4. Chapter 3
Despite it already being autumn plans were put into place to mount an immediate campaign against this new and unlooked for enemy. An army was mustered at Lastbridge and marched north in late Ivanneth under the command of Prince Elion and Lord Barachon. They were joined on the North Road at Bearcliffe by a second host of Hill Folk who had come down from High Burgh in the Eastern Fells under the command of their chieftain Ulfur. He ruled the craggy lands that lay north of the East Road and between the two rivers, where only his folk lived, and gave his full allegiance to the King.
After a week of marching they reached Northford and joined with the force there. Upwards of six thousand men, mostly foot crossed the river a few days later and struck back southward on the far bank before turning into Rushwater Vale and climbing into the hills. Although further, the going was much easier than it would have been taking the direct route across the moors, and it meant they could go well equipped and provisioned with a heavy wagon train. After a fortnight, having skirted the moors to the east, they arrived on the easier terrain of the northern plain and split their force in two so as to close the camp in a pincer movement. Apparently taken by surprise, the numerous defenders made a sortie when they saw the Prince approaching from the south only to be smashed from the rear by the second force. There were many orcs in the enemy host, as expected, but also wild men who were the northern kin of the Hillmen. But it was the commander and his lieutenants, or those few who had survived the battle and the sack of the camp that followed it who were cause of the greatest surprise. They were clearly Dunedain, but their gear and manner of speech was unlike any they had ever seen before. Under none too gentle questioning it was learned that they came originally from a land far to the south, and were in service to the King Of Angmar in Carn Dûm, a great lord of true Numenorean lineage. Elion and his captains deduced from this that he must be some sort of black renegade, though why such should style himself thus and install himself in the bleak uttermost north was a mystery to them. Carn Dûm lay forty leagues or more away where the Misty Mountains ended in the northern plain. None save perhaps orcs had ever dwelt there in our time but it was reputed to be a place of ancient ruins, and it was said a terrible battle had been fought there at the end of the first age against the servants of the Dark Lord. That someone should now choose it as their seat and raise a host of orcs and wild men seemed very ill, and gave them all some pause for thought.
Prince Elion however resolved that they should march north immediately and test the strength of this new enemy, and was supported enthusiastically by Ulfur, although Barachon urged caution due to the season and the problems of resupplying their host in that vast empty land. It was decided that they would leave a holding force at the camp to guard their rear and march north up the road after a further day of rest and preparation. However late that evening a rider came in haste from the south bearing bad news. A large force of orcs from the Misty Mountains, who had hitherto played no part in events, had entered Eastern Rhudaur and were laying waste to the settlements of the Hillmen there and threatening the High Burgh. And as night fell a wind rose in the north and it began to snow heavily. When morning came it was still falling steadily and there was now enough lying to make a march difficult. Elion must have cursed his luck, but he had no choice now but to abandon all thought of marching on Carn Dûm, with half his force desperate to return south to defend their people, and the risk of becoming stranded with dwindling supplies by the unseasonal snow. He gave the order to strike camp with all haste and resolved that they would gather all their strength the following spring and come north again prepared for a long campaign. The Hillmen departed southward across the moors, taking the most direct route home, whilst the remainder of the host retraced their steps across the plain with some difficulty at first, though the snow soon eased noticeably as they moved south.
The Hillmen returned home and drove the mountain orcs back to where they had come from with great loss, and peace was restored for a time. The breaking of the camp must have been a significant blow for the King Of Angmar, for no orcs came south to trouble our people until well after the turn of the year, and then they were few in number and only troubled the remoter areas. It was an unusually hard winter though, the worst for a hundred years, and snow lay on the ground for several months and regularly blocked the roads and made travel impossible.
Galdir had shown great skill and courage during the brief campaign and was commended for it and quickly promoted to sergeant. My father must have been very jealous of his older brother when he returned home in his battle stained gear full of thrilling tales, as he was still to young to begin his own service. My grandfather Carandir continued to improve, and was able to resume managing our affairs. Without the tithes from our landsmen and with our flocks sold the family fortune was on the wane. However he was nothing if not canny, and with the proceeds from the sale of what remained of our flocks he bought some wains and oxen and hired some of his former folk who had come down to town to work them. He commenced trading and carrying goods up and down the North Road, including work for the army keeping the newly enlarged garrison at Northford well supplied. He also had an interest in a tannery just downriver which brought a small income so the family were able to maintain a good standard of living.
I have often wondered what would have happened if Prince Elion had marched north instead of turning back when he did, I cannot help thinking that it might have been possible to strike a serious blow against our foe at that time as all the signs are that he was still very much building his strength and vulnerable. And if we had seen the sense to make common cause with the other kingdoms and marched together on Carn Dûm, how differently things could have turned out. But it was not to be.
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