dunedain! If we should fail in the attempt we shall at least die honorably by knowing that we attempted that which our neighbors would not: the preservation and safekeeping of our families! Yet if we fail to even attempt this obligation of righteousness by abandoning our quest now then we shall be remembered at best as fools who wandered lost in foreign lands in wintertime, and at worst as cowards and quitters who abandon their errands in times of duress. So what say you, men of Cardolan? Look and see! We still outnumber our foes two to one! Great riches await you inside Broggha's tower! Shall we storm and conquer he who has willfully raped and murdered countless innocents and collaborates with the enemies of the Dunedain, or shall we turn around and go home now?"
Then a clamor rose up among the men as they listened to the words of the King and they raised their swords and shields high in the air and exclaimed, "Long live our King! Calimendil the Conqueror!" Some men cried, "Death to Broggha! The Witch King is next!" But not all the men were so aflame with the desire for war as their neighbor. I noted that some few seemed to look behind them upon the road of return rather than ahead of them where the ominous hill stood tall and lofty as a mighty earthen tower of evil.
The King divided the army up into two separate hosts now. The first and smaller host was led by Berandil and was sent away to the south where they would travel for two miles ere they turned to the west. Here they would descend the wooded slopes that led down to the river bank where they would again turn north and east and approach the village of Tanoth Brin, which lie beneath the shadow of the Naked Hill. They were to penetrate the walls of the town and rout out the enemy while the host of the King would march openly to the lower slopes of the hill from our present location and challenge Broggha's army to combat. Alas! If Berandil could have only taken Tanoth Brin! He could have navigated the old dwarf tunnels that led upwards through the hill and entered the castle of Cameth Brin in secret from below. Then Broggha would have been taken at unawares and we might have avoided the ill-fated siege that ensued thereafter.
Nevertheless the King rode forward down through the hills and reached the open ground that led to the eastern slopes of the twisted hill. Upon Calimendil's left rode his son Bregardil and his banner-bearer. Upon his right rode the King's page and myself. The rain had ceased to fall but the sky was gray and the ground still soggy and wet, which did not help our horses much. We were tired, wet and hungry, but our courage and determination was not hampered and we had resolved ourselves to put an end to Broggha and this miserable war once and for all and go home.
As we at last approached the long upward slopes of the hill we dismounted our horses and set ourselves to approach the castle on foot. Despite the danger and gravity of the situation I must admit that the sight of Cameth Brin was an impressive one to say the least. The fortress was constructed upon a three-tier buttress of immense stone, each lined with high guard walls. Upon the very edge of the seven hundred-foot tall hill stood the King's tower, which extended upwards another hundred feet. It was the tallest hill in the area and provided the occupants with a commanding view of the lands as such as only the eagles enjoy! No doubt Broggha was watching our every move from that tall tower even as we approached him.
We could see a force of armed Hillmen just outside the lower walls of the castle as we began our slow approach. Their numbers were not very great, and at that I marveled much. However we knew full well that they were not all that Broggha had at his disposal. Littered hither and thither among the treeless grasses of the hill were many scores of caltrops and other crude balls of spiked iron that had been laid there to hinder our approach and serve as obstacles, thus forcing us to proceed with caution. When we came within earshot of our foes the King halted and held out his hand to them in a gesture of parley and began to shout out terms of surrender. But to our astonishment they retreated back through their gates and walls and offered us no contest or battle. We were all exceedingly shocked and amused by this sudden display of cowardice on their part, and many of our men laughed openly. But not Calimendil, for he suspected that it was a ploy or some kind of trick by Broggha.
The King ordered that preparations for another siege be made immediately, much to our dismay. We had only just recently conducted a siege of Dol Duniath a few months before and now we would be forced to do so again. Scouts were sent afield to the north, east and south to make sure that we would not be ambushed from behind as we carried out the siege of Cameth Brin. In the meanwhile I was elected to lead a team of warriors down and around the hill to lend a helping hand to Berandil and his men in sacking the village below.
It was a laborious decent that took well over two hours to complete, but at length we found paths that took us down the steep and rocky slope to Tanoth Brin. Straightway we found ourselves in the midst of a battle already joined. Berandil had arrived recently and had ordered the attack and storming of the village. We were already tired from our long climb down the hill but we joined the ranks of Berandil's host without hesitation. The tall wooden gates of the village were still closed and unshaken, but Berandil and his guards were setting them ablaze with fire while others hoisted ladders up along various lengths of the wall in order to infiltrate the village. Our archers shot their arrows at the enemy whenever they appeared along the top of the wall. We soon achieved success in this manner and eventually won our way through the gate and stormed the town. A hard-fought battled commenced in Tanoth Brin at once upon our entry.
Men and even women ran hither and thither through the small streets and access ways as we fought their warriors by sword, arrow and fist. Blood was spilt on both sides as the wild sound horns and the stench of burning wood pervaded everyone's senses. It was not long ere half of the village began to go up in flames.
Soon another horrific calamity fell upon all that fought on that confusing day. The sky above us suddenly began to rain with stones! Men cried aloud, "Ai! Alas! The hill is falling down! The earth above is crumbling! Flee! Cover your heads!"
The hill was not falling, but rather the Hillmen high up on the crest had begun to pour multitudes of rocks and gravel upon our heads, smiting to death both friend and foe alike. They cared not whose head would be cloven below them. Such was the character and evil nature of Broggha. Boiling oil was added to their arsenal of deadly rain and its effect was terrible to behold. I was forced to take cover in whatever fashion I could find, as did many others, for what else could a person do in such a circumstance? One man there was, as I recall, who sought to rise from the ground to seek shelter only to be struck down again and covered with this boiling hot liquid. I remember very well his screams of agony before he died. It was dreadful to behold and I turned my eyes away from him.
Tanoth Brin became a living hell for all that fought there. We had penetrated the walls and gates almost too easily. Any who risked a brief glance above their heads could see men high above at Cameth Brin dropping their rocks of doom up us from the sky. It was said by some that excrement was seen falling from above, no doubt intended to serve as a taunt and humiliation to us. Some were able to move further in towards the heart of the village where the falling rocks could not reach them. Others, such as myself, could not do so and were forced to retreat through the ruined gates and exit the village in search of safety.
Thus our goal of taking possession of Tanoth Brin had failed. But neither did the enemy hold it. They had fled the falling debris of rain just as we had done, many of them perishing in the attempt. The village had quickly become a conflagration. Oil that had been dropped from above added fuel to the fires we had set upon our entry. Smoke was everywhere and the sounds of rocks and stones smashing into rooftops, trees and on people echoed in the valley and filled our ears and eyes with misery. Broggha had chosen to sacrifice Tanoth Brin and purposed to destroy it after we had breached its walls. I was more fortunate than many others among our company, as I had not been struck by anything larger than a hailstone. But alas, Berandil I could not find after we had fled the fiery village and I feared the worst.
I took command of the men that had fled with me and ordered that full darkness be allowed to set in ere we attempted to reenter the village to perform a rescue. In the meanwhile I sent scouts back up the hillside to report to the King of what had befallen us in the valley. But there was no need of it, for no sooner had the scouts departed ere they came hastening back with a handful of men they had met in the darkness of the valley. It was Berandil and his guard and we greeted them warmly. Twice now had the sons of Calimendil escaped evil plights by good fortune.
I felt that our business with Tanoth Brin was finished for the time being and I ordered that our entire host begin the ascent up the hillside and rejoin the King above. We left only a few sure-footed scouts behind to keep an eye on the burning village in case any should attempt to enter it. When we arrived at the King's location upon the slopes of the Naked Hill the King was relieved to see us indeed. He listened intently of all that we had to tell him of what befell us down in the village. The tale filled him with a great anger and dread and he became silent for a long while and would not speak. As preparations were being made for our siege of Cameth Brin it was well after midnight. Tents were set up along the eaves of the wood that faced the slopes of the treeless hill. I finally convinced the King to lie down and rest, as he had not slept in over two days.
Two days passed uneasily as we lingered around the hill. On the third day the weather had cleared considerably only to cloud up and rain again on the fourth. Men and horses huddled together under the canopy of the trees in an attempt to stay dry. At four-hour intervals sentinels would be sent up the hill just out of bow shot range from the walls of the castle to shout out terms of surrender to Broggha and his army inside the fortress. But not once was any reply offered to us, nor was there any sign of Broggha, save one time only when we saw him venture to take a brief look outside his window in his high tower.
On the fourth night of the siege we could see his men atop the ramparts of the fortress light up that very same beacon that Ermegil had used in desperation in an attempt to signal for a rescue as he found himself besieged just as Broggha was now. This delighted our men and seemed to encourage them and strengthen their perseverance. But Calimendil found no solace in it and spoke to me privately, "What can Broggha hope to achieve by fencing himself up inside his tower like this? Why would he follow the strategy of Ermegil as such and allow us to carry out this siege upon him? And to whom does he signal? There are other tribes of Hillmen in Rhudaur, tis true, but they have opposed Broggha for many years. I am deeply troubled by this. A deep sense of doubt encroaches upon my heart."
I agreed with the King, and added, "We are certainly not in the know of his plans. Perhaps he awaits aid from Angmar that we do not know of. This is why I had counciled that the road in the east be destroyed when we had the chance. Our enemies may still utilize it at their will."
At this Bregardil came to the defense of his father and said sharply to me, "Then we could not have ever made it to Dol Duniath in the north and it would still lay in the hands of the enemy. We would now have foes at our backs as well as in front of us!"
"That fate may still lay before us, Bregardil," I replied, all too truly, alas.
But Calimendil interrupted us, saying softly, "Enough! Both councils had their merit at the time. It remains to be seen which will prove the wiser. We have the resources around us to remain here for as long as needed to force Broggha from his hole, and if necessary we shall do so. Yet I will send teams of scouts abroad to watch our backs while the siege continues. Have another company of men sent down into the valley to assist our scouts in watching the smoldering village. I do not want any from Cameth Brin to escape that way." The King gave the orders and they were carried out accordingly. The following day proceeded much as before until the sixth and fateful night of the siege approached...