Introduction

Note - This fanfiction is based on a role playing game I played in hish school and I wrote it then. I've edited it and made some changes. The places and characters and certain passages are copywrited by Tolkien and ICE. Hope you enjoy it.

The year is 1409 in the Third Age. Our story takes place in the Kingdom of Cardolan, located in the North of the continent. The Kingdom is ruled by the Dunédain, a race of long-lived men. At one time in the past, Cardolan was united with two other realms into the great Kingdom of Arnor. In the year 861, Eärendur, the tenth and last King of Arnor died, dividing his lands among his three sons, thus creating the Kingdoms of Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur. Thus, Thorondur became the first King of the new land of Cardolan. He quickly became popular in the Kingdom by easing restrictions on trade and expanded the public works, while rebuilding the walls of the capitol, Tharbad. He established a treaty between the sister Kingdoms for the joint use of the watch tower of Amon Sûl, the greatest fortress of the North and the home of the powerful seeing stone, the Palantír.

In time, tensions rose among the realms and after the death of Thorundur. His younger brother Aldarion, King of Rhudaur, attempted to reunite the lands in 949. Several minor skirmishes resulted, but the death of Aldarion in 951 ended Rhudaur's bid for power. The squabble became more serious in 1084 during the reign of King Tarandil. A war of twelve years ensued. Sides shifted, but most often Arthedain and Rhudaur contested Cardolan's attempts to posses Amon Sûl. The war was indecisive, but its expenses and those of Thorondur's building projects caused a depression in Cardolan.

The dynamic King Tarandil reorganized the Kingdom, overcame the depression, and brought it to the height of its power. He established a military academy starting the tradition of the Warrior Kings of Cardolan. He curtailed the power of the princes, reducing their authority by making them Hiri (Lords) and establishing a national army paid by land grants. The King continued by revitalizing the guilds, the market, and as a result, the economy. This succeeded beyond Tarandil's fondest hopes, and soon he could maintain a court, army, and fleet.

Tarandil's ambitious son Calimendil, sought to prove himself worthy of his father's legacy. In 1197 he launched a protracted war into Rhudaur to overthrow Rhugga, a Hillman "Barbarian" who had usurped the throne of Rhudaur. Rhugga was an effective and popular leader despite his unsavory methods. The war dragged on for thirty-eight bloody years before Calimendil trapped the Rhudaurans in Cameth Brin, the fortress capitol. Finally, in 1235, Cameth Brin was beaten, its lower levels taken by the Army of Cardolan. That night, the exhausted knights and soldiers rejoiced, but unknown to all, an army of Orcs (evil, warped creatures) had answered Rhugga's pleas for aid and had secretly marched East. The Orcs fell upon the unsuspecting forces of Cardolan. The Royal Pavilion fell, and with it well nigh all the lords of Cardolan.

The battered Cardolani were pursued home through the raging snows of winter and by spring, eastern Cardolan was ravaged and the land had no king. Seven people now claimed the throne and the situation was nearly as bad in four of the baronies. Civil war raged throughout the countryside on the national, provincial, and local levels. The Kings of Arthedain and far off Gondor both sent expeditions to explore their own potential claims to the crown. During the next fifteen years Tharbad changed hands eight times, and the Royal Compound at Thalion, eighteen. Finally, in 1248, the Dwarves of Moria sent a powerful and well-armed force to Tharbad to set up and enforce a truce. A council was convened and Tarcil the Mariner, of the Royal Line, was elected the new King of Cardolan.

In 1276, during the reign of King Tarastor, an evil spirit named the Lord of the Nazgûl came to the far North and established the Kingdom of Angmar. His goal was to destroy the three northern kingdoms. A renewed war between Cardolan and Arthedain between 1284 and 1287 kept everyone's attention away from Angmar and by 1300 the evil kingdom was completed and the Lord of the Nazgûl became the Witch King of Angmar. Over the next fifty years the Witch King's minions infiltrated the Kingdom of Rhudaur through guile and assassination. By 1350, Rhudaur was firmly under the iron fist of the Witch King. Soon thereafter, Angmar and its new ally, Rhudaur launched a brutal assault on the lands of Arthedain and Cardolan. The war raged for seven years ending in 1359. Victory came to the men of Arthedain and Cardolan only with the help of the Elves of Rivendell. The Witch-King's Armies were slaughtered, but there were not enough forces in the realms to counterattack into Angmar and thus the war of attrition ended.

King Minalcar spent the next twenty-two years rebuilding his lands and fortifying his borders. Upon his death in 1381, his son Ostoher continued the process. By the dawn of the new century, new hope filled the Kingdom. The Palace of Thalion was restored and trade flourished with Gondor, Cardolan's powerful southern neighbor. The people were happy, having nearly forgotten the horror of the Angmar War. The King, his three sons, and his young daughter enjoyed tremendous popularity and lavish parties were held in the gardens of the Bar Aran (Royal House in Tharbad).

Having recovered from the lashing of the last war, the Witch King tried his hand again in 1408. Vast armies of Orcs and evil men crossed through Rhudaur, overrunning the last of the Rhudauran rebels and pouring into Arthedain and Cardolan. A hasty alliance was formed by Kings Arveleg of Arthedain and Ostoher of Cardolan. The battle plan had Arthedain pinning the enemy at the Tower of Amon Sûl as Cardolan would anchor the flank and swing in behind the Angmarim and Rhudaurans to crush them.

As always, the best laid plans... Before the respective armies could be positioned, the Witch King had his two warlords force march into battle. The warlord of the northern force, "The Angûlion" obliterated the capitol of Arthedain, Annûminas, and laid siege to the city of Fornost, held by young Prince Araphor. Thus the bulk of the Arthedan Army was trapped far from Amon Sûl where King Arveleg sat vastly outnumbered. Then the warlord of the southern force, Rogrog, fell upon the unprepared army of Cardolan...

Book 1

Chapter 1

THE BARROW DOWNS, Summer 1409

Smoke swirled across the fiery spring sky as the King's Men made their last stand. Cries of dying orcs resounded like some hideous chorus, magnifying the terror that gripped the Barrow-downs. Cardolan's end was at hand.

His back to a Standing-stone, Ostoher surveyed the battlefield, all the while praying to Varda for salvation. His loyal warriors seemed hopelessly outnumbered, despite the fact that they had slaughtered a hundred score of the Witch-King's minions. Daylight was still too far away.

The warlord, Rogrog had struck at midnight, allowing the Cardolani no time to dress, much less prepare an adequate line of defense. King Ostoher fought without pants, shirt, or even padding beneath his enchanted breastplate. He cursed himself for his lack of foresight, for he had never expected the Nazgûl's Warlord to force march in the early evening. As he turned toward a noise, he uttered: "Why must these noble souls pay for my confusion?"

Ostoher brought his great-sword down, sweeping through the first pair of attacking Orcs. He moved left and felled another with a mighty blow that cleaved the beast's iron helmet. Then, through the black smoke, he spotted the huge shadow of his enemy. The King turned again, pressing against the cold stone that guarded his ancestors. As the Troll closed, he uttered his last oath: "My blood may color this grassy hill tonight, but the Spirits of the Edain shall sleep undisturbed."

THE TOWER OF AMON SÛL

"By the Valar...we are destroyed..." the Warden of the great seeing stone, the Palantir, turned slowly away from the glowing crystal sphere. His elderly face was drawn and tired looking, the weight of impending doom weighing heavily upon him. From the massive tower of Amon Sûl, he had viewed the invasion of his homeland by the armies of the Witch-King of Angmar.

The sun was just rising, illuminating the battlefield for the seer. Twenty miles north east of the tower it became apparent that the army of his homeland, Cardolan, had been annihilated. Rogrog, had force marched his orcs through the night and attacked with surprise. King Ostoher and his sons were slaughtered with well nigh 80% of the Army of Cardolan. Rogrog was continuing his onslaught and would be at Amon Sûl by nightfall.

The Warden brought the grim news to King Arveleg of Arthedain, Cardolan's northern neighbor.

Arveleg's eyes glowed with rage. "Those weaklings...I knew they could not be trusted hold our flank!" He pounded his mailed fist on the oak table before him, splintering it. His anger struck fear into even his elite stone wardens, hand picked guardians of the Palantír. The Warden, though offended by the insult to his homeland, withheld his feelings. This was no time to lose control of his senses, he reasoned. Right now, his sole purpose was to save the remnants of shattered Cardolan.

The tower of Amon Sûl was a marvel of ancient Númenorean architecture. A monumental spire designed to hold the Master Seeing stone of the North. Constructed of grey-blue granite and rising 280 feet above the moat, its spire could be seen many miles away. The Dunedain felt the tower to be impregnable. The tower itself was surrounded by a patchwork quilt of outer defenses: ditches, walls, and moats. The Garrison of the tower was split between the two Kingdoms of Arthedain and Cardolan, both of whom shared a border at the tower. Arthedain's army numbered 20 knights and 200 foot soldiers, while the army of Cardolan consisted of 40 foot soldiers and 50 elite heavy infantry. A dozen veteran Stone Wardens rounded out the force assigned to protect both King and Palantír. In the past, the two forces had suffered strife when tensions rose between the Kingdoms, but today they would all be either victorious or dead.

Throughout the day, the men of Arthedain and Cardolan worked furiously gathering stones, winding catapults, fletching arrows and boiling oil. Several dozen Cardolani stragglers had even bolstered their ranks. At dusk, the army of Rogrog could be seen. A line of spears and horses spread across the horizon. On the battlements of the outer defenses, the grim defenders stood silently. The cold wind howled through the crenellations. By nightfall, the Army of Angmar had deployed and the tower was surrounded.

From the pinnacle of the mighty tower, King Arveleg gazed into the Palantír, focusing his concentration. Unbeknownst to most, the Stone could be used to communicate with another who had a similar stone. Within the crystal sphere the face of a young man began to form. The adolescent was clad in silver plate armor adorned with seven stars.

Arveleg commanded, "Araphor, my son. My force is surrounded...we can hold siege for a week at most...send reinforcements immediately!" The force of Arveleg's will could be felt through the Palantir and it sent Araphor a step back.

The young Prince responded timidly, "Father, our city of Annuminas is now under siege also. We are being attacked by none other than the right-hand man of the Witch King himself...the Angûlion."

The King fumed. "I did not ask for an excuse!!! I asked for more men...You have eight thousand in Annuminas and another two thousand in Fornost. I command you to send any not directly engaged in the defense of the city. You will be here in three days!!!"

Araphor bowed. "As you command, Father."

The King turned away as the stone grew dark.

King Arveleg had reigned for 53 years, ever since the death of his father, Argeleb, at the hands of the Rhudarans. Arveleg had brought the Kingdom back from the brink of destruction and crushed the enemies of Arthedain. He was truly a Warrior King and a hero even amongst the great. This night, his armor shone like a star and his legendary White Bow sang in the wind.

The proud forces of the Arthedan Dagarim Aran, or Royal Army, stood on the battlements with their black armor covered with black surcoats. Seven white stars were arrayed on each warrior's chest and black-faced shield. The Cúrim, or company, from Cardolan wore silver-colored chainmail, and carried purple shields and surcoats trimmed in silver. They each bore the symbol of their homeland: a hill surrounded by seven stars. For three long days the defenders held a desperate defense of the fortress. They fell, one by one, thinning out the force along the wall. Finally, the forces of Angmar were ready to deliver the coup de grace.

Three hours before sunrise, the mighty horns of Angmar tore the night silence. Waves of orcs broke upon the outer wall. Arrows poured thick upon attacker and defender alike. Stones and boiling oil fell upon screaming orcs, but still they came. Arveleg's bow rang out in the night until his arrows were spent. One by one the Stone Wardens fell before him. Soon, only the King was left, flailing about with his mighty enchanted sword. Piles of orcs grew around him, but it was only a matter of time.

The old Seer bowed his head before the Palantír. "Arveleg is gone. We are lost." After a minute of silence, he rose and with renewed strength lifted the great stone out of its intricate mithril receptacle and gave it to an Arthadan knight standing nearby and said, "Take this and go...escape by any means..." Surprised, the knight took the sphere and stared at it for a second. The Seer grabbed him violently. "I said GO NOW!!!" With that the knight took three squires and passed though the West Door. The Seer hurriedly put a hex on the door to seal it.

With a crash, the East Door fell open. A bloody knight stumbled through, wounded with a dozen arrows. His helmet smashed to the ground as he uttered his final words, "Flee... we are doomed..." As he breathed his last, the Seer could see a huge, grotesque figure pass through the East Door. A massive, bloated creature it was, draped in heavy chainmail and wielding a spiked club. At the troll's belt dangled several human skulls including the head of Ostoher.

The Seer collapsed in horror. "Rogrog..." The club came down. Blood covered the walls.

THARBAD – Urui 1409

The crystal goblet caught the firelight, and dispersed it to the corners of the room, as Ciramir son of Eärendur, the Gondorian legate twirled it in his hand. It was finely made, a work of art like everything that came from the renowned glassworks at Fornost Erain in Arthedain. Goblets like this graced the tables of the Shipwrights of Mithlond, the Queen's board in Fornost, and the rough camp-table of King Ostoher on the Downs, where the Cardolanian army camped this night, ever vigilant against further attacks by the terrible host of Angmar.

Such a simple pleasure, dining with finely crafted tableware. It was almost funny in a way, that when the King went north to meet the onslaught of the Witch-King's realm on the borders of Cardolan, special provisions, placesettings, linen napkins, and his own crystal goblet went north with him. Reports (such as actually reached the city of Tharbad; leagues to the south) indicated that there had already been desperate fighting in the devastated area of Bree-land where the North Highway crossed the East-West road. Still, in the way in which Cardolan and Arthedain had become accustomed to constant war, both with the Witch-King's realm and each other, made Ciramir wonder to himself whether the men of the North were even aware of the full repercussions of their victory or defeat. Neither had yet succumbed to Angmar like their sister kingdom, Rhudaur, which was no more than a puppet state; when the dark realm attacked, they had always dropped their differences and marched together to oppose it. But in the absence of that threat, the two northern realms always fell to bickering, drawing swords on one another over some tiny stretch of land. Even during the reigns of the current kings, Ostoher and Arveleg, peacemakers both, the tension and threat of dissension was omnipresent.

Ciramir was no one's fool. He knew of the worm-tongued dissemblers who came in fair guises to the courts of Arthedain and Cardolan, just as they had come to the King's House in Rhudaur. He knew who they served, and he knew how their efforts made the Witch-King ever more effective. They were in Minas Anor as well, perhaps hoping to turn brother against brother in far off Gondor.

The light burgundy color of the goblet tinted the legate's hand the color of blood, as he held it and gazed into its depths. A sudden chill breeze ruffled the curtains.

Ciramir stood, goblet in hand, and walked to the window to close it. He looked out across the sprawl of Tharbad, and northward at the wide stone highway that stretched, dimly moonlit, into the distance. Somewhere, beyond the shadowy hill barely discernible near the horizon, the armies of Cardolan and Arthedain waited for another assault by the Witch-King's army.

Suddenly, he noticed a rider moving along the highway at great speed, the half shrouded moon dimly reflected in the horse's accoutrements and the mail of the rider, visible as his cloak swept back in the wind.

A rider? At this hour? Ciramir thought

The legate forgot about the breeze that had chilled him, and set the goblet on the window-ledge. His attention was completely on the swift moving rider approaching the North Gate of the city. It was clear that the horseman was no ordinary traveler, for he passed quickly through the refugee settlements across the river. The gate was opened for him at once; without slowing, he spurred his steed along the avenue toward the Royal House. The rumors flew thick and fast in the rider's wake. While Ciramir stood at the window, a clerk reported the news to him, even as it was being echoed in the street below: the army was destroyed, the King and his sons had perished and there were not even enough Cardolanian soldiers to bury them. Arthedanians and Lindon elves had placed Ostoher in his barrow. The Witch- King had been defeated, but at a terrible cost: Tharbad, already crammed with refugees, would soon be flooded with thousands more. And if any part of the Witch-King's army had survived intact, it would soon come to the gates of the city.

And if not? Then there would be war as well. Arthedain would try to capitalize, if it could, on the terrible destruction wrought on Cardolan, which now had no king. And, if rumors were to be trusted, had only a sixteen-year-old girl as an heir.

Odd, Ciramir thought to himself, for it to be so chill in autumn.

Though a watcher by nature, Ciramir knew that now was the time to act, and if there was any substance to what he had heard, he had to act quickly. Turning away from the window, he strode toward the door of his study. A corner of his robe caught the crystal goblet as he walked across the room, and pulled it along. It hung, teetering on the edge of the sill for a long moment, and then crashed to the stone floor, shattering beyond recognition or recovery.