By late March of 1319, having weathered out another winter, the King ordered the marshalling of his army once again. Though spring was now drawing near, the snow upon the ground still measured above our ankles. But the King would not sit in idleness any longer and ordered the riding of his great host. Many more were now without steeds to ride and were forced to become foot soldiers, for their horses succumbed to the cold during the winter. Calimendil ordered that a rotation be enforced so that every man would have their turn to ride rather than walk the entire way.
Leaving a garrison of well-armed men behind at Dol Aglardin, we turned our feet northwards again upon the very road that we had won from the clutches of Broggha. It served as a link between Dol Aglardin in the south and Dol Duniath in the north of the realm, the latter fortress being our next target and the object of the King’s desire. If Cardolan could once again win back that ancient castle our chances of successfully deposing Broggha would be heightened immensely, as we could launch offensives from both the south and the north at once. Only then would Calimendil allow Bregardil, who had remained behind at Dol Aglardin, to join the King upon the battlefields in the north. It was a fair deal in my opinion, though Bregardil did not like it much.
Onwards we went, mile by mile, and saw no sign of any foe for two days. On the third afternoon of our march upon that hilly road we entered into a wonderful wooded valley. It was beautiful to behold, but our scouts urged us caution, as they had spotted men in caves from afar and knew not whether they were friends or foes. Fearing any delay, the King ordered that the valley be descended immediately and the caves surrounded. We were well into the regions inhabited by the Hillmen now and we prepared for battle accordingly.
When we approached the bottom we beheld three men who were indeed Hillmen, but they showed no sign of aggression towards us and instead held out the palms of their hands towards us as a token of peace. Communication between us was difficult at first, but we soon learned that a small community of them dwelt within the caves of the valley. They were renegades who hated Broggha for his treachery and remembered the day that he ordered the massacre of their people when he rose to power. Though they bore no great love for us they nevertheless greatly desired to see Broggha overthrown. They even offered to house us within their caves, though I suspect it was more out of fear from our weapons than out of kindness. Many of the men suspected a trap and wished rather to kill or drive off these Hillmen and take their possessions, remembering the graves of the slaughtered Dunedain at Dol Aglardin. But the King would not allow it, for these men played no part in those slayings. He countered by saying, “If we are to someday govern this country after Broggha is gone we shall need to make allies of these people, not enemies.” And so for the first time we made peace with the wild men of Rhudaur and dwelt within their caves for two days. Knowing that the infiltration of Dol Duniath would be a sore trial for us we recruited a score of these Hillmen to travel with us to the castle where they would seek admittance from the gatekeepers there while we waited out of their view. As soon as the bridge over the valley was lowered we would rush across it and breech the entranceway.
On the eve the 3rd of April we at last came within sight of Dol Duniath, that ancient fortress in northern Rhudaur that had been sacked and occupied by Broggha after his ascension to power. It sat upon one of the higher foothills of the mountains and could only be conveniently reached by way of a road that spanned the valley. We did not show them our full strength yet, and waited instead within the safety of the shadows of night a stone’s throw away from the bridge as our new allies performed their task. As soon as the bridge was lowered the King gave the command to storm the bridge with as much stealth and silence as we could muster.
The plan worked effectively. The Hillmen of the tower were taken at unawares. A large contingent of our foot soldiers passed over the bridge and slew the guards therein. Our brave men passed inside the halls of the keep with their weapons in hand. A battle ensued quickly thereafter, much to the chagrin of its occupants. They fought us inside the halls and rooms of the lower levels of the fortress, but they were vastly outnumbered and soon threw down their weapons and begged for mercy. Some received it and some did not. Blood was again shed within the halls of Dol Duniath, but now it was the blood of our enemies. By midnight we had won possession of the fortress completely, but not before the Hillmen of the tower set alight the tower’s great beacons upon the ramparts in a desperate plea for aid.
Calimendil and his son Berandil fought bravely together, and for a brief time they were joyful. Neither had suffered a scratch. We were somewhat surprised as to the relative ease by which we retook Dol Duniath from Broggha’s Hillmen. Three men only did we lose in that battle, much to or relief. But now we had scores of prisoners to contend with. With the aid of our Hillmen allies we interrogated their captain and his fellows. They revealed that Broggha was away from Cameth Brin on business “in the north” and would not be back until the summer. Temporary power had been given to his chief lieutenant, a man out of Angmar who called himself Tostar. They claimed to know nothing more about him, other than he was a dark and secretive man who wielded black magic at will. They seemed to indicate to us that our chances of successfully invading Cameth Brin would be well nigh impossible unless we did so soon, before the return of Broggha.
I, for one, did not believe their story, nor did the King. Yet our ultimate quest still lay before us. We had to take Cameth Brin and the village below it in order to end the nine-year-old war and put an end to Broggha and his alliance with Angmar. When asked who they hoped would be the recipient of their beacon’s lights atop the tower they fell silent. By now Calimendil had grown angry and had their captain and his guard thrown in the deepest dungeons in the castle and left to rot in the dark. The remaining Hillmen that we had fought were forced to depart the region for the highlands of the mountains and pledge never again to follow Broggha or take up arms against the Dunedain. It was an oath no Hillman would ever be able to fulfill, of course, warlike as they were. But it would give the Dunedain an excuse to wage war against them in the future.
After we had settled in at Dol Duniath and the blood cleaned from the floors, word was immediately sent to Bregardil back at Dol Aglardin to join us in the north, which he did. He was happy to hear that the fortress had been retaken but regretted only that he was not present to participate in its retaking. This victory had given us a great advantage in the war. We now had the luxury of converging upon Cameth Brin from both the south and the north, and for the first time in a long while it seemed like our victory was near and an end to the war within sight at last.
“…I cannot imagine a life without you, Amariel my precious! I find myself missing you terribly now. I have grown weary of foreign lands and wish only to be back home with you and Calime…and yes, dearest one, you may rest assured that this insufferable war with Rhudaur is in its last throes now, for we now hold dominion over all the lands here, save in the northwest where Broggha dwells at Cameth Brin. That at least should comfort you… But why do you rebuke me so? Surely you must know how important it is for me to have both my sons at my side when Broggha falls at last. It is long overdue! Bregardil is a stubborn one to be sure, but I do not think it right to refuse him his desire to fight alongside his brother in such an opportunity as this. He has earn’d it twice over…yet if any doubt continues to linger in your mind I assure you that I shall not allow either of our sons to place themselves in a position of great risk when we approach the Naked Hill. They shall be in the van of our hosts if any retreat should be necessary, which is unlikely unless some extraordinary or unfortunate circumstance should befall us that I cannot foresee…” ~ excerpt of a letter to Queen Amariel from King Calimendil – May, 1319
The month of June was well under way by the time the King was ready to depart Dol Duniath and head for Cameth Brin. Our armies in the north would advance upon Broggha’s dwelling from the northeast while our hosts from Dol Aglardin and other locations would do so from the southwest. That force was headed by Barach, Calimendil’s chief spy throughout his years upon the throne. He was also a skilled warrior and man of arms who had experience in dealing with forest-trolls and knew how to avoid them. We would join up with them at a designated area in the woods nigh Cameth Brin ere we sounded the challenge to Broggha in his high tower, assuming he was not abroad as the Hillmen claimed him to be.
We kept mainly near the river Hoarwell as we made our way through the hills and woods of upper Rhudaur. The river was swift and noisy as it swiftly meandered its way along its southern course. But it was a sure and steady guide and provided us with water to drink upon our road. Across the river we saw less hills and trees, for it marked the beginning of that vast plain of grass and tundra that was called the Oiolad. Few folk dwelt there due to the freezing winds and snow that tormented it in wintertime.
As we road along through the wild I found myself in a state of nervousness for a reason I could not explain. It was if the very air trembled with anticipation. When I rode alongside the King it seemed as if he felt it too. Yet I heard him softly humming a tune to himself as he looked about him as he went along. He seemed to be lost in thought. It was then, that he told me of how much he missed Amariel and how he wished he could revisit the days of his youth, “I have lived a fine life, Iliandor,” Calimendil told me, “and have seen many wondrous places in Eriador. But that memory which I hold most dear among my museum of recollections is my encounter with the elves of the Noldor when I was still a young man. I still recall the music they made before me in that wooded hillock. It seems like a lifetime ago now. I count it as the brightest of all my memories, save only that of my betrothal to Amariel. Now I feel the span of my years drawing to a close and often wonder if I shall ever see any of the Eldar again ere I die. I should dearly wish to make music with them once more.”
“You have the long life of the Kings of Arnor given to you, lord,” said I to him. “You still have many years ahead of you to enjoy. It is I who am growing old, not you. But I think this will be our last battle together. Already I feel half the swordsman that I once was. When we return to Dol Calantir I trust the King will grant me leave to rest and relax for the remainder of my years, for let him not forget that I am older than he.”
Calimendil looked at me kindly and said, “You earned that right long ago, my friend. You certainly have leave to do whatever you wish upon our return. I would have granted it to you ere we departed had you asked me then. You are endowed with an even temper and much foresight. But more importantly, you have been a good friend and advisor to me, and for that alone I consider myself indebted to you. Only one thing do I require of you after the war: that you and I ride to the Emyn Muil and seek the company of the Eldar. There we will explore the lands of the west together ere our legs become too weak to do so. My family shall go with us!” I assured the King that we would do that.
At length we halted and went over our old maps of the region. We broke away from the river now and made a straight path towards the designated area of our rendezvous with Barach and his riders. We arrived at the wood by sunset but found them not there. Nor was there any trace of their presence. For three days we waited and saw no sign of them. All the while the air grew heavy with anticipation and the men and our horses grew uneasy. Further still it began to rain, dampening our clothes and our spirits accordingly.
As the rain fell upon us our scouts came hurrying back to the King from far afield with tidings. An army of riders from the south was approaching our location quickly. They numbered no less than eight hundred strong and were well armed. At first we were relieved by the news, and most assumed that it was none other than Barach and his men, who were only now arriving at the rendezvous location. But as we watched them draw closer we saw that it was not so. This was not our brave fellow cavalrymen from Dol Aglardin but rather a host of men whose like we had not seen as of yet. Immediately the King ordered our men to make ready for battle.
We waited in the rain until they came within a league of our location, whereupon we left the cover of the trees as our archers made ready to fire their darts in the air. But one among the encroaching riders held up his hand in token of parley and desired to speak with us. He and two others rode ahead a short distance to speak with the King, myself and Berandil and Bregardil. He was an uncouth man whose origin I could not make out, though he certainly resembled the Dunlendings. He wore mail of chain and a visored helm of shining steel and had long dark hair that flowed out from underneath it. On his belt was a long sword and in his right hand he held a half-empty sack, which bobbled back and forth as he rode.
“Hail, Calimendil! King of peasant farmers and lazy shepherds!” mocked the man to the King as he commanded his steed to halt. “At last I have found you! For long have I anticipated your appearance here in Rhudaur, a land where you do not belong and are wanted by no one. You were expecting the arrival of your companions from the south, no doubt? You needn’t wait any longer, for they shall not be coming.”
“Identify yourself, O vagrant!” replied Calimendil. “The King of Cardolan has better things to do than to waste time and words with a fork-tongued vagabond such as yourself!”
I recall the man smiling wryly to himself after hearing the voice of the King. At length he replied, “Aye, introductions are appropriate here on the battlefield. Before you stands the bane of your royal family! The son of the slayer of Vorondil! And the true lord of Tharbad! I am Urlin, son of Ulbor, whom the King of Cardolan murdered in cold blood! I rejoice that I now have the privilege of informing you of the great peril that your wife and daughter now find themselves in back home while you spend your time loitering abroad.”
The mere mentioning of Calimendil’s family sent his blood into a near boil, and the King responded in great anger, “Curse you, base-born serpent of Broggha! Away with you and your rabble! I desire no other speech with you save that of sword against flesh! Your head is as inflated as your ego. Take it away while you still have one upon your shoulders!”
The King began to spur his horse back round to the wood to command his army, but Urlin checked him one last time, adding, “Since you seek heads to serve as your trophies I give you this!” At that Urlin held up his sack and cast it upon the ground before us, and alas! The severed head of a man rolled out from the folds of the bag! “We have many more of these in our possession if one is not enough for you,” he shouted as he rode back to his companions. It was the head of Barach, who had been charged to captain the garrison at Dol Aglardin, which had now fallen to the enemy.
The death of Barach and the defeat of our southern hosts were a tremendous loss for us, and our possession of lower Rhudaur now seemed in doubt. If Broggha or even Angmar could successfully drive out our remaining army there we might quickly find ourselves in a sour predicament where our escape route back to Dol Calantir would be cut off. The regions of the Angle and even northern Cardolan could face the possibility of invasion from Rhudaur. But the sight of such an atrocity enraged us all the more. Calimendil shouted out to his archers to ready their bows even as our enemy filled the air with the noise of their horns.
Urlin seemed to be the captain of their host and he ordered the first charge. Their arrows soared through the air even as did ours. The King gave the command and we raised up our shields just in time. Yet there is no foolproof defense from a rain storm of darts and a number of our men were smitten and punctured by them. But our volley was the stronger and our arrows found their mark upon many of our opponents; their cries of pain being plainly heard by us. I openly confess that it was a delight to see many of them fall to their knees in agony as we rushed towards them.
The scene was both chaotic and bombastic, as the clang of steel blades and whizzing arrows noised about us. We fought them long and hard upon unstable terrain amid the rain and mud and lost many good men in the process. But they suffered the more, and at length were out numbered and out matched by our superior weapons. Calimendil and his sons fought with such skill that it was a marvel to behold. It later became known to us in Cardolan as the Battle of the Trollshaws, and is still remembered fondly as King Calimendil’s primary glory and triumph in the war against Rhudaur, short-lived though it was. Calimendil himself slew Urlin, son of Ulbor, and at last put an end to his line in Cardolan. Thus was the blood of Barach avenged in the end.
The Battle of the Trollshaws was a great moral victory for us, but it did little to improve our current plight. We were tired and wet and had the difficult march upon Cameth Brin immediately before us. If Broggha had been unaware of our presence before the battle he almost certainly knew of it afterwards, for the noise of Urlin’s horns was sure to be heard by them. The King had our scouts sent afield after the battle and ere long they returned and told us that a host of men had gathered about the slopes of the Naked Hill. It seemed plain that they awaited our arrival.
A hastily arranged meeting was called that night under the cover of the trees as the men rested themselves as best they could. Along with his two sons the King and I discussed the best possible course of action for us to take when the time arrived for us to take back Cameth Brin from our enemies. Two forces would be required to retake it. We decided that the village of Tanoth Brin would have to be taken first while a larger force would approach the upper slopes of the hill. This would serve to draw Broggha’s attention away from the battle that was taking place below. It seemed like our best option at the time, and in the end we elected to attempt this strategy.
The rest of the night passed uneasily. It was very dark under the trees and rain clouds. It would be extremely difficult to attempt an assault on the tower under such darkness so our operation would be carried out at first light the next morning. Many of our men tossed and turned during their restless sleep. The King could not sleep at all, but instead sat in silence under the canopy of the trees. Ever and anon he would rise and stare out across the wilds of Rhudaur. Yet I noted that his eyes were drawn mostly to the south and not towards Cameth Brin where our enemies awaited us. He confided in me that the words and threats that Urlin had issued to him regarding the Queen and their daughter had unnerved him.
“A great burden lies on my heart,” he said to me. “I cannot shake this heavy fear that they are in danger now, for who is left to keep a guarded eye upon the villains at Tharbad?”
“We left many fine and brave captains behind at Dol Calantir to watch over them and protect them while we are away, lord” I reassured the King, “The threats of Urlin are empty and untrue. They are safe and sound, no doubt.” Now of this I was certain, as I knew that Amariel would by now be far away from home, for she had sworn to me ere we departed that she would ride to Arthedain to seek the aid of King Malvegil. Certainly she would have taken young Calime with her. I longed to tell the King this secret knowledge that I possessed so that his heart would be unburdened as we approached yet another looming battle. But I had already promised the Queen that I would tell not tell him. It would come to be a terrible mistake on my part and I regret my silence on the matter even to this day.
The King seemed unconvinced by my reply and added nervously, “Would that I had left you at home with them, alas! I would feel better knowing that you were there to advise them in these dark days.” Then Calimendil came close to me and whispered, “You must swear to me, Iliandor, that you will faithfully serve and protect Amariel and my daughter if I should die! If the tide of the battle should turn against us I command you to abandon me and forsake the war. Return hence to Cardolan by the swiftest means you can find in such an inhospitable place as this! No one will think ill of you for doing so.” I did not like the idea of leaving the King to perish in such a circumstance and begged him to reconsider his request. But he replied, “It is not a request. It is a command!”