Aravar – Part I
Sleep would not come easily this night for Aravar, King of Rhudaur. If and when it did finally come to him he would find no rest. Rather the fevered dreams and nightmares would begin again. If he were fortunate he would wake drenched in sweat screaming in terror into the darkness. This would be the only means by which he might find some escape from the visions and memories that tormented him in the night.
Indeed it had been the same for many months. All the work of restoring and ordering a realm took a great deal of time and energy. Indeed only a few years ago the task itself seemed monumental and beyond his reach. For him, only a few years ago long after the dizzying heights of his ascension to the throne and the high hopes and aspirations for his reign, his hopes had faded to the point of despair. Before his reign began his realm had been under more or less continuous assault for generations from its seemingly all too numerous enemies. Even his country’s allies, and there were a few enough of these, were of little real assistance and were more often than not wont to engage in games of intrigue while gleaning what resources and advantage they could at his kingdom’s expense.
During those heady first years after ascending the throne from his beloved father his hopes had known few bounds. His father, Ciravar, had been a noble King, had accepted the gift of Illuvatar willingly in the fashion of the old Kings of Númenor. He was the first king of Rhudaur in centuries that had not died in battle, by assassination, or in his dotage. Before his passing in the Autumn of the year he had passed his crown to Aravar, his newly married son, prince, and heir who came to the throne during a great year of plenty the likes of which hadn’t been seen in an age. The time was ripe for plans of a restoration of the power and glory his kingdom had once been renowned for. Now in possession of the crown, his love and queen at his side, and the adoration and respect of his people it seemed his hour had come.
After a splendid state funeral and laying of his father in honor in the Barrow Downs followed by a respectful period of mourning the time came for Aravar to set about completing his fathers and his plans for the final restoration of the kingdom. In the Spring of the year 1249 SA his work commenced. New embassies were sent to the neighboring kingdoms of men on the borders. Offers of peace, truce, and reconciliation were offered. As soon as spring planting was completed masses of laborers became available for repair of existing roads, towns, and the building of new ones as well as for service in the army. Dwarven craftsmen from the Iron Mountains and a goodly number from Moria were engaged in the repair and improvement of fortifications, bridges, and of the craft of smythying throughout the land.
Aravar himself led elements of the army on campaign routing out the last bands of renegade Black Numenorians, pretenders, and wildmen from the forests and hills in the far corners of the kingdom. His queen, Eleanorra, a woman whose lineage and valor harkened back to the House of Hador would not be parted from him and accompanied him on campaign. While on campaign she conceived and was delivered of twin sons, Ciravar II and Hurin ere the year was out.
In the years that followed the Kingdom grew in strength and beauty apace. Aravar and Eleanorra, wearing the tall crowns of Rhudaur grew ever in majesty and stature. In time the realm was blessed with 3 more royal births. To the Royal family was added; Nienor, Ancalime, and Laurelin named for her golden hair after the golden tree of the Blessed Lands. The glory of the crimson and gold banners of Aravar and Eleanorra and stories of their victories did much to check the ambitions of their lesser neighbor kingdoms. It was a fair beginning and a time of great promise and the laughter of children was heard in the halls of the king. So it was 13 years after the beginning of the reign of Aravar that the greatest height of his glory and power that he was to know was reached.
In autumn of the year 1261 SA, The Royal Family and its household, moving from summer to their winter quarters, was assailed in the wild. By secret paths and tunnels in the mountains a large force of Orcs and wildmen came down suddenly into the woods of the realm and without warning upon the camp of the King at night. Aravar and his guards rode out to meet the attack but were routed and thrust away from the camp by sheer force of numbers and ferocity leaving those remaining to look to their own escape. Eleanorra and the Knights of the Royal Household drew back into a circle in the inner camp. Seeing that their position was indefensible and capture or death imminent
Eleanorra hugged Ciravar and Hurin and then placed them on her own horse. Bidding them goodbye she sent her horse plunging through the encircling enemy into the darkness. To those in the camp it appeared that they escaped the sack of the camp by speed of horse.
Aravar and his guard rallied in the woods and inflicted fearful casualties on their attackers. Shortly they charged back to the encampment where the sack was well nigh achieved. Driving the enemy away with great slaughter Aravar fought his way to the site of his own pavilion. There he found the knights of his household dead and dying all about. In the center of their ring of bodies were found the bodies of Eleanorra, a bloodied sword held in her hand, and the three princesses, all dead, beneath her.
Aravar sank to his knees over the bodies of his beloved queen and his children and sobbed as if his heart would break. Coming out of the wreckage of the camp and from the surrounding woods a number of survivors from the battle in the camp approached the Kings Guard. Coming upon the scene of the bodies of the queen and princesses they fell down in sadness and dismay.
“Where now are my sons, Ciravar and Hurin?” asked Aravar.
The survivors described how the twins had been placed on horseback and ridden out of the camp to escape the assault. There were no other horses available in the camp and the princesses themselves were too young to ride. They had been defended to the last by the Knights of the Royal Household and the Queen herself.
At this Aravar leapt straight away for his horse and before none could stay him seized a torch and charged into the woods without heed of danger. Mounting their own horses the surviving members of the guard rode out after their king but were quickly left far behind. Hours later, coming at last down to the shores of Lake Evendim they found the body of the queen’s horse. A short distance away they discovered King Aravar himself sitting still as death leaning against a great tree on the banks of the water. Next to him, also leaning against the tree were the two young princes. Hurin sat on the ground with a long sharply tapered blade of the like used by the orcs of Moria pinning him to the tree. In his arms lay his brother Ciravar on his side with three orc arrows piercing his back.
The Kings Guard picked up the bodies of the princes and bore them with great honor back to the camp. Aravar himself moved as one in a trance and paid no heed to others. Returning to the camp he drew his great sword and with all of his strength struck it flatwise against a great stone shattering the blade into many pieces. This being done with a great cry of anguish he fell down upon the ground by the bodies of his family and appeared to all as one dead or near death of grief.
The remainder of the Royal Household, were not harassed by the enemy who had all been slain or driven leaderless deep into the surrounding forest, and made their slow mournful way to the kings castle bearing the bodies of their queen, their princes, and princesses as well as their king who now neither spoke nor saw anything of what passed around him.
All that long winter the king remained as one senseless and unaware. Neither word nor even acknowledgement of the funerals of his wife and children could be noted. He would often walk silently out of his castle in the night and came to spend long hours then days, and then finally at times, weeks wandering the woods of his realm without horse, armor or weapon. Often he could be found lying on the newly raised barrow for his wife and children under which the foundations of all his hopes and dreams for himself and his realm returned to the dust of which they had been made.
As the seasons came and went Aravar’s mind remained clouded and unhealed. During this time and in the ensuing years the kingdom began to decay. Its enemies, sensing weakness began to probe and occupy outlying portions of its lands while harassing and plundering ever deeper into the heartlands. Many of the King’s court and counselors drifted away leaderless and without hope. Some few loyal retainers remained doing what they could for the King and to slow the decline of the realm in the King’s stead.
One day, early in spring, fifteen and a half years after the loss on the shores of Lake Evendim Aravar was walking through the woods of his kingdom in the direction of the Barrow Downs. Upon reaching the downs he walked as if unseeing and unaware of the Nephridil blooming beneath his feet he walked towards barrow of his family. Once there he became aware of another standing at the side of the mound staring at him. The person was fair of face and body and he stood tall and strong as an elf lord of old.
“Where dost thou go Aravar?” he asked.
(to be continued)