King Malvegil strode from the council chamber of Fornost. The meeting between the lords of Rhudaur, Cardolan and Arthedain had gone surprisingly well. Close to the doors of the chamber silently stood a figure clothed in green and silver. He bore a sheath with a gold trim, and the handle of his sword was encrusted with a white diamond.
The King of Arthedain moved purposefully towards the man, who stood more erect with Malvegil’s presence.
"Oropher," stated the King. "Will you walk with me to my chambers? I wish to speak to you."
"Of course, uncle," he replied.
The two set off down the corridors of the royal palace. Servants, guards and advisors scurried from place to place, each bowing to their lord before returning to their tasks.
"Did the meeting go to plan, my lord?" questioned Oropher.
"Aye, that it did. It seems the cracks between the regions are beginning to heal. We resolved some trivial issues, and it looks like the peace should hold."
Oropher looked upon his uncle with a sense of admiration. The fact that he had a blood relative who could achieve such impossible things made him proud of his lineage.
"Then that means the battles will be over?" inquired Oropher. Malvegil stopped and sighed.
"Yes and no." Oropher gave his uncle a puzzled look.
"You speak in riddles, my lord," he said. Malvegil stared at Oropher with a serious, stern face, but Oropher saw sorrow in it, too.
"If the new peace does hold there should be no more conflict among the Dunedain. However, Rhudaur has informed us of a new threat."
"Have the Ettenmoor tribes become hostile?"
"No, they are still passive as far as we know," informed Malvegil. "The threat I speak of is a new race of men, one we have not encountered before. Reports say that they are barbaric, yet cunning and well-equipped. Their uniform is red, and their heraldry depicts monsters of old."
Oropher stood awhile in thought to take this in.
"Where do they originate from?"
"North of the Ettenmoors, at the end of the Misty Mountains, or so it is said. I will give you the full report, but we should go to my chambers first."
Oropher still stood inanimate, but was shaken from his state by his lord’s order.
"Yes, of course, lord. I apologize for the delay."
Oropher and Malvegil sat face to face in the King’s sitting room. They both sipped from silver goblets filled with fine wine from Dorwinion – a rare treasure in Eriador. A coat of arms on the wall made Oropher think of battle, and almost felt guilty that he was here, drinking with his uncle, when he should be doing more dutiful things.
He grasped the rolled-up parchment of the report from Rhudaur. He would read it more thoroughly when he returned to his chambers.
“What do you make of this report, then, Oropher,” asked the King, staring at the beverage in his hands.
“Truly, lord, I believe these raids are not as dire as we think. The men may be cunning, but they are barbarians – they live to plunder, that is their only objective. Unless they are lead by a single, skilled individual, they are no real harm.”
“I pray to the Valar you are right, nephew. Arnor is crumbling with issues as it is – the last thing we need is a war.”
“But maybe a war could unite the states further? If we all have one common enemy, then we could have common purpose.”
Malvegil considered this for a moment, then spoke again.
“I do not think the other states would be so naïve – Rhudaur would not at least. No, they would use the war to infiltrate us when we are at our weakest.”
Oropher frowned again. He passed his goblet from hand to hand as he thought.
“Lord, I wish to learn more of these attackers. Is there any duty you would have me do?”
“Yes. Actually, that is why I invited you here,” Malvegil smiled slightly, and Oropher looked at him with the disciplined look of a warrior. “I want you to take a handful of your most trusted men and travel to our most northerly garrison at Highmoor. That is where the majority of attacks have occurred, as it reads on the report.”
“Of course, my lord. And what should I do once there?”
Malvegil smiled again.
“Once you are there, I want you to use your initiative.”