The host of the King spent a good deal of time in Rhudaur. During this period we made our lodgings at Dol Aglardin and interrogated captured enemy Hillmen and Northmen. Calimendil himself sat in on many of these and pummeled them with questions. From the Hillmen we learned little that we did not know already. We gleaned more information rather from the Northmen, many of which had sworn allegiance to Broggha by force and intimidation only. Though they bore no love at all for Ermegil, their former king, they distrusted and feared Broggha all the more. From them we learned more of the death of Ermegil and Halmedis: how they were forced to leap to their deaths from atop the lofty hill of Cameth Brin. They told us of the rumor that Broggha had fetched their dead bodies from the valley and kept their skulls in his private collection in the castle of Cameth Brin. We learned also that Celedor, their only son, was perhaps yet still alive and being held as a prisoner in Angmar. It was the first time that I and others of the King’s entourage had heard this tale told in full and we were horrified by it. But it served to strengthen our resolve to topple Broggha from power all the more.
After learning of these tidings I urged the King to order the destruction of this road that ran northwards from Dol Aglardin and through the foothills of the mountains all the way to the Ettenmoors, north of Rhudaur. By doing this further aid and traffic between Angmar and Rhudaur would be slowed considerably, allowing us to wear down Broggha’s forces. But Calimendil thought it better to leave it as it was for the time being, for the labor would be long and laborious. He preferred rather to muster our forces as quickly as possible and utilize the road so as to facilitate the passage through the foothills by our horsemen. In this way, he countered, we would strike Broggha from the east and south, thus trapping him between our two armies and the mighty river Hoarwell, which was cold and swift. Alas, many of my colleagues agreed with the King and I was overruled on the matter and great harm came to us because of this later on.
“…so you wish to engage me in a war of words as well as a war by blood, O Broggha the recreant? If so I should say that you have fallen on hard times to resort to such a tactic. Tis plain that your megalomania has no bounds, for your empty rhetoric and egotism is the only wind within your sails. Your brutish pride will not save you from your fate, for your ship is foundering fast. Yet in case your war captains have misinformed you of the reality that exists outside of the windows of your castle I will remind you that Cardolan now controls all of lower Rhudaur and we go whither our hearts desire therein…Yet as is the custom of the men of Westernesse I offer you terms of surrender: abdicate the throne of Rhudaur and remove your people from Cameth Brin and the village below immediately. You and your Hillmen shall remove to the lands north of the river Hoarwell and dwell within the rugged hills of the Ettenmoors since you enjoy the company of Angmar and its trolls so much. I have nothing more to say to you…” ~ letter from King Calimendil to Broggha – April, T.A. 1317
Needless to say the terms the King offered to Broggha were not accepted and the war dragged on into its eighth year. Surprisingly enough Calimendil had received a great deal of support from the nobles at court and many of the Cardolani princes in the early years of the war despite their previous grievances with him over their limited autonomy. Many of the latter even signed onto the King’s personal entourage and travelled with him into Rhudaur. Men all the way from the hamlet of Bree in the far north-west corner of the realm enlisted into the army of their own freewill, hoping to reap a pretty fortune from the spoils of war in Rhudaur. The numbers of our armies increased steadily at this time. Yet by 1315 many of our volunteer men of arms and hired mercenaries, being disappointed with their meager rewards, began to grow weary of the war and deserted. Others suffered severely from the cold weather and perished, never to return to their homes.
By early 1318 the people of Cardolan began to murmur against the King and his war, wondering aloud why he had failed thus far to conquer Rhudaur after seven years of an increasingly bloody conflict. I did not travel into Rhudaur that year, as we had heard rumors that the Assassin’s Guild in Tharbad were planning an attempt upon the lives of the Queen and young Calime while the King was scheduled to be in Rhudaur that summer. I was, after all, the official guardian and protector of the royal family while the King was away at war, and thus I remained home. I took the necessary precautions, however, and the Queen and her daughter remained safe.
Calimendil was not abroad long that year and returned to Dol Calantir by the end of the summer. He relayed disturbing tidings to me of what was transpiring in the lands about Cameth Brin and upper Rhudaur. Our armies had made headway there and had fought many battles with the Hillmen allowing us to further encroach upon Broggha’s hill, but alas! An army of Dunlendings from Dunland had marched northwards and crashed in upon the flank of our hosts from the south, taking them at unawares. This was a thing wholly new to us. No one had anticipated it, as the Hillmen and Dunlendings had been slaughtering each other for ages. Neither the King, nor myself, nor any other member of the King’s council could have foreseen it. Perhaps we should have. The Dunlendings from the south had come to the aid of Broggha. Were they persuaded by the Assassin’s Guild in Tharbad to take up arms against us, or were they answering a call from a higher power? This was a question I put to the rest of the council. I believed then, as I yet still do, that they had been recruited by Angmar to join the war against the Dunedain.
Now Cardolan had two foes to contend with at once: one to her front and one upon her back. Ours was a strong and formidable army of cavalrymen and foots soldiers, no doubt, but we had not the numbers or resources to deal with two foes at once in a foreign land. By the autumn of 1318 we received word from our scouts abroad that our hold upon Dol Aglardin in lower Rhudaur was nearly lost. The Dunlendings had surrounded the castle and attempted to lay siege to it. But our men there knew full well of their enemy’s purpose and engaged them in battle before the very walls of the outpost. This was especially distressing to the King and Queen, as Bregardil had remained behind there to act as the temporary captain of the keep until more reinforcements could arrive. The King’s son had already displayed his traits of bravery and strength, but he was young and inexperienced, and no certain tidings could we get at that time regarding what had really happened at Dol Aglardin, or of the fate of its inhabitants. We knew not whether they were victorious or lay dead in defeat, or even if they had fled, as seems more likely.
The news sent the King into a fit of rage and desperation. Unlike his father before him Calimendil was a man who rarely lost his composure under duress. But the very thought of what his son might have gone through at the hands of his enemies sent him into a state of frenzy. He immediately ordered the marshalling of a new host of riders that would set out from Dol Calantir by the week’s end. He would not wait for another winter to come and go ere he ventured again to Dol Aglardin and rescue his son and his men at the outpost or their wanderings in the wild. He flatly refused to contemplate that they might have all been slain in battle. He promised me then and there that he would deal with Dunland himself after completion of the war with Rhudaur. This threat filled me with anxiety, as I knew Calimendil well enough to know that he would make good on this promise one day. It would be a terrible mistake after a long war to engage in another with a new enemy. I must confess that for the first time I contemplated offering my resignation to the King. But I could not, and would not do so at that time, for it would be an act of dishonour to my friend and king.
Amariel had finally lost her patience with the war by then. The news of Bregardil and the possible fall of Dol Aglardin left her in a state of personal turmoil. She confided in me once again that she desired to travel to Arthedain and beg for King Malvegil’s aid in the war against Broggha and Rhudaur. I did all but insist that she remain calm and stay at Dol Calantir with her daughter, for her people needed her strength of wisdom and leadership while the King was away at war. But nothing I could say would dissuade her anymore. As soon as her husband and his host had departed for Rhudaur she would go to Arthedain herself and plead her case for their intervention in the war.
The dawn broke slow and late over Dol Calantir on the morning we were to set out for Dol Aglardin in western Rhudaur. We could see above that clouds of dark grey hung ominously over our heads as if they would drain their rainy contents upon us at any moment. It was the morning of the twentieth of November; normally an absurd time of the year to travel north. But the present circumstances and the change of tide in the war required us to do so. Before we were even able to depart the skies opened up as expected and it began to thunder and rain. It seemed an ill omen to many among the company.
But for Calimendil it seemed not so. He was indeed sad and disheartened at what would be another lengthy separation for he and his wife. But he remembered a time many years before, back in Fornost Erain, when they found themselves in a similar scene. Then, as now, they faced a painful parting of the ways. Calimendil was forced to leave his beloved Amariel behind then as the rain soaked his head and clothes. Now he was forced to do so once again.
The Queen said to him ere he mounted his horse, “And so here we are yet again, my lord. Once more we are soaked to our skins as we say our farewells to one another in sorrow. Let us hope that the outcome of this separation will be the same as before. Young Calime should not have to endure a life devoid of her father, nor should I.” Then Calimendil looked her long in the eye and said to her, “My lady, why do you weep so? I welcome these rain clouds as boon! I returned for you then and will do so once more. I swear it! I go to war not only to depose a usurper but also to retrieve our son. Berandil shall go with me and we shall return to you with Bregardil. I do not fear the outcome of this war. The Dunedain shall prevail.”
Then the final preparations were made and the host of the King of Cardolan was ready to ride, though our hearts were heavy. I said my farewells to the Queen and mounted my horse. Calimendil and Amariel embraced one another again for several moments and cared not who saw them. The Queen then clasped a specially wrought necklace around his neck. Upon it was a brooch of gold that resembled a sunflower, such as those that they kept in the gardens of Dol Calantir. As she clasped it around Calimendil’s neck Amariel whispered to him, “Let this flower keep you warm amid the snows of the north, and serve as a symbol of our love.”
Then the King raised up Calime and kissed her, promising her that they would all be reunited soon. Finally Calimendil mounted his horse and gave out the command to ride forth and ere long Dol Calantir faded from view as we rode northwards.
Never again did Amariel lay eyes upon Calimendil, her husband, or he upon hers.
We rode northwards through the rain and wind at a good gallop most of the way to Dol Argond, where Berandil was waiting for us. It marked the last time most of us would be able to sleep in a comfortable bed for many months upon end. Nor would we enjoy good food for a long while afterwards. Next day Berandil gathered his host of horsemen together and they rallied around the King’s banners and joined our great company. It was to be the largest number of well-armed cavalry that ever rode forth from Cardolan up to that time.
Despite the weather most of us were in good spirits as we rode north along the west-bank of the Metheithel towards the old east-west road. The land here was desolate of people and the wild game hid from our approach, though our scouts often saw their tracks in the grass. By the end of the fourth day out from Dol Calantir we approached and crossed over the well-known bridge upon the road that spanned the rushing river far below. By now the snow was ankle deep and the air had grown colder. Calimendil ordered a halt to the march and set up the camp nigh the eastern end of the bridge.
We were now officially in the territory of Rhudaur once again. It does not take long for the terrain to change dramatically as one travels eastwards from the bridge. The old road becomes twisted and hilly, curving around jagged outcroppings of stone or around gnarled clumps of old and dark trees that seemed as menacing as the grey clouds overhead. The Trollshaws they were called, for in those days they were infested with evil things that bore no love for men or any that go about on two legs. Berandil and myself shivered as we passed by them. Only a few years before had he and I travelled through them as we explored the lands of the enemy on an errand for the King. The heart of the Trollshaws was the Yfelwyd forest, which lay only a few miles north of the road, and we begged the King not to go that way. For many of the young men in our host it was their first experience in such a dark and drab country. For many more, alas, it would be their last.
After many more days of weary travel in mostly inclement weather we finally came within sight of Dol Aglardin, our outpost that had been assaulted by the men from Dunland. No sooner had we begun to approach then we suddenly heard the blaring of a great horn from the tower. We had been spotted by the enemy.
Immediately the King ordered the men to stand their ground and refrain from advancing forward, desiring rather to let the enemy come to us. Our archers waited patiently before releasing a hailstorm of feathered shafts high in the air, which fell down upon our foes and smote their bodies. Then the King ordered the attack. Our horsemen divided up into two adjacent lines that drew away from each other at an angle to form a V shape. Our adversaries were not natives of Rhudaur and looked more like men from Dunland, which incensed us all the more. These men were no match for us unaided and they soon took to flight. But we hounded their footsteps and soon had the mastery of the battlefield. Those that had not been killed threw down their weapons and sued for mercy. Calimendil granted it, but had all of them led to the tower to be jailed and interrogated. It was a good battle for our company, as we only lost five men in total. From the prisoners we learned that Bregardil and his men had indeed been driven out of Dol Aglardin in a hard-fought battle for mastery of the tower only two months before. Some of the Dunedain had been slain and buried in a mass grave near the castle while others had only recently been led off as prisoners to Cameth Brin where Broggha, “…was waiting for them.” The Dunmen also revealed that some of the Dunedain took to their horses and fled into the foothills of the Misty Mountains, which was near at hand and loomed menacingly high above us to the east.
The King had the leader of the captured Dunlendings take him round to where the Dunedain were buried, which was now covered by a foot of snow. He ordered that the snow be cleared away so that he could see evidence of a fresh gravesite. Their leader was forced to clear all of the snow unaided while his men stood and watched him perform the forced labor of removal. We soon saw evidence of the grave, but the ground was frozen and unable to be dug up. Evidence of Bregardil’s possible death could not be ascertained in that way. Instead the King then ordered that the prisoners take to work upon the beacon atop the tower and to set it alight and maintain it so that Bregardil and his men would see it from afar as they wandered lost in the mountains or in the snowy wild.
Two days later a great fortune befell us. Our scouts told us of a small company of men that had been descried approaching Dol Aglardin from the mountains on foot. They looked very hagard and wayworn. It was Bregardil and his men. For two months they had been trapped in the foothills of the mountains; at times pursued and hunted by the Dunlendings. They suffered severely from exposure and hunger and were straightway brought into the warmth of the tower where they were slowly nursed back to health. Calimendil and Berandil were filled with joy at Bregardil’s return. Lesser men would have surely perished in the wild. But the sons of Calimendil were hardy and strong of stature and endurance.
At length Bregardil was healed from his hardship and wounds and desired to ride into war with his father and brother. But Calimendil refused him. The King remembered his promise to Amariel that at least one of their sons would remain behind at Dol Calantir in case tragedy befell the King upon the battlefield. He reminded Bregardil that he had already agreed long before to remain in Cardolan with the Queen and young Calime. “Besides,” added the King to his son, “you have already played a very large and crucial part in this war; more so than Berandil even. There will be ample opportunities for you to exhibit your skills in combat in the near future. Return hence to Dol Calantir and govern it well while I am away.”
Bregardil found little comfort in the words of his father and sought still to persuade the King to let him remain by his side in the war by replying, “You ride to a battle of epic proportions, O father and King. But I say that in relation to its significance, not its scale. We already know that Broggha’s army consists primarily of lowly Hillmen and brigands from the wild. The Northmen are unorganized folk who rarely fight with any trace of zeal. They shall scatter and wither away when our wrath falls upon them. I have small doubt about that. Yet I wish to be present alongside my brother when King Calimendil at last casts down Broggha from the throne that he usurped with great evil. I shall feel disgraced if I return to Dol Calantir now.”
But Calimendil replied, “I hear you. But why think you that our enemy is weak? They are not. Broggha achieved that which no other had done before him. He perpetuated the successful regicide of a Dunedan King. Elendil’s old kingdom of Arnor stands upon the brink of calamity now. If both the King and his sons fall in battle who shall remain to govern his kingdom in his stead? Amariel is a wise and noble Queen to be sure, but she is from Arthedain. Many of the princes of Cardolan would reject her authority and seek to take her place. The risk is too high, my son.”
But Berandil took up the side of his brother, adding, “Father, you fail to mention your daughter Calime, who is full Cardolani by blood. If we should fall and our mother is rejected for the throne it would, by right, fall into the hands of Calime, young though she may be now. She has strong support at court from the council. They would protect her and the Queen from rival factions within the realm.”
Then Berandil and Bregardil proclaimed their secret desire to have a second coronation for their father within the very halls of Cameth Brin after Broggha had been overthrown. But Calimendil replied, “I have no desire to rule two realms at once. After Rhudaur is conquered we shall consult with our neighbours to the north. And do not forget Angmar, for they have proven to be mighty allies to Broggha thus far and might have a say in the matter.”
Then Bregardil, who loved Arthedain not at, all said, “Who, or what, is this Witch King in the north but a shadowy rumour? There is no evidence of his existence. I think rather that it is a vague term conjured up by Arthedain to frighten us away from our endeavours. They now fear us as a powerful rival.”
Here I voiced my own opinion to Bregardil, as I was present during this conversation, “You are green and yet unripe, Bregardil, if you think that Angmar is a product of the imagination of Arthedain. A little more wisdom might suit you better in the future ere you speak your mind. What more evidence do you require? Orcs of a new breed attack and harry Malvegil’s forces in the far north almost daily nowadays. Caravans of foreign men upon horseback traverse the very same routes used by the orcs. Always they go north. Our spies in Arthedain and even the local shepherds have seen this as well. I can assure you that a power more deadly and evil than Broggha exits in the north, and it hates us no less than it hates Arthedain. I bode that we shall see that for ourselves ere the end. Arthedain and Cardolan need each other in the future. Arnor will eventually fall if we do not unite.”
“I do not doubt that what you say might be true, Iliandor,” interrupted Berandil, turning towards me, “Yet perhaps the near future is more pertinent for us now. And Broggha and his Hillmen are our immediate concern. I say to you that we shall win this war! Even you have said so many times. Our victory draws near. We must not wait as the enemy gathers strength. If my counsel is of any merit I respectfully urge the King to grant my brother’s request that he remain with us here in Rhudaur. We have gained control of all lower Rhudaur and Broggha’s road here, nigh Dol Aglardin, which the King has rightfully order preserved for our own use. If the King so wills it I will volunteer to lead a force up the road to the north and retake the keep of Dol Duniath from the enemy while the rest of the company conquers inner Rhudaur on their way to Cameth Brin.”
Calimendil shook his head and replied, “Nay, I do not will it. Do not overstep your bounds, Berandil, my son. Aye, indeed Dol Duniath must be retaken, but we shall do it together. Never again will I underestimate our enemy. Some of our men will remain here at this fort and other outposts in lower Rhudaur to guard our southern flank. They will fence out all those who attempt to enter the region from that direction. The rest of our army shall converge upon Cameth Brin upon my orders.”
Calimendil wasted little time now. Knowing that Bregardil was safe, and realizing that Dol Aglardin was too small to house an entire army he ordered that they divide up into teams and occupy the remaining outposts that had been hastily constructed after Cardolan had won possession of lower Rhudaur three years previous. Both Berandil and Bregardil were sent to their own citadel and to act as its captain where they would ride out the winter.
Of that winter in 1318 there is little to tell. By mid December a great storm out of the north blew across much of Eriador and covered the lands in white. I remained at the King’s side at Dol Aglardin and counseled the King on various matters concerning the war and the future of Cardolan. Most of the men occupied themselves by collecting firewood and staying warm. I sensed a decline in their morale by then as well. And little could I blame them. Nevertheless, I reassured them that their patience and perseverance would pay off for them in the end, for the King decreed that he would double every man’s reward who fought to win supremacy of Cameth Brin after the breaking of the snows. There were no battles to be fought that winter, save perhaps with wolves only. Not even Broggha’s own Hillmen showed themselves in such cold, and we passed the winter away safely, yet in great unease and discomfort…