The Battle of the Crossings of Erui

Chapter 1: Beside the Grey Waters

by Barahir-(V)
March 21, 2009

Stories > Prologue > 1 > Next chapter in progress

The great gust of wind blowing over the wilderness rustled the riding cloaks of Eldacar and his men. The slight tangy and sodden smell itself announced the origins of the wind: it was the wind coming from the sea of Rhun, more than an hundred leagues to the east. In the fading light of the sun, the King of Gondor was riding up the small hill dotted with the red rocks. The path cleaved by the harvesters was sure and almost went up to the crest of the hill. Eldacar had about thirty of his own guard riding with him. Among them was, of course, Romenar who was even now scowling at something on the crest.

“No need to feel surly, Romenar. We are almost within sight of the Einos,” said Eldacar to Romenar without taking his eyes from the path.

“I still do not think that you should have gone ahead, leaving all the other captains behind. It would give room for dissensions. It is imperative for you to watch over them and to hold them from bickering amongst themselves,” replied Romenar.

“But I dearly wanted to see the waters of Einos. If I had stayed with them, I would have had to wait till morrow’s dawn. Call it a whim, Romenar.”

“A whim you say. When you are safely enthroned in Osgiliath, then you may follow any whim that fancies your heart but not now. Not now while the fate of Gondor hangs in the balance.”

“‘When I am enthroned’. Hah. It seems that you finally think that this is not a losing cause after all. It is indeed the first time that I have heard you say ‘when’ instead of ‘if’. That is cause for cheer in itself.”

“It seems that your cheerfulness on reaching the Einos is making your tongue go free. What else? Will you starting singing one of those childish songs about leaping cows?” asked Romenar without a trace of mirth.

“Who knows Romenar? Maybe…,” said Eldacar cutting off his own words; they had reached the crest of the hill and from there they could see the glittering waters below and they both halted to gaze upon it.

From the bottom of the hill, beginning with a small curve of water, the lake extended both south and east for many leagues. This sight reminded Eldacar of the lakes in the Lebinin by which he played in the days of his youth. Yet this lake was not just one of the great lakes of Rhovanion. It was the only great lake in Rhovanion for all its great lands. It was said that this lake was first seen by the men of Westernesse when the armies of the Last Alliance, headed by Gil-galad and Elendil himself, came upon it. Elendil had said that the waters of the Einos reminded him of Lake Evendium, in the Kingdom of Arnor, far to the north. In the great turmoil and rise of the South Kingdom in the first millennium of the third age, this lake was mostly forgotten till the time of Romendacil when the first great alliance with the men of the north was forged by Gondor.

“Einos… at last” breathed Romenar, making a small prayer to the Valar.

Eldacar, touched by the fervour shown on his companion’s face, also made a small prayer of thanks in the red light of the setting sun. When his eyes set on the horizon, his face brightened.
“Lo! See there, Romenar, the Evenstar shines upon us. Another omen of our victory,” proclaimed Eldacar.

“In our lands, we hold it ill to speak of a victory before the approach of battle,” added Nalsan, silently halting his horse besides theirs.

Taking a long look at the Captain of Arthedain, Romenar took a deep breath and replied, “I do not remember that being so whilst Arnor was whole and united. Even I remember hearing of old King Argaleb of Arthedain announcing his imminent victory to his troops before his battle with Rhuadur. But that field saw most of his men dead along with himself, if memory serves me correctly”.

“True. That is why we do not speak of such things before a battle,” came the reply from Nalsan. His abrupt ending of his words indicated that he wished to speak no more on it.

The three riders sat still on horses for some time while the other members of their vanguard passed them. One of then slowed downed the descent of his horse and looked back at Eldacar as if waiting for his approval. Eldacar gave slight nod of his head and he continued on. Soon most of the riders had reached the bottom of the slope with the grey waters of the lake stretching out before them glowing with the fire the fire of the sunset.

“His Greatness was right,” murmured Nalsan, as if to himself.

“Of whom are you speaking?” asked Eldacar.

“Eldendil, the founding father of the exiles. He said that there was one lake in the wilderness of Rhovanion that resembles the Evendium. On seeing this grey water spotted with red, my mind wandered to the scripts that Valandil had made of the lands to the east of the Anduin. But it spoke of Elendil's wonder on seeing these waters in the breaking dawn, although we see it in its dusk,” replied Nalsan.

The Sun had turned wholly red to his right and all across the land the darkness was setting in as Eldacar took in deep within him the sight that he was seeing. From the bleakness stretching from his right and waters stretching in front of him, he made it all part of his mind and thought back many years past to all the days of planning and hoping. Hoping that enough men would follow his banner when he reached Einos. Hoping that Gondor would not be broken. Hoping that he was not too late.

Eldacar called to his horse, pulled the reins and began riding down the slope. As he was descending, he addressed both of them without taking his eyes off the fading water,
“No, you are wrong. This is the dawn”.


“And here let it be known that the aid you offered to us for all these weeks past will not be forgotten easily,” announced Eldacar to the man standing opposite to him.

Eldacar was standing inside his tent erected barely half a mile west of the Einos. Of course, his guards and runners stood near him wearing the shining livery of the men of Gondor. It was noon on the day after Eldacar and his vanguard had reached the Einos. They had had no trouble in reaching the camp of the harvesters who were sent months ahead of the army. But the harvesters mainly had been concerned with the hedges to the south and west of Costra in Genna. They had cleared away vast tracts of land in little more than one month. It seemed that Genna’s ambitious dream of great estates of grain fields would be realized after all. This was not the least of their achievements. They then proceeded to cut a large pathway stretching from Genna in Rhovanion to the Einos on the eastern edge of the Brownlands. Eldacar could only wince when he thought of these hardy men cutting the untamable thickets and bushes of the great wilder land.
Thus the army was able to travel a great distance south without much problem of food and discomfort. The supply wagons saw to that. Hundreds of great wagons, drawn by the brown bulls of the Celduin pastures, brought great supplies of salted meat, honey and corn in ample quantity for the marching men. Yet this proved a great strain on the resources of the four kingdoms and these wagons also bought news of dissent from the land of Genna. Voices that had never before spoken now talked of the arrogance of the exiled King of Gondor. Who was he to take so much of the badly needed food from their granaries, they asked. Tales of fear filtered through too. These came from Jahar’s messengers who reported there was fear among the inhabitants of Viddgar that if the Easterlings perceived Eldacar’s plans, they would invade Rhovanion while it was so vulnerable. Eldacar and his generals had already planned for such a thing. Two great fortresses were now being built on the eastern borders of the kingdoms of Rhovanion. But Eldacar had no such fears for his army had been gathered and marching south so swiftly so quickly that it would be the very doing Melkor if the Easterlings heard of his attempt before he sat on his throne in Osgiliath. Eldacar sighed, for there were many hurdles for him to cross before it came to that.

The man Eldacar was addressing was the leader of the harvesters or Wordswari, the men of the Sickle as they called themselves. His name was Ansar, from one of the countless villages of Viddagar. He wore the traditional brown linen shirt and the flowing white pants of the fieldsmen and held the troup in his well-tanned hands. 

“Your words bring warmth to my heart, my Lord," Ansar said. "But we would be indeed grateful to return to our homes for we have wandered farther than any of our kinsmen and our families would be worried. I myself would be pleased to put many leagues between myself and this war even though the Sickness has not touched even one of us”.

Eldacar winced. Ansar had just mentioned one of the obstacles that haunted Eldacar’s mind. The Sickness, the Sickness. So that is what the men had named the ill disease that struck them halfway between Einos and Costra, thought Eldacar. It had hit one fine night when the stars of the Hunter had vanished and a foul wind blew across the open plains. At first it seemed to cause no harm save discomfort. On the dawn of the next day, some of the men of Viddgar and Costra had been afflicted by some strange illness. The skin on their hands and legs turned to a shade of yellow and their breath became foul. Then at night the disease had spread and most of the men had developed a fever so high that not even the best salves of the northern herbalists could cure them. The army had been stalled into a complete halt even after the foul wind had ceased to flow. On the dawn of the next day, most the afflicted men had died and the rest were dying or worsening. A hasty conference of the captains had been called. Ferlow had almost become mad with fear for most of his own company had been afflicted. He even suggested that the army turn back for this ill-wind warned of the disaster to come.

Surprisingly, where all the words of Geran, Eldacar and Romenar had failed, the calm words of Rhuac Aran had gotten through to him. In his usual rolling voice he had convinced Ferlow that this was the first war that the men of Rhovanion of would be fighting someone besides themselves and if the army returned defeated without ever seeing a single foe, their subjects would become disillusioned. Then Ferlow began to rant of the valour of the men of the north even while the other captains were discussing how the rest of the men would be cured and the others talked out of their fear. It took a whole day of the brigade leader’s time to convince the men to continue their march southwards. Yet the exchange was bitter for Eldacar for, as Rhuac said, he had lost more than a thousand men to the sickness and many more than that who had been afflicted that had to be sent back north.

“Yes, the Wordswari had indeed been fortunate for that. All through our journey southwards, not one of us had fallen sick and the number of those who were injured were fewer than by even the most hopeful of foretellings.”

Pausing a little, Eldacar contemplated Ansar. Yes the Wordswari had been struck by fortune, by the grace of the Valar. So were the Yatars and Geran’s men. Indeed not one of them had fallen ill and most their men had not even known of the Sickness until the deaths began and the dead had to be buried under a canopy of fear and panic. Eldacar began to wonder for the first time why was it that only the men of Costra and Viddgar had been afflicted. Perhaps the answer might lie in the fact that most of the soldiers from the two nations were kinsmen from afar and mingled with each other quite freely and the other two forces had mostly kept to themselves. Then again so did the men from Arthedain. Indeed, Nalsan’s men were at first frightened by the Wilderness of Rhovanion stretching endlessly to the south. They many hundreds of leagues east from their homeland and sometimes even Nalsan expressed his concern for Arthedain.

“Even though we have come far, our thoughts still lie with our kinsmen and family. What fate will befall them before we see it again? What of the kingdoms of Cardolan and Rhuadur? Are they still fighting amongst themselves, now that their line is bereft of dignity? Yet such is our fate. To worry and hope for Arthedain,” confided Nalsan on one dreadful night many days ago when they were riding together.

Putting all thoughts of days past out of his thoughts, Eldacar put his will back to the task at hand and said, “Yes, your kinsmen are indeed blessed. May no ill-wind blow on your journey back north to our beautiful kingdom”.

“Thanks be to you, my Lord. May your journey bear fruit by the grace of the stars. Honour to serve.” replied Ansar. He then bowed to Eldacar and went stepped outside his tent and went back to his men. Within the next two hours, the Wordswari would begin their long and cumbersome journey back up north but without a hint of regret in their hearts.   


Rhauc Aran, leader of the forces of the Yatars, was riding at the bottom of one of the many small hills that dotted the southward lands of the Einos. The land before him to his right was utterly barren, the soil with a strong tint of brown in them. It was few hours after noon on the day after the Wordswari had been dismissed back to the north. The host had been resting after their long march south and Rhuac knew in his heart that the easiest part of the journey south had ended. The next part of their march now stood before him: A stretch of hundred leagues south from the grey waters of the Einos to the lands of the Morannon. He shuddered within his mind for that march would pass over leagues of barren land and a part that would be over the Brownlands themselves. It was quite a difficult task for any host but, now that the Wordswari had been sent back home, it would be an even more cumbersome task for the host for the reason that the men now had to cut their own way out of the thickets of Rhovanion. True that most of the great wilderness of Rhovanion had been left behind but still it would be all the more tiresome for the great host. He briefly wondered how it was that Gondor had been able to send armies seamlessly into the great wilderness.

Rhuac shook his head twice. It was of no use to think about things that they had to do, for they had come too far to turn back now. Their host had almost reached the borders of the lands of Gondor and now the cavalry of their army would now be used to form large scouting companies intended to intercept any of the scouts of Gondor. Rhuac himself was with a scouting company. He had about 20 riders with him and most of them were lancers though a few were horse archers. Eldacar, the exiled King of Gondor, had ordered the scouting companies forth since the army would set off from the shores of Einos on morrow’s first light. Even with the departure of the sickle-men, the intention of the captains was that the army should make south with all possible swiftness to give Castamir lesser time to be ready for them.
“There really is going to be a blood-drenched battle soon, isn’t there my Lord?” asked Mensil, one of the riders of his company and also his runner, was now riding beside him.

Rhuac pondered over what to tell the rider before replying. He looked at Mensil for a few moments. The rider was garbed in the usual cavalry outfit of the Yatars, the red spear with the winged end, the grey cloak about his neck and the brown leather armour. He had the sun-filled gold hair and grey eyes of the northmen. Rhuac fleetingly thought that this was how Eldacar would have looked in his youth. Verily young this rider was; no more than a score of summers would have graced him. Rhuac looked at his eyes and felt that they were hollow and bloodshot.  “There is a tide of battles in the affairs of men. This has been so for many centuries past and so it shall be while the heart of men desires what is not theirs by right,” replied Rhuac.

His words did not seem to have assuaged the misgivings of rider’s heart for soon he asked, “But why should so many die for the greed of few men? For thousands shall be dead in little over a month’s time and weeping of their kinsmen will drench the land. Why has this come to be?” A look of desperation came to his eyes and Rhuac was at loss at how to comfort the youth.

Then he felt contempt rising through him. Contempt for the youth, contempt for those weak ones who still that believed that blood should not be allowed to flow over the land. Then as his voice of reason came back to him, he softened his eyes a little. He was addressing a young warrior, a rider who was little more than a boy. He had, at worst, injured his jousting partner in the stables and now his captains required of him to slay men in battle. He was probably shaken at the thought of battle filled with the dying cries of men. He reached out to put a reassuring hand on the shoulder of the youth and said “It is the duty of all those who are still true and just to see that the greed and hatred of these few does not crush the hearts and minds of these many. This we will do through arms if need be.”

Mensil nodded as if he had understood the full meaning of what he had said. Maybe he had really understood. The youth went trotting back to the company of his fellow spearmen.
The company of Rhuac had reached the gap between the two southernmost hills and halted for few moments under the strange trees, grateful for their shade. The riders dismounted and started eating what had they rationed in their bags and allowed their horses to drink from the small pond sheltered by the trees. There they lingered as the heat of the sun grew less.

After a few minutes had passed and the riders had begun mounting their horses, a small cloud of dust was rising from the gap between the hills. Soon there came into the eyes of the sharpest among them the view of three riders on brown mounts trotting north and west from the gap. Rhuac could see that these were not riders of the host by the strange shapes of the helms on the heads of the riders which were in the form of curved gauntlets. Then their identities dawned upon him. These were messenger riders from the lands of Gondor. Verily, two of the riders were cloaked in red, the sigil of Castamir himself. Of these things Rhuac had learnt from Eldacar. But one of the riders was cloaked in green and the hood which covered the top of his head was also green and to his knowledge none of the warriors of the south wore such garments.

Eldacar thought the host would first encounter the scouts of Gondor halfway to the Morannon and yet these were plainly the messengers of Gondor and they had come upon them by the waters of the Einos. Rhuac smiled for he had said to Eldacar that he expected them to be discovered before they reached the Einos and his prediction had come close to the truth. But it would be best if these riders had been disposed of before they could reach Osgiliath. Silently he called to Mensil and informed him what he required of his company for these newcomers were not yet aware them.

Unaware of the presence of the great host a few leagues north and a company of riders a stone’s throw away, the riders of Gondor trotted on. When they come within two hundred yards of the trees, they began to slow down and it was then that Rhuac gave his orders. Suddenly six of his lancers charged from the trees. The riders were surprised by the charge of these new riders but soon four of Rhuac’s archers rode forth and as soon as they had come within range of the messengers, his archers let loose their arrows. The brown-shafted arrows of the north arced through the sky and fell among them. But now these messengers had become aware of their peril and turned their horses east all the while the lancers charged at them. The arrows neither killed any of them nor unhorsed them but Rhuac himself saw that one of the red cloaks had suffered an arrow to his arm. Yet for all the surprise of their attack, the newcomers escaped to the north-east for the horses of Rhovanion were bred for endurance and not swiftness, which the horses of Gondor excelled in. His riders had lost sight of them within the first hour of the chase and the messengers were last seen galloping through the hills to the east of the Einos. At the start of the chase, the green clad rider turned about to look back at Rhuac and it seemed to him that the rider put his fist to his heart as if in salutation.

Realizing the futility of the chase, his lancers turned and came back to the trees. Rhuac pondered over what to do next and decided that the captains of the host needed to know of this as swiftly as possible. Leaving the company to one of his guardsmen, he rode back with Mensil to the encampment nestled between the Einos and the hills. After a quarter of an hour of hard riding, he passed through the palisades of the encampment and came to the tent on which the great banner of Eldacar fluttered in the breeze. The guardsmen of Eldacar, seeing Rhuac, made way for him and he entered the tent to find Eldacar and Romenar discussing their stratagems again.

 “What has happened, Rhuac? It is not like you to walk into the tent of captain so suddenly,” enquired Romenar who stood up to stand between Rhuac and Eldacar .

Briefly he reported to Eldacar all that passed within the last few hours, and all the while Romenar asked him questions of the riders, of their cloaks and whether they had words with them or not. Eldacar spoke nothing but merely contemplated on his words.

“From the words of my riders it seems that these riders might come to the eastern shores of the Einos and there they would catch sight of our host. It seems that these messengers would learn of us and in turn so will Castamir within a month’s time when they return back to Osgiliath” announced Rhuac grimly.

“It is not as grim as you might think, Rhuac. It was long forseen that the scouts of Castamir would espy us. But these are messengers as you say. It is likely that they were sent to spread words of dissension among the kings of the northmen. It is by the grace of the Valar that we were able to stop their going further north, for now surely they will turn southwards to warn Castamir,” was the reply from Romenar, though he started scowling.

“I have one question for you, Rhuac. You said that the third rider was wearing a green cloak, did you notice anything else about the rider?” asked Eldacar sharply.

Rhuac took a deep breath before answering. “Yes my lord. He had no helm on his head unlike the other two, but he had a strange, green hood that masked his face even in the heat of the day,” replied Rhuac, mystified by Eldacar’s query.

“Was that so, Rhuac? Then it is good. It is well that these messengers escaped,” proclaimed Eldacar loudly.

Bemused, Rhuac asked “Your words puzzle me, my lord. How can the colour of the rider’s cloak aid us if these riders bring word of our host to the southern lands?”

A smile now split Eldacar’s face and, to the surprise of Rhuac, he started laughing and the tones of his mirth reverberated through the tent. His laugh was so mirthful that Rhuac now turned to Romenar for aid but to his bewilderment he saw that a smile played upon the face of Romenar as he looked towards the southern skies.

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