It was not until the year 1308 that King Calimendil at last permitted me to undertake that daring and most secret of errands: the infiltration of Rhudaur. With me went Berandil, the eldest of the King’s twin sons. Both he and Bregardil had by then matured into outstanding young men and had finally come of age, or so Calimendil deemed them. Amariel objected to Berandil’s inclusion in the espionage mission and sought to dissuade Calimendil on the matter, for the King had not spoken openly to her yet regarding his secret thought of war with Rhudaur. No doubt the Queen began to suspect it.
It was around this time that the quarrels between Calimendil and Amariel erupted, mostly regarding the future of their sons’ well being. Amariel desired to see them both travel to the city of Annuminas and learn the wisdom and culture of the old Westernesse, where the Dunedain there cultivated it more thoroughly than anywhere else. It was, after all, the place of her berth. But Calimendil would not hear of it. He insisted that their two sons be brought up thoroughly Cardolani and taught by him alone. The bitterness in Calimendil’s heart regarding Arthedain had not cooled through the years. Malvegil still refused to remove the ban upon Calimendil that Celebrindor had placed upon him over twenty years previous, though it was little more than a symbolic ban by then. Nevertheless Calimendil would not permit his children to be fostered by strangers. Further still, his estranged sister, Arriana, still dwelt at Annuminas with her husband, Girwaedh. The King still regarded this man as his foe and wanted nothing to do with him.
Berandil and I, along with two others, made the dangerous venture northwards through the Angle and on into the south of Rhudaur that year. I shall not delve into the complexities of that journey here, for it would require yet another book to describe it in full. But when we at last returned to Dol Calantir after nearly eight weary months of toilsome travel we were nearly spent in both body and mind. The King listened eagerly to everything that we told him of our journey. We even made maps of the lands that we traveled through and presented them to him for his approval. He was shocked by some of the tidings we gave him regarding the scarcity of population that we encountered in lower Rhudaur. What few folk that had dwelt there in the past were gone now. Many abandoned houses and huts we saw north of the great road. Most were empty or had already been plundered. Of these we were forced to take cover in more than once from the weather and roaming bands of Hillmen.
Most astonishing of all were the trees themselves! Never before have I beheld such immense natural structures. Many towered well above one hundred feet high. Surely they are among the oldest living things in all of Middle-earth. But they offered us little protection from the marauding horror of the forest-trolls that hunted us as we traversed the rugged landscape. Doubtless, these foul creatures devoured many of the people as they fled hence away from Broggha’s tyrannical hold on the north. Never before had the trolls been so aggressive or numerous in Rhudaur as they were after the rise of Broggha. They were an effective obstacle for travelers and spies and served to fence out all intruders. Broggha used them to great effect. This was especially true of the mysterious Yfelwyd forest, which lay directly in the path of anyone desiring to approach Cameth Brin from the south.
King Calimendil later took me aside in private and confided in me with a great matter. He confessed his desire to wage war against Rhudaur and purposed to drive Broggha out from Cameth Brin, or even kill him if possible. But such a war would require a great effort and cooperation from all of the Cardolani princes and their subjects. Even further it would require a significant reduction in the amount of soldiers and cavalrymen at Amon Sul. While I certainly agreed that some action ought to be taken in regards to Rhudaur I felt that maintaining a firm presence at Amon Sul was our first priority.
Then Calimendil himself traveled northwards and arrived unannounced at Amon Sul to exercise his sovereign right to gaze into the Palantir that was housed inside the great tower. He never told me exactly what he beheld in that great seeing-stone, but he assured me that he knew that Ermegil and his queen had suffered greatly ere they died.
After returning from Amon Sul the King seemed even more intent on invading Rhudaur. All his thought was bent on how to best wage a war against the evil Broggha and his allies. It seemed remarkable to me how Calimendil, a once gentle-natured and even-tempered young lad who, back then, showed no interest at all in power or sovereignty, had become a powerful and war-seeking king of the Dunedain. Not even his beloved music was able to turn his attention away from what was happening in Rhudaur at the time. It was war that he desired and war that he ultimately achieved.
I knew that war would soon be inevitable. Yet I felt strongly that all quarrels with Arthedain be put aside so that a new and lasting alliance be forged between kings Malvegil and Calimendil. I urged the King to do this and took it for granted that he would agree with me. But alas! The King had a far different idea in mind. He wanted the spoils of Rhudaur for himself. “By no means,” I recall Calimendil saying to me, “shall Malvegil partake in the offing of Broggha’s head. I alone stake my claim to that unlovely trophy and will share it with no one, save my two sons!”
I was dismayed by the King’s plan and sought to dissuade him for many days ere I at last went to the Queen. Amariel knew that her husband would wage war with Broggha, but knew not that he intended to exclude Arthedain. When she discovered that both Berandil and Bregardil were to march with the King into Rhudaur she was filled with dread and confronted Calimendil. I do not know what he said to her or her to him, yet in the end he relented and assured the Queen that Bregardil would remain behind in case any disaster befall the King while at war. And so it was decreed, though little to the liking of Bregardil, who wished to march to war with his father and brother.
In the year 1309 Amariel gave berth to a baby girl, whom she named Calime. It marked the final year of joy in the lives of the King’s family while at court, for all the subsequent years that remained to the King and Queen were marred with war. But the Queen made a great fuss over little Calime. Amariel loved her very dearly, and as she grew Calime became a near mirror image of her mother. Though I never got to know her well before the long years of war, I could see that young Calime was a bright and clever little girl. I also felt keenly that she would one day become a key and pivotal figure in the complex history and politics of the Dunedain culture, though I could never fully explain why.
Both Berandil and Bregardil regarded their little sister with indifference at best and seldom ever showed any interest in Calime. Both brothers were disappointed with their mother’s decision to bear another child at that time. In this matter they were selfish, and sought to distract their father’s attention away from their sister. They petitioned the King to lower the conscription age of all Cardolani males from sixteen years to fourteen in order to swell the numbers of the army. They besought their father to enlist scores of hired mercenaries from outside the realm to join the forces of Cardolan in the war. Yet most of all they told him of new tidings of the illegal Assassin’s Guild in Tharbad, and of a new plot to kill the King of Cardolan ere he could wage war.
King Calimendil was a shrewd and perceptive man. For his part he loved his new daughter greatly and spent as much time with her as could in the beginning. But tidings delivered to him by his scouts in the wild ever urged him onwards with his war-plans, and thus consumed a great deal of his time. Rumors reached us from the Angle that the halflings there were being attacked and enslaved by evil men. Many were slain and their bodies discarded in the river, where they drifted south to Tharbad. The King had not forgotten the aid he received from the little folk in capturing Ulbor, bane of Vorondil. He had sworn to protect the Stoors forever afterwards in whatever way he could, and he used this reasoning as part of his decision to invade Rhudaur.
By the final months of 1310 Calimendil had well nigh all his pieces in place on the chessboard of war. He awaited only the return of his scouts and spies from the north. But they did not return. Yet by 1311, when the King would wait no longer, a haggard-looking man claiming to be from Tharbad presented himself to our guards, demanding admittance to Dol Calantir to deliver a letter to the King. It was from none other than Broggha himself. The letter was addressed to “Calimendil, the King of Weaklings and Cravens”. I remember well the content of the ridiculous letter, which was little more than an invective tirade from the overlord of Rhudaur. In it he mocked and derided Calimendil and accused him of cruelty in the executions of Ulbor and other guild-members from Tharbad, as well as unjust and despotic suppression of the people:
“…Beware, O Calimendil the tyrant! For now you may be sure that the liberation of the folk of Tharbad is near at hand at last. Their suffering will soon be a thing of the past for them. You may curse them, enslave them, and even unrightfully burn down their houses in the dead of night as your father did before you. Yet know this: I am Broggha, King of Rhudaur, Lord of the Hillmen, friend and ally of Tharbad! Cardolan now has a new neighbor at her doorstep and she had best get used to it. I have spies in many places now; some of which may even be among you! So you had best watch yourself!…”
As for our scouts that did not return, Broggha wrote, “…you may wonder what became of your skulking spies that you cowardly sent into harm’s way while you dined in comfort in your home. We nabbed them some time ago, of that I assure you. They will receive the same treatment, as all spies deserve. Here they will remain until I am satisfied that they have revealed all they know to me of you and your rat-infested court. Yet if you demand proof of my claim then I say to you – go forth from your halls for once and visit the caves nigh the river Gwathlo where the embankments are high and rocky. Therein you shall find your prize and see that I do not lie!”
Calimendil read the letter thoroughly twice over ere he spoke. He immediately ordered that this messenger from Tharbad be held and interrogated in the dungeons. But he knew little that availed us, for he was nothing more than a hired errand-runner. The King decided to spare this man and use him to relay a message of his own to King Broggha. But ere he did he ordered that a team of scouts should travel up to the caves along the river to the north and find what they could. But alas! In the back of an abandoned bear cave they found the decaying body of a dead man. His throat had been slashed and his tongue cut out. They brought back the body of the man to the King and he knew him to be Anborn, a Cardolani captain of the guard whom I personally had charged with heading the spy mission into Rhudaur. I nearly wept when I beheld what Broggha had done to him. But Anborn was taken to the burial mounds in Tyrn Gorthad for his eternal rest.
Straightway word was sent to Arthedain. I persuaded the King to utilize his fragile friendship with King Malvegil to obtain whatever information he might in regards to Broggha and his movements in Rhudaur. But Calimendil could not resist the urge to offer Broggha a reply of his own to the letter he had received, and thus a bizarre series of hostile correspondences ensued between Calimendil and Broggha… …