OF THE ENEMIES, cont.
“If my own son were such a wretch as you I, myself, would carry the faggots to burn him…” ~ Broggha, chieftain of the Hillmen in Rhudaur
The Siege of Cameth Brin wore on. By the end of the seventh month Broggha performed yet another of his barbarous acts of cruelty. He began to fear that many of his fellow Hillmen were restless in the cold and snow and would soon abandon him and go home. Therefore Broggha ordered small trees to be felled and the trunks of them cut bare of leaves. These he used as large stakes that were propped upwards in the ground upon the bare slope of the hill, within plain view of Ermegil’s window. It was said that he called aloud up to the King and taunted him saying, “Hail, Ermegil! Former King of Rhudaur! Here at last we meet at the end. No longer shall you mercilessly hunt and subjugate our folk at your despicable pleasure. The Hillmen have suffered overlong at the hands of you and your line. The Dunedain are finished! Their reign in Rhudaur ends with you. As a trapped rat in a cage do I now have you! You may alight your beacon as often as you like, Ermegil! No one will aid you now. Dol Duniath has fallen and is mine! Yet if you come forth and surrender your castle I will at least spare the lives of the women and children you have penned up there with you. If you do not come forth things will go ill for them.”
Small doubt Ermegil heard the words of Broggha plainly but made no offer of reply. Then Broggha, in an effort to move Ermegil to action, called forth two of the captured Dunedain men from Tanoth Brin and had them fastened to the wooden stakes with chains and burnt alive. The cries of the men in agony echoed among the silent walls of Cameth Brin as Ermegil watched them burn helplessly from his chamber. Halmedis finally convinced the King to lead whatever men he had left to him forth from the castle and make a heroic end for themselves. But by then many of them had grown weak from lack of food during the long siege and barely able to hold either shield or lance from their steeds. Nevertheless, Ermegil led his men suddenly forth from the gates of Cameth Brin and charged forth down the hill to meet Broggha.
The lord of the Hillmen must have been silently amused at the display before him. But the final battle of Ermegil was a rout. All his men were thrown from their mounts and slain by the Hillmen. Ermegil, though wounded, was taken alive by Broggha and brought perforce to a high chamber of the King’s tower that looked westwards, high above the village of Tanoth Brin. Here also Halmedis was brought. But the King and Queen’s young son, Celedor, was taken to the dungeons below where he would not be able to witness his father’s fate.
Broggha was as ruthless a leader the Hillmen ever had, of that I may vouch personally. His actions after usurping the throne of Rhudaur were terrible. Yet the personal humiliation that he forced Ermegil to endure after his immediate capture proved to many that he was as low as the orcs than infest this Middle-earth. After all, though he may have been unworthy to sit upon the throne of an Arnorian sister-realm, Ermegil was still Dunedan and undeserving of such torment. Rumors of his cruel treatment have come down to us over time, but I will not repeat them here.
When Broggha finally grew weary of his amusement he at last had Ermegil stripped of all clothing and stood upon a stone precipice of a tower that overlooked the village, some eight hundred feet below. There upon that lofty rampart, as a gentle winter snow fell down around him, Ermegil gazed far away to the west, and behold! He descried a twinkling light off in the shadowy distance. It was the very light of Amon Sul, where he himself had ordered the bulk of his warriors to reside in order to keep watch upon the actions of his rivals. There they remained still, or so he thought.
Broggha then ordered Ermegil to leap from the precipice to his death. If he refused he would have his young son brought forth and executed before his very eyes.
Knowing his end was at hand Ermegil said farewell to Halmedis, his Queen, ere he cursed Broggha with hatred. But Halmedis, who was to be spared the price of death, begged Broggha to let her die with her King and husband. To this Broggha consented, but Ermegil protested and sought to dissuade her. But it was to no avail. In the end both Ermegil and Halmedis clasped one another’s hand atop the tower before saying their final prayers to the Valar. Then they leaned forward and fell headlong through the night sky together until their bodies smote the rooftops of the village below. It was an unjust and malicious end to the line of Kings in Rhudaur, and testimony to the evil that was only beginning to spread forth from Angmar in the north.
Broggha had at last achieved that which no other enemy of the Dunedain had done before him: the final termination of Elendil’s line in Rhudaur. Only Ermegil’s son, Celedor, remained. For a long while Broggha knew not what to do with him and kept him locked in the dungeons of Cameth Brin. No uncorrupted men of the west remained in Rhudaur after the death of Ermegil and Broggha thought it best to raise the boy in his own image, and so he did for at least a handful of years after Broggha’s usurpation of the throne. But at length it was believed that the Witch King in Angmar thought it unwise allow any son of a former Dunedain king to dwell within the bounds of Rhudaur, and Celedor was sent into the north where all tidings of him ceased and his ultimate fate unknown.
After Broggha had deposed Ermegil he had the King’s broken body fetched from the village and brought back up to Cameth Brin, where he presented it to his fellow lords as proof of his extraordinary accomplishment. Then he surprised them all by having his men crown him as the new King of Rhudaur. In this the agents from Angmar supported him, for it was the Witch King’s wish to have a puppet-king in Rhudaur to do his bidding. However, not all were of like mind in having Broggha as their king. They had rallied around his banner for the goal of deposing Ermegil, but many of them harboured deep resentment against him for his crimes against their own tribes in the past and openly rebelled against what they saw as a betrayal of trust between them. Then, as often occurs among such folk, hostilities broke out among them and a battle was fought upon the very grounds of the castle. But Broggha had anticipated this and had planned for just such a happenstance.
The new King of Rhudaur called upon the men from Angmar to aid him and they joined his warriors and quickly overcame Broggha’s rivals. It was said by some that these men used black magic to repel the rival Hillmen from Cameth Brin. Elsewhere it is mentioned that the very blades they used were possessed with an evil malice within them. Whatever the truth, the final victory gave Broggha supreme power in all of Rhudaur. It had finally ceased to be a sister-realm of Arnor. Now it was officially the proclaimed enemy of Arthedain and Cardolan.
Many of the fellow chieftains of the Hillmen now lay dead within the halls of Cameth Brin. Those that were left were forced to swear oaths of fealty to Broggha ere they departed and returned to their homes empty-handed. Straightway Broggha ordered that all traces of Cameth Brin’s previous Dunedan inhabitants be removed and destroyed in a great bonfire in the outer court. Many books, paintings, tapestries and ancient artifacts went up in smoke that day.
Broggha quickly established a new order of things in Cameth Brin. He appointed new councilmen to serve under him and carry out his orders (many of which actually came from Angmar) and a fresh team of personal bodyguards consisting of various Hillmen and men from Angmar, and they followed him wherever he went. He ordered that new construction be undertaken on a road that would connect Cameth Brin to Angmar in the far north, the length of which ran through the barren foothills of the Misty Mountains, out of view from the prying eyes of the Dunedain to the west. But the eagles of the Hithaeglir were aware of them and soon reported what they saw to the Noldorin elves, who in turn passed on the information to King Malvegil of Arthedain. It was more than a few years later ere he bothered to inform King Calimendil of these new tidings.
If Rhudaur had always been a land of mysterious beauty and danger it became even more so after the fall of Ermegil. At least it had been somewhat navigable before. Now it had become a thoroughly evil place where no man, elf or dwarf went, save in dire need. The few Halflings that dwelt there quickly fled southwards into the Angle and joined their Stoor cousins. Some dared the crossing of the mountains and returned to Wilderland.
The infamous Yfelwyd Forest in the heart of Rhudaur remained a place of ill omen. Trolls and other beasts roamed there at will and made the trodden paths a nightmare for all travellers. Most took the long and hilly road around the forest because of the evil of that wood. It was a wood that I would become all too familiar with in the years ahead!
Many of the folk who were unfortunate enough to have lived their entire lives in Rhudaur now found themselves trapped within the confines Broggha’s new kingdom and unable to flee. The population had always been somewhat sparse in Rhudaur. Those that chose to remain were subjected to tremendous taxation, and it was extorted from them at will and often very cruelly. Those that attempted to flee Rhudaur were forced to find a crossing of the swift and cold waters of the Hoarwell or else roam the wild lands of the realm to the south through great perils. Few succeeded.
I know not if tidings of King Ermegil’s overthrow reached the ears of those in Arthedain before we heard of it here in Cardolan. It matters little now. But when our few remaining spies returned from the wilds of the north they told us all that they had heard from various folk in the region of the final tragic fate of Ermegil and Halmedis. Though Ermegil had few friends in Cardolan, Calimendil and Amariel were moved deeply by the tidings and were filled with horror and outrage. We knew that this was a great matter that now lay before us and it needed immediate attention, for we now had a new enemy upon our very doorstep.
Angmar became a familiar name to the King now and he sought a way to glean more information about this new and menacing realm in the far north and how they were connected with Broggha in Rhudaur. But he could find few volunteers that were willing to brave the wilds of Rhudaur or the perils of the long and cold road to Angmar in the north. Of this I offered my services to the King but for a long while he refused me, saying that I was too valuable to him. But in the end he yielded on condition that I take at least two companions with me and that we venture only as far as the Angle and southern Rhudaur. Our chief errand was to find the safest and most expedient route that an army could travel up through lower Rhudaur in order to reach the fabled hill of Cameth Brin from the south. It was only then that I realised that the King had already begun to concoct a scheme that would ultimately include a full-scale invasion of Rhudaur and the overthrow of its new and evil overlord…