“They have my loyalty, not my love…” ~ King Calimendil, in reference to the people of Tharbad.
In the year following the attempt on the King’s life scant information could be discovered regarding the nature or premise of the attack. The identity of the would-be assassin was never ascertained despite our great efforts to acquire it. The dagger used in the attack was similar in make to those used by the men across the mountains, though as to how he may have attained it is a mystery. As for the man who slew the assassin we kept him locked away at Dol Calantir. I questioned him myself each day for a fortnight despite his pleas to be released. His name, or the one that he used, was Bearn. He claimed to be a Cardolani fisherman who had no real home, but dwelt occasionally in Tharbad in between his travels up and down the Gwathlo. When asked why he would commit such a brash and daring murder as he did that hectic evening he insisted he did so in a fit of sudden rage at the apparent assassination of the King, as he thought. Furthermore he claimed absolute loyalty to the King and his family, though his explanations for his loyalty fell flat and suspect to me. Nevertheless, we held him in jail for many days ere we released him.
After Calimendil began to recover from his wound the King commanded Bearn to come before him before he was set free. The King looked him up and down from head to toe as he addressed Bearn, thanking him for his courage and loyalty, yet also lamenting that he had been denied the opportunity to question his assailant in person. Bearn was released to go wither he would, but I had my spies follow him. It was not long ere they espied him back in Tharbad frequenting taverns, brothels and eventually spending time among men of queer origins. Further still he lived out of an old and decrepit house inside the city, though he told me he was homeless. I ordered a permanent watch upon this man as I deemed him to be a liar.
Arriana continued to be a disappointment to us all at this time. Though she did send a personal letter of thanks and congratulations to her brother for his survival and good health, she never bothered to travel to the court to visit Calimendil after he had been stabbed, saying that Dol Calantir was “…still an unwelcome place for her”. She opted to remain at Dol Argond. This was a heavy personal blow to Calimendil and quite undeserved, yet the King would not reproach his sister for her actions. But Amariel deeply resented Arriana forever afterwards and never forgave her for her callousness.
If Arriana’s inaction was not enough, one year later it became known to me that she had at last decided to wed. When I discovered whom her husband was to be I was shocked and outraged. Girwaedh of Annuminas he was! Calimendil’s rival and opponent for Amariel’s hand in the years before. It had been some time since we had heard from him and knew not that he had entered Cardolan and even visited Dol Argond. When the King was told of this he was furious and sent word to his sister that if she were to proceed with the marriage he would officially pronounce her as an outcast of the royal family and an unwelcome visitor at court. Girwaedh offered a reply instead, saying that “at least I come not as a thief in the night to steal away the daughters of noble fathers against their will. Arriana your sister has far more courage than her young brother and King who usurped her rightful throne. We will indeed marry, whether we have the King’s good wishes or no!”
Great was the wrath of the King after reading the letter, and I could not restrain him from sending out guards to seize Girwaedh. At this Amariel interceded and soothed Calimendil’s temper, and persuaded the King to let the matter be. But under no circumstances would he allow Girwaedh to dwell at Dol Argond with his sister, nor anywhere else within the realm. Therefore the King rescinded his former offer to Arriana to act as Guardian and Steward of Dol Argond and instead appointed a trusted member of his council to dwell there until either of his two sons became old enough to become the new Steward.
Arriana was said to have departed Dol Argond with Girwaedh immediately following their hasty betrothal. We soon learned that they made their way back to the north where they dwelt at Annuminas. It would be the last time that brother and sister would ever correspond with one another. Afterwards Calimendil placed a ban upon either one of them re-entering Cardolan until he decreed otherwise. I have nothing more to say about Arriana, for I was glad to be rid of her.
A few more years passed in relative peace and silence for Cardolan. Calimendil had by then fully matured into a wise and noble king, and a happy one at that! Amariel spent much time with their sons, Berandil and Bregardil, raising them up to be fine young men. In a reversal of his father’s old law the King reduced the amount of taxation placed upon the populace of the city of Tharbad and instead placed more of the burden upon the farmers and traders who dwelt in the northern plains and rolling downs. The other princes and nobility who dwelt hither and thither throughout the realm were also required to pay a heavier tribute to Dol Calantir at that time. This angered the other nobles of Cardolan and they bore a grudge against Calimendil for it for long afterwards. I, too, thought it an unwise policy at the time. But the King, like his father before him, had become transfixed with Tharbad after he had nearly been murdered there. The folk of Tharbad, however, became fond of King Calimendil, and even eventually began to warm to Echormoth, the mayor. This is just what the King had wanted. By regaining the trust of those that dwelt in Tharbad he hoped to rout out any new and dangerous guilds that might be blossoming there once again by alienating the citizens from them.
It was a good plan, but alas! It never worked. Tharbad would forever be a haven for men and thieves of the lowest caliber. Nothing would ever change that.
In the summer of 1285, six years after he was nearly slain while in Tharbad, the King announced that he would again visit the city in person with the Queen. Many of the people were glad and preparations for the visit were underway. But two days ere the King and Queen were due to arrive, Tharbad was plagued by yet another heinous crime. Echormoth and his two of his personal guards had been murdered. Their bodies were found lying in the parlor of the mayor’s own house, their throats slit. Calimendil was abhorred by the news and took it as a personal warning from some evil entity inside the city itself. Along with Amariel I managed to dissuade the King from visiting Tharbad at the time, though he was loath to comply. I begged him to give my spies inside the city more time to do their work.
His patience was rewarded only three and ten days following the death of Echormoth. The Assassin’s Guild became known to us at that time, and it was they who were not only responsible for Echormoth’s murder, but also were behind Calimendil’s attempted regicide ten years before. We knew this because of the bravery of one of my most trusted men who volunteered to join up with that secret and illegal guild and feed us the information we needed, and at great peril to himself! His name was Barach, a Cardolani man from mixed parentage. He it was that told us of this evil guild and its origin. They had no concrete establishment inside Tharbad as the Guild of the Greyflood had had in its day. Rather they were a loosely concentrated band of thieves and cutthroats who moved about the city without a known base or establishment. They were devoutly dedicated to the demise of the King of Cardolan and Tharbad’s independence from the crown. They were certainly funded by evil sources out of Rhudaur and their allies in what is now Angmar.
Then the King and I set into motion a plan to capture Ulbor and bring him to justice, for as the secret letter we received revealed, it was he who brought about the murder of Vorondil, Tarandil’s Heir, some nineteen years before. At last Calimendil would be avenged for the death of his brother. Therefore I had Bearn arrested by our soldiers inside Tharbad and brought to Dol Calantir in bonds. I assured him that we had at last discovered his secret ties to the Assasin’s Guild in Tharbad and that he would be hanged at dawn the following morning before all the King’s court unless he agreed to submit to our will in apprehending Ulbor. He then asked me why the King would treat the slayer of his would-be assassin in such an unjust manner, for he claimed to have saved Calimendil’s life. I showed him the dagger that was used to wound the King by the assassin and also the one used by himself. The blades were different but their hilts were an exact match, both bearing the same Easterling markings on them. Furthermore Bearn’s dilapidated little house upon the southern bank of Tharbad had been searched thoroughly by my men following the King’s attempted regicide. A small box of jewelry had been found stashed cleverly beneath the floorboards of the house. In it was discovered a ring that was again an exact match with a ring that had been worn by the assassin. Both rings bore the same symbols on them. It was enough for us to link the two men together.
I remember well Bearn’s bitterness and indignation towards me, but by then he knew he had little choice in the matter. I assured him that, though the King did indeed now regard him as a traitor to the crown, he would be granted his freedom provided he led us to the whereabouts of Ulbor. But Bearn insisted, even under threat of torture that he did not know where Ulbor was, for he was seldom anywhere for very long. Yet he did reveal that Ulbor never ventured inside the city walls of Tharbad due to the danger it posed for him and was useless to search for him there. He was, however, known to have traveled through that land in the north that is called by many the Angle, a green and fertile land which was then was inhabited by the Stoor halflings. This seemed strange to us at first but Barach, our spy inside Tharbad, confirmed these tidings for us. Ulbor had muscled his way through the land of the Stoors by force, for he went with other foul and cruel men who bullied the halflings inside the Angle.
We immediately sent word to the nobles that dwelt in that region of Cardolan nigh to the Angle that efforts to befriend the halflings should be undertaken at once, and so it was done. Calimendil assured the Stoors that Cardolan would protect and shield them from any hostilities that threatened the Angle from Rhudaur or the orcs from the mountains, and thus a deal was struck between us. It would prove to be Ulbor’s undoing!
I fear I cannot proceed any further with my tale without here turning aside but once more to reveal all that I know or ever knew regarding Cardolan’s newly emerging enemies at the time, some of which were known to us while others were not. Of the accursed Ulbor we knew indeed that he had connections with the evil men in Angmar and was primarily responsible for the murder of Vorondil. For this alone he deserved death; and in the end it was delivered to him.
The year 1287 marked the year of Ulbor’s capture. At last we had him! After receiving word from the Stoor Halflings in the Angle that they had seen Ulbor passing through their lands, Calimendil immediately led a band of well-armed horsemen northwards. A small fleet of boats from Dol Argond was sent up the river Gwathlo so as to prevent any chance of escape that Ulbor might attempt that way. The King and our escort rode swiftly, passing over the Last Bridge only five days after setting forth from Dol Calantir. From there we turned south again and rode hard to the villages of the Halflings, who directed us to Ulbor’s trail. Being somewhat skilled in the art of tracking, I assisted the King and his men all the way nigh to that river which is known as the Loudwater. There we espied Ulbor and his henchmen and gave them chase upon foot, for the way was too steep and rocky for our horses. It was there upon the steep cliffs of the riverbank that we cornered Ulbor at long last, and Calimendil himself smote Ulbor a blow upon the face with his open hand as he was restrained. This was not so much to cause him injurious pain as it was to symbolize Ulbor’s final defeat.
I am not ashamed to say that we put him to the torture in our dungeons soon after we brought him back to Dol Calantir. In this way we learned that he was a chief messenger between Rhudaur and Tharbad. He told us of a regicidal scheme that was underway by a leader of the Hillmen to depose King Ermegil in Rhudaur. It was the first time we heard the name of Broggha, a warlord among the Hillmen who somehow managed to unite the tribes in a common goal of deposing the King of Rhudaur and ridding the entire region of the few Dunedain that remained. Yet before I tell his story allow me to finish with Ulbor and his demise.
Ulbor was an unsightly man to say the least. While being weatherworn, he was tall, but lithe. He had a crooked nose and wore earrings of a foreign make. We knew it was he since he too possessed a ring that matched those of Bearn and the slain assassin. Further still Bearn recognized him at once upon first sight. We struck a deal with Bearn and promised to spare his life if he divulged all that he knew. Without delay he confessed to, not only being hired to kill Calimendil’s would-be assassin, but also of being a member of the Assassin’s Guild and that Ulbor was among its leaders. He took extraordinary measures to secretly traffic weapons and information into Tharbad to the guild members by means of the river and by way of the land on the eastern side of the Gwathlo. Yet most importantly Bearn revealed that Ulbor had personally executed Vorondil, the King’s Heir, with Vorondil’s own sword some twenty years before and had it sent to Angmar as proof of his death, along with Vorondil’s helm. But he lied to us, for we found Vorondil’s sword among Ulbor’s belongings when we captured him in the Angle.
All of this took place before the very eyes and ears of the King and Queen at Dol Calantir. Amariel wept softly while listening to Bearn’s testimony of Ulbor’s cruelty and wickedness. But Calimendil sat stone-faced in great anger and sorrow. I, Iliandor, know not what thoughts may have possessed him at that moment, but I may swear from that day forward the King was a changed man. Calimendil realized in full the gravity of the situation and perilous evil that threatened not only Cardolan, but also all of old Arnor. The years of Relative Peace would soon come to an end and would give way to years of famine, treachery, war and death.
The King showed Ulbor and Bearn no mercy whatsoever after their confession, despite what he promised them beforehand. Calimendil decreed that both men would be executed by hanging the following morning. In this matter I urged the King to delay the executions until we had extracted more information from them regarding the present state of order in Rhudaur and the Hillmen therein, for I felt sure that Ulbor knew more than what he had revealed to us. But the King would not hear of it. He wanted to rid Cardolan of this man as quickly as possible. Alas! Would that he had listened to Amariel and I! The ultimate fate of the war and of the King himself might have been otherwise.
A storm laden with heavy rains pelted much of Cardolan all through the night and following morning, casting a wet and cheerless pall over the King’s court. Nevertheless, the execution of Bearn and Ulbor was to proceed as planned, but lo! When the guards went down into the dungeons to fetch Ulbor from his cell he was already dead! There was no blood, nor did his body bear any traces of cuts, puncture marks or bruises. There was nothing around his body save a small tray of rations that had been given him the night before, most of which had been presumably been consumed by Ulbor. The only explanation I could arrive at was that he had somehow managed to poison himself with the food given to him. Yet who among the King’s court would provide Ulbor with such a poison? That would forever remain a mystery, alas. Yet it seemed plain that someone among Calimendil’s staff provided him with the necessary means to end his own life. Thus Ulbor eluded justice in the end and provoked the King’s wrath. Further still, the King then had to ascertain who the traitor among his court had been.
But the execution of Bearn proceeded despite his pleas for mercy, and he was hung before the entire court, as were a handful of Ulbor’s captured men. Calimendil insisted that his sons, Berandil and Bregardil, witness the hangings, for he wanted them to look upon the faces of the enemies of the King and Queen of Cardolan. But the King had Ulbor’s dead body taken to the heart of the city of Tharbad where it was hung by the neck from a tree where all who passed by there could see it. This served not only as a warning to the King’s enemies but also to taunt the hidden and secretive members of the Assassin’s Guild in the city and lure them out of their anonymity. This was a thing new and unheard of before then and the people of Tharbad did not like it. Not even Calimendil’s father, who had always been an unpopular King among the folk of Tharbad, dared such a deed. Furthermore, most thought that Bearn was executed unjustly and should have been granted pardon. It marked another turning point for Calimendil and his court. Though the populace of Tharbad had enjoyed a period of economic freedoms under Calimendil’s rein, they now began to turn against him once again. Many of the King’s royal ordinances and decrees were ignored or violated. The King’s guards within the city had difficulty maintaining law and order and soon afterwards Tharbad once again began its spirally descent into a state of uncultured barbarism…