The Battle of the Crossings of Erui
Chapter 1: Beside the Grey Waters
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,
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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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