…The year 1320 marked the year of detriment and degradation for my country. It was the turning point in the final chapter of the fate of Cardolan. The death of the king and his sons, and the subsequent expulsion of the Queen at the hands of the rival princes served as a catalyst to plunge the country into a maelstrom of confusion and corruption. Chaos was a perfection when compared to our present state of order. Nobles from all corners of the realm now call the once magnificent court of Dol Calantir their home as they vie for power with one another. They concealed not at all their mutual hatred for their king and sovereign after his death, for Calimendil succeeded in limiting their influence and authority as no other king before him had done.
Yet they hated me no less, for jealousy breeds contempt. Many of the nobles and princes of the realm had anticipated an immediate promotion among them to fill the vacant post of Advisor to the King. Yet their hopes were dashed. Following the death of King Tarandil, Calimendil sought me out and begged me to remain in my post, as I, Iliandor, had been in close friendship with his late father. I accepted his offer on the spot, thus earning many enemies.
Being ten years older than he and having had experience in dealing with meddling nobles under the tutelage of Tarandil, Calimendil was glad to receive my service. He knew full well what danger they posed to his throne in such a troublesome time. Though the war and the brunt of the troubles posed by Angmar to the north were still to come, perils existed aplenty throughout the lands. Arthedain was relentless in their attempts to squeeze out any competition for control of Amon Sul and peppered the estates of Cardolan with her spies. Their king was Celebrindor, a cunning, well-intentioned man. Yet he was callous and over-bearing in his dealings with Cardolan.
Rhudaur was gradually adopting a policy of non-conformity with her two sister-realms. They became increasingly more isolated and often spoke against the intentions of both Arthedain and Cardolan. Yet they persisted in their claim upon the tower of Amon Sul. The Dunedain there had by then dwindled to a small number, though they still held the fortress of Cameth Brin and the village beneath it at the time.
Their king was Ermegil. Tarandil came to detest this man for his unruly behavior and his patronage and fondness for the city of Tharbad, which Tarandil loathed. He charged that Ermegil sought to encourage uprisings and revolts in Cardolan’s largest city to distract his attention from the complications around Amon Sul; and he was right. Dunlendings from Dunland began to take up residency in Tharbad, many of them joining the town guilds therein. The traffic upon the river Metheithel began to double during Tarandil’s rein. Boats and vessels made their way downstream from Rhudaur to Tharbad bearing heavy loads and they were manned with men from strange origins.
It is Calimendil’s quarrel and war with Rhudaur that my tale herein recounts.
Let me not get ahead of myself. In order to understand the complexity of a man’s character we must start with his earliest years and go forward. Calimendil was the third child of Tarandil and Elenarian. His brother Vorondil was the oldest followed soon afterwards by Arriana, his sister. The two siblings were very close even from the earliest days of their childhood and were seldom parted. The birth of Calimendil followed most unexpectedly seven years after Arriana in the year 1172. Like his siblings he was born at court in Dol Calantir, though he received scant attention from the people, for he was third in line to the throne behind his siblings. Later he was noted of saying that he felt he was also third in line for his father’s love.
In his youth Calimendil was generally a reserved boy who sought out the company of his mother more so than his father. From Elenarian he was bestowed with the gifts of humility, compassion and generosity. He soon acquired many interests such as fencing, horseback riding, and music, the latter talent having been taught to him by his mother. Indeed, he became skilled on the lute and harp and possessed a fine voice for singing. It was not for nothing that he was later referred to as the `Minstrel-King’ by his people. As a prince he would often fail to show up at royal meetings of rule and law in favor of going about with the King’s musicians to the estates and manors of other nobles. This would often incur the wrath of his father, yet Calimendil did not care much back then. And why should he? Whenever he was chastised for his absenteeism he would chide, “Let my brother look to it! He is the King’s Heir, not I!”
Calimendil’s relationship with his brother Vorondil was a happy one in their early years. Being nearly ten years the elder, Vorondil was protective of his little brother even from the beginning. He taught Calimendil how to ride his first horse, how to fire an arrow with a bow, how to tell poisonous plants from edible ones, how to track a stag in the wild, and how to predict the weather using old Dunedain methods. Vorondil also taught his brother how to fight with his fists and how to watch his back among the thieves and cutthroats of Tharbad. Yet in the end he failed to follow his own advice and thus he paid the ultimate price for it, which we shall see later.
The two sons of the king and queen were seldom parted from one another in those years. Their life at the king’s court was a good one. Vorondil was overjoyed at Calimendil’s birth and would have even been present as his mother gave birth to him had he been allowed to. He had finally received the brother and companion he had wished for. Yet their relationship waned as the years went by, and by the time the two brothers had reached the early stages of manhood they were estranged. When they became full princes they lived on opposite ends of the realm. The reasons for the estrangement are numerous and mostly petty, yet the culprits of the tension lay in jealousy, competition and, more significantly, the rivalry for their sister’s attention.
Arriana was always a mysterious character to me. She was as loyal a daughter any parent could wish for, yet she also possessed a mischievous nature. She loved both her brothers dearly in the early days, yet her bond with Vorondil was always the stronger. To amuse herself she would at times play one brother off against the other to achieve her desire. Yet ere long Calimendil became wise to her schemes and tired of the chase. In one instance he betrayed her confidence by informing their father of Arriana’s plan to secretly visit Tharbad with some servants. Tarandil hated the city and forbade her from visiting it and took measures thereafter to prevent her from going there. Long did she bear a grudge against Calimendil for his betrayal. For his part Calimendil began to regard his sister with stoic indifference. Their relationship became marred and was never to fully mend again.
As the children of the king grew and matured each of them became engrossed in their own interests. As the eldest child and heir of the king, Vorondil was required to rule over his own province in Cardolan. He chose therefore to make his dwelling within the castle and watchtower that was then called Dol Argond. That tower was constructed many ages before by the engineers of Elendil to serve as an outpost and sanctuary for weary travelers and merchants. It sat upon a tall bank nigh the river Metheithel and commanded a wide view of the river and the lands across from it. Yet when Vorondil settled there he had built anew two tall towers that looked to both the north and west, and between all three towers there was a high wall of stone to protect it from invasion. Thus Dol Argond was transformed from a lone tower into a solid fortress. All traffic upon the river was watched closely by Vorondil and his guard and not a few vessels flowing down from the north were seized by his men and confiscated ere they were able to reach Tharbad. As king, Calimendil would likewise follow suit, yet he went even further by closing off all traffic along the river into Tharbad in order to starve the malicious guildsmen therein.
Arriana was a silent voice at that time and remained so for some time thereafter, until a scandal thrust her forward into public gossip. For the most part she remained with her mother and father at court, save when she would go about among the fields and woods of Cardolan with Vorondil.
Calimendil enjoyed the court of Dol Calantir and all that it had to offer. He loved its lush gardens and fountains, its tall trees of oak, ash, and maple, and especially its ladies and maidens fair. When the sun was riding high and leisure would permit it he was to be found in the king’s libraries or among the king’s minstrels. Yet when the moon took its turn in the sky he favored stargazing and serenading. Often he would pluck the strings of his harp and sing under the window of a lovely lass as she slept in offer of his courtship. Calimendil lived a fruitful life in the early years of his manhood. It was a happy time for him, as he would later confide to me as we marched to war together in Rhudaur. His only regret was that he took those joyful years for granted….