It has been told elsewhere how at the end of the Third Age the Dark Lord Sauron was vanquished and the kingdoms of the Faithful were brought back together under King Elessar. In this newly reunited realm, in a region known as Lamedon, Thelron was born in the ninth year of the Fourth Age. And having lost his mother early on, he grew up with his father, Caranor, in a humble dwelling on the outskirts of a town named Calembel.
Now on a particular night shortly after his twentieth birthday, Thelron got into a fight and almost beat a man to death. The authorities told him that if he wanted to avoid severe punishment, he had the option of joining a company of soldiers from Lamedon that was to take part in the campaign to eradicate the remaining orc gangs that lurked in the Mountains of Shadow. The young man reluctantly accepted the option, not knowing that his chosen course would one day take him to found a city that over the following centuries would become the great bastion of Gondor in the South.
When Thelron arrived home on the following morning, he went to his father and told him what had happened, and Caranor, who had often shown contempt for the kingdom's political and military leaders, was displeased. They engaged in a heated argument, and at one point the young man said to his father with disdain, "I won't end up like you. I'll have a purpose in my life."
"One day," replied Caranor in a harsh tone, "you will learn the true purpose of the House of Haeron" and walked away.
Thelron was astounded by his father's statement. For he knew not of the sacred treasure in his family's keep, nor could he have imagined the import of the vow his forefather made to the monarch in those days of turmoil beyond measure.
The soldiers of Lamedon departed on the following day, and a few weeks later they arrived in Osgiliath, where they were joined by five other companies from various regions of Gondor. The units were told to gather at the Amphitheater of Menelmacar on the eve of the winter's solstice. There they were welcome by the Prince of Ithilien and told of their initial assignments by Hérion of Cair Andros, who had been chosen to lead the campaign against the orcs.
The company of Lamedon was paired up with a group from Lebennin under the command of Captain Horngîl. They were given responsibility for the southern region and told to establish a base of operations to the east of the Elf Forest, about midway between Emyn Arnen and the river Poros.
From the start Thelron demonstrated uncommon strength and great ability with the sword. And one day Captain Horngîl of Lebennin, who had been keeping an eye on the magnificent young soldier from Lamedon, asked Thelron to come to his table for lunch. "Where did you learn to fight like that?" asked the captain.
"Here at camp, sir," replied the Lamedonian.
"That kind of skill cannot be taught, here or anywhere else." said the captain.
The corners of Thelron's lips curled up slightly, as he was evidently pleased by the captain's comment.
Horngîl then sat back and looked thoughtfully at Lamedonian for a few seconds. "Something tells me." he said, "that you are meant for something more important than chasing orcs."
As the campaign against the orcs intensified, Thelron's skills became apparent to his peers. They began to take notice of the tall young man who 'killed orcs by the dozens' and would often turn up at a critical moment to save a companion in need. Before long, the captain decided to promote the Thelron to troop leader.
Now seven years into the campaign, the company of Lamedon was ordered to track a group of marauding orcs that had been seen heading east near the river Poros. As a result, the men marched south and up into the mountains looking for a trace of the orcs. But the creatures had seen them coming, and as the men entered a ravine, they were caught in an ambush and forced to retreat. Before they could get out of the trap, however, the captain of the company was killed.
The misstep left the company without a commander, and they immediately began to look for a replacement. After a couple of weeks, following the advice of Captain Horngîl, the committee chose Thelron to be the new captain of the company of Lamedon.
Over the next two and a half years the men of Lamedon pushed deep into the mountains and destroyed several orc bases, after which things began to quiet down considerably in the south. The speed and effectiveness of the campaign led by the new captain impressed commander Hérion, who asked the young man to come to Osgiliath. "We are extremely pleased with your work captain, even the Prince has said as much," said the commander. "I want you to know that your record has been cleared and you are now free to do as you like. But I would like to encourage you to stay with us. There is still important work to be done, and we could certainly use someone with your skills."
On the way back to the base, Thelron considered his options. He could remain with Hérion for a while and see what the commander had in store for him, he could offer his services to a feudal lord, or he could seek opportunities in the North. He decided to postpone the decision and ask for leave to go see his father.
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When Thelron arrived at his childhood home, he found his father sitting on the front porch. The two men embraced and then sat down side by side. They initially talked about the young man's journey and other trivial matters, but after a while Thelron hesitantly began to tell his father about the campaign against the orcs. Caranor listened politely to his son, nodding on occasion, which gave the young man the confidence to go on. Finally, with a touch of pride in his voice, Thelron told his father that he was now a captain.
"Really," replied Caranor without much enthusiasm.
The young man was disappointed by his father's indifference. "I bet my mother would have been proud of me," he said.
That comment appeared to irritate the older man. "What do you know about your mother?" he asked rhetorically.
"Not much thanks to you," said Thelron raising his voice slightly. "Were it not for a neighbour, I wouldn't even know where she came from or who her father was."
"Good. Why don't you go to her family and ask for a handout," replied Caranor.
Thelron stood up. "I can't understand why the daughter of a knight would marry a man with no ambition," he said. "How did she even meet someone like you?"
Caranor took a gulp from his cup and ignored the question.
"You know what, I'll go find out myself," said the young man and walked away.
The next morning Thelron left town and headed towards Dol Amroth. Six days later he arrived in the city and immediately started asking about his late grandfather's landholding. After some time he came upon a man who told him that Bardhil, Sir Thannor's oldest son, was now Lord of the estate. After that the man proceeded to give Thelron directions on how to get to the property, and on the following day the young captain finally arrived at the manor house and requested an audience with the owner.
"So you are the son of Limwen," said Bardhil as he examined the young man. "What brings you here?"
"I've come to inquire about my mother, sir," answered Thelron.
"I see," said Bardhil. "And what would you like to know?"
The young man thought about it for a moment and then asked, "Do you know how she met my father?"
"They met in this house," said the Lord of the manor.
The answer was totally unexpected and the expression on Thelron's face was one of disbelief. "In this house!" he said. "How did my father come to this house?"
Bardhil took a deep breath, ordered his thoughts and said after a moment, "From what I understand, my father first became acquainted with Caranor during the Battle of the Pelennor fields."
"What!" whispered Thelron with increasing astonishment.
"It was during a sortie led by Prince Imrahil to assist Éomer of Rohan," continued the Lord of the manor. "At one point my father lost his mount and was quickly surrounded by orcs. His sword had fallen out of reach, and he was expecting to receive a fatal blow at any moment, when suddenly Caranor came crashing through with swords in both hands. He killed a couple of orcs and put the rest to flight, and thus saved my father's life."
Bardhil paused, took a sip from his cup and then added, "After the war my father sought out Caranor and invited him to come to this house as a member of his personal guard."
Thelron looked dazed. "My father took part in the war?" he said.
Bardhil chuckled. "He didn't tell you?" he said with a grin. Then he took a moment to search his memory and said, "If I recall correctly, Caranor moved to Minas Tirith just before the war, where he joined the City Guard and fought under Warden Húrin."
Thelron fell silent for a moment. His father had fought against the Dark Lord and had not mentioned it once. He had also saved a knight's life and served him afterwards. Caranor's life had been far more significant than he had imagined. He wondered what had caused him to abandon all that and end up in an obscure corner of the realm. "So that's how my parents met," he said finally.
"It was clear to us," said Bardhil, "that Caranor and Limwen had feelings for one another, though neither said anything."
"But something must have happened to change that," said the young captain.
"Well, it got sort of complicated," said Bardhil, "as it often did with Caranor."
"How so?" asked Thelron.
"You see," said the Lord of the house, "when my father died, Caranor informed me that he would be leaving our service. I offered him to stay on as chief of my personal guard, for I admired his skill as a soldier, but he turned down my offer saying, 'Your father's invitation I accepted in payment of his debt to me, but to your obligations I hold no claim.'"
Thelron thought that it sounded like his father, all right. "And my mother went with him?" he asked.
"No," answered Bardhil. "At first Limwen tried to convince him to accept my offer, but he would not budge; so before he departed, she declared her feelings and asked him to take her with him, but he rejected her saying that he had no lands or titles to present to so fair a lady."
"They surely met again," said the young captain.
"About three years after my father's death," said the Lord of the house, "Limwen left this house, and a few months later we received word that she had wed Caranor."
The trip to Dol Amroth took longer than Thelron had expected, and he now had no time to return to Calembel, so that very afternoon he started his journey back to the base.
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By the year Fo.A. 42 the orc threat had been virtually extinguished, and folks from all regions of Gondor began to resettle the territory south of the river Poros, part of what had been known as South Gondor in the old days. The majority concentrated in a place called The Hook, an area of fertile lands where the river described a vast semicircle just before turning northwest and into the Anduin.
The increased activity in that corner of the realm moved the King to order that a permanent garrison be stationed at the Crossing of Poros to protect the settlers. Command of the force was given to Elboron, son of Faramir. Hérion, Thelron and Horngîl were assigned to the garrison as captains, as well as a man from Lossarnach named Handir. To defend the crossing itself, a fort was built about one hundred yards to the east of the bridge on the north bank of the river.
Two years later the men of Harad, who still contested the territory, began to launch raids on the settlers on the banks of the Poros. In response, Elboron led an expeditionary force to engage the Haradrim and drive them back, but he pushed too far south, and his company was waylaid near the edge of the desert. The soldiers from his task force that made it back to the fort believed that the commander had been taken prisoner by the southerners.
Upon hearing this, Thelron rode south with ten men to scout the location of the enemy camp. The plan was to obtain as much information as possible and then ride back to the fort to develop a strategy to secure the release of the prisoners. But seeing that the Haradrim were preparing to move further south, Thelron decided to act immediately.
He ordered three of his men to follow him into the enemy camp. "Sir, with all due respect," said one of the soldiers, "our orders are to gather information, not to attempt a rescue. If this goes wrong ____"
Before the soldier could finish, Thelron grabbed him by the shirt and forcefully pulled him closer. "Your orders are what I say they are," he said in a vicious tone. After that he shoved away the soldier and chose a different man to come with him. Then the captain and his three companions infiltrated the camp under cover of darkness, quietly disposed of the guards posted outside the prisoners' tent and sneaked back out with Captain Elboron and four other men. Immediately following that, they rode back to the crossing, where Thelron was welcome as a hero by all except Horngîl, who looked at him gravely.
Over the following months the soldiers of the garrison continued to watch over the settlers and engage in occasional skirmishes with the men of Harad. But one day Elboron convened the captains and told them that the King had signed a treaty with Harad. The commander of the garrison then unfurled a map of the region and said, "According to the treaty, the people of Gondor will be allowed to settle the territories south of the Poros down to this point, while Harad will be allowed to incorporate some of the land north of the Harnen and west of the main road."
After that Elboron proceeded to answer a few questions from his captains and then made a final statement. "One more thing," he said, "I also want to announce that I'll be relinquishing my post at the end of the year. Captain Hérion will take over as new commander of this garrison."
With things now quiet in the south, Faramir, who had heard about the daring rescue of Elboron, decided to invite Thelron to dine with him at the Palace in Emyn Arnen. From the start the Prince showed much interest in his guest's background and seemed surprised to hear that he had grown up in Calembel. "You do not have the appearance of one who grew up among peasants. Are your parents also from Lamedon?" he asked.
"My mother was from Dol Amroth, my lord," replied the captain.
"From Dol Amroth, I see," said the Prince. "What was her father's name?"
Thelron furrowed his brow, confused by Faramir's interest. "Her father's name was Thannor," he said.
The Lord of Ithilien nodded slowly. "Ah, Sir Thannor," he said. "Of course."
Thelron found Faramir's comment odd. "Did you know him, my lord?" he asked.
Faramir explained to him that as a child he had spent some time at the court of his uncle Imrahil, Lord of Dol Amroth, and had met many of the knights of the Princedom. Then the Steward asked the captain about his father, to which the young man simply replied, "My father doesn't say much, my lord."
After dinner the two men took a walk around the Palace garden. They talked about the campaign to eradicate the orcs and discussed the situation of the settlers in South Gondor. At length, they came to the top of a mound and onto a platform that faced west. "It all seems peaceful from here, doesn't it?" asked Faramir as he looked at the Anduin in the distance.
"It does, my lord," replied Thelron.
"It must have looked just as peaceful," said the Prince, "after the Dark Lord was defeated in the War of Last Alliance." After that he directed his gaze to the ruins of Osgiliath to the north and his eyes darkened. "But we know what happened after that."
A few seconds later the Lord of Ithilien stepped off the platform and began to walk back towards the Palace. "I believe we are entering a dangerous age." he said gravely. After that he turned his head and looked reflectively towards the mountains in the east for a moment and then continued in a somber tone, "One in which the true Kings of Arda will be pushed aside, and the seeds planted by the original Dark Lord will grow unchecked, consuming the hearts of men."
Thelron was not sure if the Prince was talking to him or just musing out loud, but the words made little sense to him. "I am afraid I don't understand, my lord," he said.
Faramir turned to his guest with a blank expression. Then a slight smile gradually appeared on his face as he remembered to whom he was talking. "Please forgive me," he said and then paused for a moment to look for the right words. "What I meant to say is that there are still dark and powerful forces out there, and the struggle to preserve our legacy is not yet ended. We must not forget who we are and where we came from." A few seconds later he added, "And this is especially important now that the Númenóreans are all but gone."
Thelron was confused by the last statement. He knew that the founders of the kingdom had come from a place called Númenor and naturally assumed that its current inhabitants descended from those men. He could not understand why the Prince had said that they were 'all but gone'. "My lord, you said that the Númenóreans were gone, but weren't they our forefathers?" he asked.
"Of some of us," said Faramir. "But the vast majority of the original families died out long ago and over time their blood lost much of the potency it once had. There are very few now who can be said to carry the blood of Númenor." He paused for a second and then added with a hint of sadness in his voice, "And our increasing isolation from the West can only diminish those who will follow. There may soon come a day when there is no trace left of the old Númenóreans in Middle-earth."
As they approached the doorway to the palace, Faramir resumed, "But remember, the Flame of the West has not yet perished. And it shall remain alit as long as the children of the Faithful remember the past." Then he stopped and turned to look into the young man's grey eyes. "It is my believe that each of us is meant to play a part in this struggle, especially those in whose veins the blood of Númenor runs true."
As Thelron listened to the last few words, for an instant a strange feeling came upon him. It was an undefined vision, like the memory of an old dream, of far-away lands, of sacred bonds and unimaginable loss.
Then Faramir put his hand on the young captain's shoulder and said to him, "You are a magnificent soldier and a strong leader. I foresee great things ahead for you. Farewell."
The day Thelron returned to the fort, Elboron came and sat next to him at dinner. Initially they talked about the former's meeting with the Prince in Emyn Arnen, but the discussion soon landed on the topic of Númenor. It was something that the heir of Faramir enjoyed talking about, and to Thelron's surprise, the commander that night gave him a detailed account of the events and circumstances that led to the downfall of that legendary realm.
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Two years later, on a late spring afternoon, Hérion called the captains to a meeting. Once they had all gathered in the situation room, the commander began briefing his officers. "I've been informed," he said, "that there is a breakaway group of Haradrim that are opposed to the treaty with Gondor and are intent on driving the settlers out of the southern banks. Reports indicate that they are led by a man called Ublayr and have around four thousand fighting men. The Barkum, as they call themselves, have established their base on the banks of the river Harnen near the edge of the Mountains of Shadow."
"The Steward," continued Hérion, "considers this a significant threat to the safety of the settlers and to our general presence in the South. On behalf of the King, he has committed an additional force of two hundred infantrymen to our garrison for the defence of the southern territories. This new unit will be led by captain Doron of Linhir and should be arriving within a fortnight. I have ordered the construction of a small fort about a half mile west of the settlements at The Hook to serve as a base for Doron's men."
In the early fall Hérion received word that a Barkum force of around five hundred fighters was seen advancing north, apparently headed for the settlements at The Hook. In response, the commander ordered Thelron, Horngîl and Handir to march west with their respective horsemen to assist the men of the western outpost.
When they arrived at The Hook, they found the settlements deserted. Captain Doron told Thelron that the settlers had taken their harvest and temporarily moved to a wooded area about two miles to the west as a precaution. The captains then went inside the fort to develop a plan to deal with the arrival of the Barkum.
"Have they set up any supply lines?" asked Thelron.
"Not according to our scouts," answered Doron.
"Then they must be running low on supplies and have probably resorted to foraging," said Thelron.
"Perhaps their plan is to establish a self-sustaining base at The Hook once they have driven out the settlers," said Horngîl.
"To do that, they'd have to get rid of us first," said Handir.
"Right," said Thelron. "So we should be prepared for an attack on this outpost."
They spent a few more minutes studying the terrain and analysing contingencies. Finally, Thelron said, "So this is what we'll do: Doron's men will defend the fort, Horngîl and Handir will hide in this small wooded area to the west, and I'll position my men to the east of the fort to be ready to attack their right flank should they decide to approach from the south."
When the Barkum moved to within a day of The Hook, the men of Gondor took up their positions. As they waited for the enemy to arrive, a messenger came to the small patch of wood where Horngîl and Handir were hidden and told them that advanced enemy units were seen moving to the southeast. Horngîl's face immediately turned wary. He got up, walked towards the edge of the trees and looked anxiously to the southeast. "What are they doing?" he wondered out loud.
"Perhaps they just want to inspect the area before the main army arrives," said Handir.
"Perhaps," said Horngîl, unconvinced.
The main Barkum force took about one and a half days longer than estimated to arrive in the area. When they finally did, they headed for the settlements, inspected them and found nothing of value. Then, as the captains had expected, they marched west towards the Gondorian base.
Once the Barkum came within two hundred yards of the fort, they stopped and sent messengers demanding that the occupants laid down their weapons. But Doron refused to do so, and the southerners immediately began to prepare their assault on the western outpost. They gathered a pile of wood, started a blaze and lit up several torches. Then they began to march towards the fort with the intention of setting fire to the wooden structure. As they came within fifty yards of the gates, however, the Gondorian cavalry sprang into action and charged at the enemy from both sides.
Seeing this, the leader of the southrons directed his fighters to retreat at once. Thelron, however, chose to press the advantage and ordered his men to pursue. Soon after that he heard Horngîl call out his name from several yards away. He stopped and turned to look at the captain from Lebennin, who warned him that it was too dangerous to chase the enemy beyond that point, but the Lamedonian simply swivelled his horse around and continued to go after the southern fighters.
The Barkum ran towards a large rocky outcrop to the southeast of the fort. As they moved past it, they turned to the left and disappeared from sight behind the large boulders. The horsemen nonetheless continued to pursue the southern fighters around the mound until they too were out of view of the fort. As they advanced further, however, the Lamedonian captain began to notice that something wasn't right: the horses had started tumbling to the ground all around him. They had fallen into trap!
The southern fighters turned around to attack the hapless soldiers, and Thelron immediately ordered his men to retreat back to the fort. He then swung his own horse around, and as he did so, he caught a glimpse of a man standing near the top of the rocky outcrop looking straight down at him. One of the scouts would later report that the man was Ublayr, the leader of the Barkum.
Thelron made it back to the fort with fewer than half of his men. He waited outside for a short while to see what the Barkum would do, and when it became clear that the southerners did not intend to attack, he went inside and sat alone.
A few minutes later one of the scouts came to Horngîl and told him that the Barkum had started to head back south. With the immediate threat removed, the captain went to one of Thelron's men and asked him what had happened. The soldier told him that the southerners had set up hidden pits behind the rocky outcrop.
Horngîl was furious. He turned to Handir and said, "Did you hear that? Hidden pits!"
"I suppose that explains the delay," said Handir. "While we waited for them, they dug out pits for us."
After a couple of minutes the expression on Horngîl's face had turned to one of subdued apprehension. He slowly scanned the plains to the south as if trying to figure out from where the next threat would come. "I think he was testing us," he said at length. Then he pulled something out of his saddle bag and turned to face Handir, "And we failed."
Following that exchange the two men went inside the fort to talk to Doron. On their way to the briefing room, they heard a loud thump and realised that it was Thelron, who had pounded the table with his fist. A second later they heard the Lamedonian whisper to himself, "Why didn't I see it?"
"That's an easy one," said Horngîl bitingly. "Your pride and arrogance blinded you."
The Lamedonian had his head in his hands and did not say a word.
"I thought you'd eventually learn to control your impulses," continued Horngîl. "I suppose I was wrong about you." After that he started to walk away, but stopped after a couple of steps. Then he turned around and shouted angrily, "A lot of good men were lost out there today." Finally, after taking a few seconds to calm down, he shook his head slightly and said sarcastically, "Behold the invincible Lamedonian!"
When they returned to the Crossing of Poros, Thelron went to Hérion and told him that he wished to resign from military service. The commander told him in response that he would hate to lose a man of his quality and advised him to take a few weeks to think it over.
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A couple of days later Thelron arrived in Osgiliath and waited for the ferry that would take him across the river. From the dock he could see the new bridge being built a few hundred feet to the north. Standing there alone, by the mighty Anduin, the events of the last days faded temporarily into the background and he felt some peace at last.
"Suilaid Dúnadan," said a voice behind him.
Thelron had not heard anyone approach. He turned around quickly and saw a man almost as tall as himself standing in front of him. But there was something peculiar about him; his skin seemed faintly luminous and his voice oddly melodic. Then he realised it: he was standing before an elf. "Who are you? What do you want?" he said in a rude tone.
The elf stiffened, taken aback by the man's confrontational attitude. "Enemies we are not," he said, "and yet with hostility I am met."
Thelron was not sure what to make of the elf. "Is it your custom to sneak up behind people?" he said.
"If I startled you, I apologize," replied the elf.
The captain was a little annoyed; he found the elf's demeanour condescending. "So what do you want?" he said.
The elf held the man's gaze for a few seconds. "I am Elrohir of the House of Elrond," he said finally.
Thelron had heard the name Elrond before, but could not remember where. It seemed to him that it must have been in one of those legendary tales from the first years of the realm.
"Will you not tell me your name," said the elf, interrupting the captain's pondering.
The man twisted his mouth slightly and said, "I am Thelron, son of Caranor, if you must know."
Elrohir then examined the man's uniform for a few seconds. "You are a soldier, I see," he said.
The elf's innocuous comment hit Thelron like punch on the stomach, for it reminded him of his misfortune. The memories of what had taken place near the western outpost came rushing back into his head. Again he felt terrible, as if the air had been sucked out of him. "Not for long," he muttered, mainly to himself.
"What do you mean?" inquired the elf.
Thelron immediately regretted having made that remark. He did not want to talk about his problems with a stranger. He became uneasy and turned away. "Nothing," he blurted out. After a moment he looked back at the elf and found his eyes staring straight at him. He felt as though Elrohir could see right through him, and he cast his eyes down.
The son of Elrond continued to scrutinise the man for a short while. "You have suffered a setback," he said at last.
Thelron did not answer. Instead, he leaned against one of the pillars that supported the platform and stared down at the floor.
"Whatever happened," said the elf, "the next time will be different."
"There will be no next time," muttered the captain.
Elrohir's eyes expressed dismay. He took a deep breath and said admonishingly, "Many a man of your stock I have known since Valandil held the Scepter in Annúminas, and not once I heard a Dúnadan speak this way."
The captain was not pleased with the elf's reproach. He began to utter an angry response, but something held him back. He suddenly remembered that he had no right to attack Elrohir, or anyone else – he deserved the rebuke. Then man and elf fell silent for a while. Elrohir appeared to be expecting some sort of response, while the captain prefered to just avoid the topic. Finally, Thelron sought to change the direction of the conversation. "What do you mean by men of my stock?" he asked.
The elf nodded slowly as he understood that the man didn't want to talk about his woes. After a few seconds he responded to the captain's question. "I mean the Dúnedain, of course," he said as if stating the obvious.
Thelron had heard the word a couple of times before, but had never bothered to ask for its meaning. He was under the impression that it referred to an ancient order of knights or something similar. Now, however, the elf had associated him with those men, and this naturally made him want to know more. "Who are the Dúnedain?" he asked.
The elf seemed baffled by the question; it made no sense to him. "You do not know of them?" he asked incredulously. Then he waited for a few seconds until he realised that Thelron, as men often did, didn't think it necessary to give an answer. Hence, he proceeded to assume that the man was indeed ignorant of the Dúnedain and said, "The word means Men of the West in the common tongue. The greatest amongst the peoples of Middle-earth."
The captain let out a sarcastic chuckle. He found it ironic that the elf should say that to him after what had happened. "And you think I'm one of them," he said.
Elrohir's eyes narrowed as if trying to decipher a riddle. "I know not whence you hail or what be your lot," he said, "but by some chance the blood of the Dúnedain runs through your veins."
Thelron looked at Elrohir in silence for a while. His heart told him that the words of the elf were true. But how was it possible; he came from a very ordinary place, certainly not the cradle of greatness. Those outstanding men, whoever they were, seemed very far from him. "And these Dúnedain you talk about, where are they?" he finally asked.
Elrohir continued to gaze into the captain's eyes for a short while, still puzzled. At length he said, "The Dúnedain are now only found amongst a few noble families scattered sparsely throughout your realm." As he uttered the last few words his expression turned contemplative, as if becoming lost in thought. Then his eyes drifted slowly towards Anduin The Great and a deep well of memories flooded his mind. "But they were once numerous," he continued, "and I remember the days of their great splendour in the North ere the rise of Angmar."
When the ferry arrived, man and elf boarded it together and continued their conversation during the trip. Thelron asked Elrohir what he was doing in Gondor, and the latter replied that he had business to discuss with the King at Minas Tirith. Elrohir in turn asked the captain about his military career, and his interest was peaked when Thelron told him that he had taken part in the campaign against the orcs in eastern Ithilien. "The vile creatures," said the elf, "caused great harm to someone very close to me."
When it came time to part ways, Thelron told him that he hoped their paths would cross again someday.
"Cuio ar no mellon nîn!" replied the elf.
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Thelron arrived in his hometown late in the afternoon and went straight to his father's house. He knocked on the door and seconds later a woman he did not know came to answer the call. "I'm sorry," he said. "I am looking for Caranor."
The woman looked at him for a short while, then she arched her eyebrows and smiled broadly. "Thelron," she said, "is it you?"
"I'm sorry. Do I know you?" he asked with a bewildered expression on his face.
"Yes, you do," said the woman. "You just don't remember me." Then she invited him to come in and sit down, and as he did, she continued, "I will tell you all about me, but first I want you to get comfortable. Do you care for anything to drink?"
"No, thank you. I'm fine," he said.
Sensing the young man's impatience, the woman sat down next to him and said, "I am your aunt Alassëa. I lived here til you were three years of age, then I got married and moved out west. Two years ago my husband passed away, and I came back to my childhood home."
"Why didn't my father ever mentioned you?" he asked.
"I don't know," said Alassëa. "I suppose he just doesn't like to talk about the past."
"Is he here?" he asked.
Alassëa told him that Caranor had gone to the marketplace and should be back by sundown. Then Thelron asked her if she could tell him about the past.
"Certainly honey," she said, "what do you want to talk about?"
"I understand that before I was born my father spent some time in Dol Amroth. Could you tell me what happened when he returned home?" he said.
"Well, as I recall," said Alassëa, "he did not stay around here too long, just a couple of weeks or so. Then he left and was gone for almost three years."
"Where did he go?" ask Thelron.
"He didn't say," said Alassëa. "You know your father."
"Right," said Thelron. "So, what happened when he returned?"
"That I remember clearly," she said. "When your father came back he looked like a defeated man – well, as defeated as Caranor can look. And one night soon after that, your mother appeared on our door."
Thelron then remember how, according to Bardhil, his father had rejected her because he had nothing to offer to her. "What did my father do?" he asked.
"At first," said Alassëa, "Caranor tried to make her go back, but after a while it looked like he just didn't have the strength to push her away. And a few weeks later they were wed."
Thelron remained silent for a while, trying to make sense of what he had just been told. He began to wonder if his father's reluctance to talk about the past was due in part to the pain he felt at the loss of his wife. "My mother's death must have affected him deeply," he said.
His aunt hesitated for a moment. "I think that his pain and guilt run deeper than you know," she said.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Alassëa took a deep breath. "When your mother's brother heard that Limwen was with child," she said, "he sent word to Caranor urging him to take her to Dol Amroth, but your father refused, saying that his child would see his first light in his own home. Alas, his decision proved ill, for that was a strange winter, long and cold; and after giving birth Limwen got sick and soon passed away." Alassëa took a moment to compose herself and then continued, "On that very night your father left without saying a word, and I did not see him again till two winters had passed."
That night at dinner Alassëa did most of the talking. The next day Caranor accompanied his son to the marketplace, and after that they performed several chores together. The two men seemed content to engage in simple activities and take pleasure in each other's company, avoiding the weightier topics that had caused friction between them in the past.
On the third day of his visit, after dinner, Thelron came to sit next to his father in the living room. "I never apologized for that outburst the last time I was here," he said. "I was wrong to say those words."
Caranor looked in the direction of his son but not directly at him. He seemed surprised and a bit uncomfortable after hearing those words. "It was my fault too, son," he managed to say.
"What a fool I was," said Thelron. "Saying those things to you when you fought in the war against the Dark Lord and ____"
"So you know," interrupted the old man.
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Thelron.
"It wasn't important," said Caranor.
"How can you say that?", said the younger man. "You defended the kingdom against the greatest foe it's ever faced."
Caranor shrugged. "And now we are ruled by the Lord of Minas Tirith instead of the Lord of Barad-dûr. What difference does it make?" he said.
Thelron was astonished by the comparison; it seemed extreme, even for his father. Something must have happened at some point that caused the old man to drastically change his attitude towards the realm. He sat back, brought his hand to his chin and looked at his father reflectively for a while. "What happened to you, father? What are you not telling me?" he said.
Caranor seemed to hesitate for a moment. Then he exhaled loudly and said, "You are right. Perhaps the time has come for you to learn the truth about your family."
The old man stared at the fire in silence for what seemed like a long time. Finally, without lifting his gaze, he said slowly, "My father was a Ranger of the North – one of the men who followed the Lord Aragorn, whom we now call King. We lived along with several Dúnedain families in a place known as The Angle." He stopped and grimaced as if recalling an old hurt.
Thelron looked down and said softly to himself in wonderment, "A Ranger of the North!"
Caranor got up and walked to the window. After a short while he resumed, "One night a large force of orcs appeared in a clearing on the east bank of the river Bruinen. But the rangers knew they were coming, for soon arrows started hitting the creatures from all directions, causing them to break ranks and flee back east. A small group of men, which included my father, followed them to make sure the threat was gone." Then he turned to look at his son and added, "None returned."
The old man then walked over to the fireplace, picked up the poker and rearranged the firewood. "With my father gone," he continued, "and an ever colder and fouler wind blowing down from the mountains, my mother decided to leave The Angle. By the time my fourteenth winter came, we had settled in this town, and some years later my mother wed Alassëa's father."
Thelron had heard many tales about the Rangers of the North around military circles; some attributed to them an almost mythical status. He felt a mixture of pride and sadness. "Why did you not tell me this before, father?", he said.
"Tell me Thelron," said Caranor calmly, "growing up in this miserable town, would that knowledge had made you happier?"
The young man considered the question for a second and then said, "I don't think it would have made me feel worse."
The old man acknowledged his son's reply with a single nod and then said. "Well, perhaps that's because you have not heard the whole story."
Thelron seemed mildly surprise. "There is more?" he said. Then he made a gesture with his hand and added, "Please go on, father."
Caranor took a few seconds to order his thoughts. "After the end of the war," he said, "the King announced that all titles and possessions of the old kingdoms of the North would be returned to their original owners, as long as their descendants had fought on the side of the heirs of Isildur. Upon hearing this I went to Sir Thannor and told him about my family, and he said he would investigate."
The old man's eyes rested for an instant on a picture of a ship in stormy seas, the only decoration in the house, but then he quickly looked away as if disgusted by it. After that he walked over to the window once again and gazed at the hills in the distance. "A few months later," he said," Sir Thannor told me that my father's name indeed appeared in the heritage records, which had been kept at Imladris since the fall of Fornost; but that when he died and we moved south, it was assumed that the line had ended." Caranor sneered. "The next time they updated the records the man with the next highest claim was put in as the heir to our family's land."
Thelron thought about his father's words for a moment. "Didn't you try to set the record straight?" he asked.
The old man clutched the mug handle in his hand until his knuckles turned white. "Before you were born," he said, "I travelled to the North to reclaim our inheritance, but I failed to win back that which was taken from us."
"What happened?" asked Thelron.
Caranor twisted his mouth and said in a callous tone, "I told him to lay down his claim and return the lands to their rightful owners, but he snorted and called me a charlatan, so I drew my sword and killed him." He paused for a moment and then said in a lower voice, "Then I fled the land of my forefathers to return never again."
Thelron had closed his eyes in frustration. After a short while he sighed and said, "And you also killed any chance we had of ever regaining our inheritance." He then stood up and said with a hint of annoyance in his voice, "If you have anything further to tell me, we can continue this tomorrow. Good night."
The day before Thelron was to return east Caranor came to him and told him that he had something for him. They walked over to the dining area and then the old man laid on the table a large object that he had brought with him. He began to unwrap it carefully as Thelron looked on. It was a magnificent sword.
"This is Beldram," said Caranor, "It was given to me by Sir Thannor, and it is said to have been wrought in the days of Imrazôr The Númenórean. I want you to have it."
Thelron was utterly amazed. "Thank you, father, " he said, "This is an invaluable present. It will be my most cherished possession." And Caranor quickly looked away, uncharacteristically.
The following day Thelron gathered his things, said goodbye to his father and aunt, and left for the Crossing of Poros. On his way back to the fort he realised that he had already decided to remain a soldier. He was not sure whether his decision was brought about by his discussion with Elrohir or by the conversation with his father, but that didn't really matter.
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In the fall of Fo.A. 49 the Gondorian scouts discovered that the Barkum had begun to build a stronghold about twenty miles west of the point where the Harad road begins to turn in the northeastern direction. Hérion immediately took counsel with his captains. "This has made the situation considerably more dangerous for the settlers," he said.
"That would give them a base within sixty miles of The Hook," said Horngîl.
"It is still outside of the zone assigned to us by the treaty," said Handir.
"Nevertheless, we cannot allow it," replied Horngîl, "for it would put us at a great disadvantage."
"I agree," said Thelron. "Our settlers have been attacked in the past. Any response on our part could only be considered an act of self-defence."
"It is settled then," said Hérion. "Thelron will lead an expeditionary force, composed of his own men and Horngîl's company, to drive out the Barkum."
The following day the two companies set out towards the building site. Each consisted of one hundred horsemen and about two hundred foot soldiers. Unknown to the commander of the garrison, however, Ublayr had secretly moved about two thousand fighting men to the western edge of the Mountains of Shadow, and three days after Thelron's departure a large Barkum force was spotted some twenty miles south of the crossing.
In preparation for the attack, Hérion set up his defensive line just off the north end of the bridge to keep the enemy from reaching open terrain, where they could take advantage of their superior numbers. A few hours later the Barkum arrived on the southern bank of the river, advanced onto the bridge and clashed with Hérion's line but could not push it back.
As time went by it looked like the southern fighters would not be able to break through, but suddenly, around three hundred Barkum men came running out of the woods to the north and attacked the men of Gondor from the rear. Hérion was forced to retreat behind the walls of the fort.
Meanwhile, as Thelron approached the reported building site, he was told by one of his advanced scouts that it looked like construction on the fortress had ceased and that the adjoining camp seemed to have been abandoned.
"Why would they do that?" said Horngîl.
"It doesn't make sense," replied Thelron. But after a moment he added, "...unless they wanted to draw us away from the crossing."
Horngîl considered what the Lamedonian had said for a moment. "But that could only mean that they plan to attack the fort while we are away," he said.
"If that is indeed their plan, and they take the fort," said Thelron, "Ublayr will control the region. It would then take nothing short of a full scale offensive by the Prince to drive him out. We cannot allow it."
Thelron decided to march back immediately. Knowing, however, that his foot soldiers would not arrive in time, he ordered his horsemen to ride ahead at full marching speed and leave the infantry behind.
Two days later they arrived at the crossing and found half of Ublayr's men assailing the fort, while the other half had taken positions before the south end of the bridge. Thelron drew out his sword, turned to face his men and cried out, "Men of Gondor...," then pointed the blade towards the enemy and added, "...to them!"
The violence of the ensuing charge split the enemy lines and allowed the horsemen to reach the south-end of the bridge. They continued to fight their way through to the other end, at which point Horngîl turned west, while Thelron continued to ride northeast until he came within view of the fort's tower.
Two minutes later the scheme was set in motion: at a sign from Thelron, Horngîl charged at the Barkum from the west, then the Lamedonian did the same from the north, and finally the fort's gates opened and Hérion's cavalry fell on the enemy from the east.
Faced with mounted foes on three fronts, the Barkum fell into disarray and soon began to fall back towards the bridge. As they did so, they blocked the advance of their comrades, who had regrouped on the other side of the river and were now coming to their aid. With his fighters crammed and unable to manoeuvre, Ublayr ordered his men to retreat to the southern bank, where they took up defensive positions. The men of the garrison, however, did not pursue, choosing instead to set up a defensive line on the north end of the bridge once again.
Then the men of Gondor watched in amazement as Ublayr removed his top and began to walk alone across the bridge. As he came within a few feet of the soldiers, he stopped, pulled out a small dagger and dragged the tip across his chest, drawing a trickle of blood. After that he pointed the dagger at Thelron and said in the common tongue of the West, "You will die." He then turned around, walked back to his men and led them to their base.
After the Barkum were gone, Hérion once again met with his captains. "Where did they come from?" he asked, referring to the enemy fighters that had come out of the woods to the north.
None of the three men initially had an answer, but then Horngîl said, "I suppose it is possible that they knew about the old orc trails through the mountains."
"Are they not watched?" asked Handir.
"They were during the campaign against the orcs," answered Horngîl, "but I'm not sure they've kept it up."
Then the commander said, "Well, from now on we watch them."
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A couple of years later Thelron received word that his father was not well. He told Horngîl that he was going to see his father, but was concerned about leaving his post while there was still a threat from the Barkum.
"Would you stop worrying so much," said Horngîl. "Things here are under control."
Thelron shook his head slightly. "I don't like it; Ublayr's been too quiet," he replied. "And there's this dark foreboding in my mind."
"Another vision?" laughed Horngîl. Then he continued in a more serious tone, "What can he do? He already tried to take the fort and failed."
"It is not the fort I'm worried about," said Thelron.
"You don't think he will try to attack the settlements again, do you," said Horngîl. "To get there with numbers, they would need to set up adequate supply lines, and it would be very hard for them to do so without being noticed. At best, they could reach The Hook with a few dozen men without our scouts seeing them, and if they do that, the men at our western outpost should be able to deal with them."
"Still," said Thelron, "he's proven to be quite cunning in the past. We must remain alert."
Thelron arrived in his home village early in the evening. The sky was covered by dark clouds, and he was certain that a storm was imminent. When he got to his father's house, his aunt told him that Caranor was lying in bed, and he immediately went to see the old man to ask him how he was feeling.
"My time is approaching," said Caranor, "but it is not yet here."
Thelron laid his hand on his father's forearm. Then he heard the sound of thunder roaring in the distance and saw through the window that rain had started to fall. "It will be a wicked storm," he said.
A few seconds later Caranor asked his son to retrieve a small box that was hidden behind the wardrobe. After Thelron had done so, the old man set the box down on the bed next to himself. "There is something that I have to give you," said Caranor. "It is an item of great value." Then he opened the box, pulled out a medallion and handed it to his son.
Thelron examined the item and saw that it bore an image of a tall, slender tower overlooking a harbour. After a moment he said, "It is an exquisitely crafted silver piece. It must be very expensive."
The old man shook his head. "Its value cannot be measured in coin," he said; "it represents something much more important."
"And what is that?" asked the younger man.
Caranor ignored the question. "This medallion has been in our care for a very long time," he said. "It has passed from father to firstborn son for many generations, and from this day on it will be yours to guard."
"In our care?" said Thelron somewhat baffled. "Who does it belong to?"
The old man took a small scroll out of the box in which the medallion had been, handed it to his son and said, "Read it. It will tell you all you need to know."
Thelron heard a blast of thunder, looked to the window and saw that the storm had intensified. He then unfurled the scroll and noticed that the first part was written using strange characters. They appeared to him to be similar to those he had seen on some old Elvish artefacts. Below that, however, he saw that there was text written in the common tongue:
Fornost Erain, Third Age 1972
I am Beriedir, son of Belefaer, Baron of Arthedain and keeper of the medallion that accompanies this scroll. Given the importance of the ancient Sindarin text above and the dire situation in which our kingdom finds itself, I have decided to add the following translation of the text into the common language. I have done this in the hope that the information it contains may endure even if our kingdom is destroyed and our ways forgotten.
Annúminas, Kingdom of Arnor, year 3327 of the Second Age of the Sun.
My name is Haeron, son of Faelon. My mother, Eliedis, was Lady-in-Waiting to Tar-Míriel of Númenor. The medallion that accompanies this note was given to me by Her Royal Highness on the day I left the city of Armenelos to join the Elendili at the port of Rómenna. In the following account I describe the event as well as my own impressions during my meeting with the last Queen of Númenor.
As I prepared to leave the city, I was summoned to the drawing room in the western quarter of the Royal Palace. When I entered I saw the Queen standing alone in the centre of the room holding a small box in her hands, and in that instant she seemed to me like a delicate flower, fair and fragile. She bade me approach and then said softly, "There is an object that is very near to my heart, and it is my wish that it survive the evil that approaches." She hesitated for a second and then continued, "There are few now I can trust, and though your eyes have seen not eighteen winters, my heart tells me that it is with you that I should place my hope." After that the daughter of Tar-Palantir opened the box and pulled out a medallion, and as she did her hand seemed to tremble slightly. Then she held it up and gazed at the image for the last time.
After a moment the Queen put the silver piece back in the box, handed it to me and said, unable to hide the sorrow in her voice, "This is an image of the Tower of Avallónë in Tol Eressëa. Take it with you to the new home of our people in the east, keep it safe and hold it in great reverence, for it portrays the land of undying bliss as it was once beheld by the eyes of mortal men." And I promised her that I would protect it with my life. Then the Queen walked over to the balcony and gazed at the gathering gloom above. And it seemed to me that her eyes darkened as she looked to the West, for her heart told her that many fair and noble things were at an end and the world would soon be changed forever.
And though I witnessed the breaking of Arda and saw thousands cry out as the sea swallowed the Land of the Star, the image that still haunts my dreams and rips my heart is the quiet despair in the eyes of fair Míriel.
Thelron was speechless. He found it hard to believe that he held in his hand an item that belonged to the last member of the royal line of Elros.
He tried to imagine what Haeron would have felt as he left the Palace and walked the streets under those ominous clouds, as he saw the turmoil of a mighty race about to meet its fate, or as he experienced the eerie calm that preceded the last days of Númenor.
Thelron also thought that it was amazing that his forefathers had been able to keep the medallion safe throughout the convulsions of the Third Age and felt suddenly that the piece was too important to be guarded by anyone other than the King. "Now that the Kingdom is strong again", he said to his father, "perhaps we should inform the King so that _____"
"No!" cried Caranor. Then he gripped his son's forearm and said forcefully, "This is not the Ring of Barahir or any other heirloom of the Royal House and belongs not to the realm. It was entrusted to us and shall endure beyond the days of the House of Elendil." Thelron started to say something, but his father continued, "This is a symbol of what once was, and preserving it is our family's purpose. They may take away our lands and titles, but they cannot make us forsake our vow to the Queen of Númenor."
Thelron remained silent as he looked pensively into his father's eyes. The words of the old man had aroused a strange feeling in him, a sentiment that went beyond king and country. He somehow began to feel a personal bond with the Lady of a realm that had passed into legend long ago. At length he said, "I think I understand you, father. The fate of the medallion is bound to our family and so it must remain."
A few days later Thelron was ready to return to the Crossing of Poros. He said goodbye to his father with a heavy heart, for he felt that he would not see him again.
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One afternoon in the summer of Fo.A. 53 Hérion called his captains to an urgent meeting. "I've been informed," he said, "that a force of Barkum warriors was seen sailing through the delta of the Anduin."
"Do they know where the Barkum are headed?" asked Horngîl.
"No," replied Hérion, "but we have to assume that they will be coming up the Poros and their target is either this fort or the settlements at The Hook."
"How large is the force? More than five hundred?" asked Handir.
"They estimate that it is closer to three thousand," answered Hérion.
The captains looked at one another in disbelief. "But how did he move such a force without being noticed?" asked Handir.
"Very patiently, it seems." said the commander. "Apparently Ublayr sent his men off gradually down the river Harnen, ten or twenty at a time, over a period of several months. They then gathered at the shore, where they got hold of large transport ships, likely from Umbar."
"We cannot take on such a force by ourselves. We'll need help," said Horngîl.
"I've sent word to the Steward," replied Hérion, "but it will take the Prince a couple of weeks to muster a large force and reach the river. If Ublayr's intention is to attack the settlers, we are the only ones who can stand in his way."
"How long do we have?" asked Thelron.
"Five, six days at best," replied the commander. "We leave for The Hook at dusk. Thelron and Horngîl will be coming with me as well as the horsemen from Handir's company. He and his infantrymen will remain here to defend the crossing as best they can."
A few days later the soldiers arrived at the settlements, where they were received by Captain Doron and the head of the council of The Hook. Hérion was informed that the Barkum were within a half day of the settlement, and the commander told the settlers to move away from the banks of the river. Then he ordered Doron to return to his fort and be prepared for a possible Barkum landing to the west. Lastly, he distributed his forces around the western half of The Hook to be in position to respond to whatever the southerners chose to do.
The ships arrived at noon. Twenty-three hundred of Ublayr's men disembarked about a mile west of the garrison's western outpost. A number of ships carrying around seven hundred Barkum fighters continued ten miles upriver and landed near the top of the semicircle that the Poros described in that area. This in essence created two fronts for the defenders: the main enemy force to the west and a smaller detachment to the north.
The flat terrain all around and the need to protect the people of The Hook did not allow for elaborate defensive schemes. Hérion simply told Thelron to take on the smaller force to the north and ordered the rest of the men to set up a defensive line near the western edge of the settlements. The settlers, who had been ordered to move away from the river, were now told to take refuge on the eastern half of The Hook.
Two hours later the main Barkum force began to advance towards the settlements. The men of the western outpost were no match for the large detachment and quickly retreated back to Hérion's line. At length, Ublayr's men reached The Hook and clashed against the Gondorian formation. The Barkum's overwhelming numbers forced the soldiers to give ground, and in order to stop them, the commander ordered his cavalrymen to attack the enemy's flank. That tactic, however, failed miserably as the horsemen were met by a wall of pikes and forced to turn back.
In the meantime, Thelron's men were also being pushed back in the north. His two hundred foot soldiers were not enough to contain the enemy, and his cavalrymen were too few to effectively divide and isolate the Barkum units. It seemed only a matter of time before the Gondorians became hemmed in and rendered unable to manoeuvre or protect the villagers. But then a messenger came to Thelron. The soldier informed the captain that Hérion had been killed during a charge against the enemy, and this meant that the Lamedonian was now the new commander in the field.
Thelron knew that he needed to act quickly. He decided that his only chance was to take out the smaller force to the north first and deal with the bulk of the Barkum army later. He developed a plan to take advantage of his superior mobility to swiftly breakdown the discipline of the enemy's northern detachment. To set his plan in motion, he sent a message to Horngîl instructing him to have all of the horsemen redeploy to the northern front. He also told the captain to employ whatever tactics he deemed necessary to delay the advance of the main Barkum force.
Once the mounted units arrived in the north, the new commander split his cavalry into two parts and ordered one half to ride around the left flank of the enemy's line and attack them from the north. As the Barkum reserve ranks repositioned themselves to face the attackers, he led the remaining horsemen on a charge from the east. The left side of the barkum line, which had to contend with hostile forces on three sides, was quickly overwhelmed, and very soon many of their fighters began to flee towards the northwest.
With the left half of his formation obliterated, the leader of the Barkum's northern detachment ordered his remaining units to change course and push southwest to join up with the main host. They succeeded in outflanking the Gondorian infantry and proceeded to march towards Ublayr's men. But Thelron ordered his mounted units to give chase, and as they closed in on the southerners, these were overcome by fear and went into a desperate dash. Most of the Barkum fighters perished as they fled, some escaped towards the west, and only a handful reached their intended destination.
After the rout of the northern enemy detachment, Thelron's horsemen continued southwest until they reached the western battle site, which had now moved to within three hundred yards of the refugees. As soon as they arrived, the commander rode up to Horngîl to get an assessment of the situation. "It is very difficult to hold them back," said the man from Lebennin. "We probably have about half an hour before they push us back up against the settlers."
"Perhaps we could attack their flanks with our cavalry," said Thelron.
"I wouldn't do that," replied Horngîl. "Ublayr has about three hundred and fifty pikemen, and has positioned them on his flanks and rear."
The commander scanned the battlefield for a moment. "Then there is only one thing left to do," he said. After that Thelron called in one of his lieutenants and told him to gather the horsemen; and once these were in position, he sent orders directing the soldiers at the centre of his line to move aside and create a gap.
As he waited for the soldiers to execute his orders, Thelron began to realise the magnitude of the weight on his shoulders. He looked back towards the settlers. It was hard to believe that their future, their very existence, hung on the outcome of this battle. Up until this point the burden had belonged to another man, but now it was his to bare. And even though he knew not a single one of the settlers, he had become their protector in this hour and would die defending them.
And what about the kingdom, he asked himself. While a Barkum victory today would not compromise the security of the realm, it would nevertheless give the southerners immediate control of the territories beyond the Poros. And this could in turn bring more Southron tribes to their cause, giving Gondor a strong adversary in the South. All of a sudden he found it strange that he, Thelron of Calembel, had been given so great a responsibility. Was it odd chance, he wondered, that had brought that willful young man from Lamedon to this point.
Then he recalled the words that Faramir had spoken to him so many years before: It is my believe that each of us has a part to play in this struggle, especially those in whose veins the blood of Númenor runs true. If this was indeed the case, he thought, then it was not chance which had decided that he, a common man by birth and a Dúnadan by blood, should be the one to lead the men of Gondor in this hour. This was in fact the task appointed to him in the great struggle of the Faithful, and this day would reveal to him what strength was truly in his blood.
Once the centre of the Gondorian formation was vacated, Thelron prepared to head the charge. He drew out Beldram and gazed at the magnificent sword shining in the afternoon sun. He wondered if the blade too had a part to play in this struggle – if it was meant to be there. Then he thought about the men who wrought it, men who had not yet wholly forsaken the lore and craft of Númenor; and for a moment he could almost feel their strength in his hand. Finally he raised his sword, spurred his horse forward and led his men into the heart of the fray.
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The charge at the centre of the southerner's formation quickly turned the battle into a disorganised melee. The Gondorian horsemen attempted to chase down the Barkum regular fighters, while groups of pikemen came after the mounted men. Thelron realised that in order to gain an advantage, the men with the pikes had to be taken out. He dismounted, ordered a group of foot soldiers to follow him, and began to walk briskly clutching his sword in his hand.
After a short while, he spotted a group of pikemen who had cornered a few mounted Gondorians. The Barkum began to take stabs at the horsemen, injuring some and causing others to lose their mounts as their beasts became mad. As Thelron moved closer, he came upon a distressing scene. He saw a bloodied soldier wavering on his knees with his head down. Then he looked behind the injured man, and there he was: Ublayr, holding a dagger in his hand. A second later the leader of the Barkum grabbed hold of the soldier's hair and pulled back his head. It was Horngîl!
Before anyone could react, the chieftain lifted his eyes, looked directly at Thelron and with a sweeping motion split open Horngîl's throat. The Gondorian commander stood motionless for a second, but his fists were clenched and his eyes were as flames. Then he roared to his men, "With me" and started walking swiftly as he looked straight at Ublayr with the expression of one possessed. A few southerners attempted to get in his way but were quickly hacked down, and fear appeared on the faces of their comrades as they beheld the man and his mighty sword. The Barkum fighters began to back off at the advance of the grim warrior; and at that moment, in his wrath, Thelron appeared to his men like one of the heroes of old, tall and fearsome.
The emboldened soldiers of Gondor ran to the side of their leader. The southern fighters were quickly pushed out of the way and soon no one stood between Thelron and Ublayr. The latter threw down his sword and took off his top. Then the Lamedonian dropped his own sword and walked decisively towards his opponent.
As Thelron got close, however, the chieftain jumped up in the air, spun around and kicked him in the head, knocking him to the ground. Nevertheless, the commander got up immediately and continued towards his opponent. This time Ublayr got low and swept the captain's feet, causing him to hit the ground a second time. The Lamedonian then started to get back up again, when he heard some words that he could not understand. He looked up and saw his rival standing a few feet away, looking back at him with an arrogant smirk on his face. A second later the chieftain arched his eyebrows mockingly, slid his hand across his chest and said, "You will die," as he had done several years before.
As Thelron began to get to his feet, Ublayr ran forward and threw a kick at his midsection. Before he could make contact, however, the captain rolled out of the way and grabbed hold of his arm. Then the Lamedonian yanked on it with such force that his opponent landed face-down several feet away. The southerner immediately turned around to look at Thelron, and the expression on his face was now one of disbelief. He got up quickly, took two steps back and pulled out a hidden dagger.
Undaunted, the captain walked towards his adversary once more. But as he approached, Ublayr moved to the side and kicked him in the back of the leg, causing him to drop down on one knee. Immediately after that the chieftain swung his dagger at his rival's neck, but his hand was stopped.
A look of dread began to appear on Ublayr's face as he realised that his arm was in the other man's grasp. He tried frantically to reposition the dagger in his hand, but the pressure on his forearm caused him to drop it. After that he tried to kick the Lamedonian, but his attempt was blocked and he almost fell to the ground. At last, Thelron began to rise up slowly as the other man looked on with his eyes widened. Then the imposing Gondorian put his right hand around the chieftain's neck and said coldly, "No, you will die."
Ublayr attempted to throw a kick, but the captain was expecting it; and as the southerner raised his leg, the Lamedonian slammed him to the ground. After that Thelron pinned his opponent's right arm under his knee and began to apply pressure around the chieftain's neck. Feeling the vice-like grip crush his throat, the southerner hacked repeatedly at the captain's arm to no avail, and after about forty seconds his body went limp. The Lamedonian then dragged his opponent to the place where his sword lay, picked up the blade and with a single blow severed Ublayr's head.
The captain of Gondor then lifted the head of the chieftain above his own and cried out, "Behold your leader!" After that he tossed it at a group of pikemen standing nearby, who jumped out of the way as if they were afraid to touch it. Seeing the fear in their eyes, Thelron began to walk resolutely towards them with Beldram held high in front of him. The southerners immediately dropped their pikes and ran away.
But many Barkum fighters remained yet on the field, and the battle went on for a few more hours. Thelron and his men continued to seek out the pikemen until most were killed or put to flight. This in turn unleashed the horsemen, who now became able to efficiently isolate and destroy the enemy's regular units. As time went on, it became increasingly clear that the Gondorians had attained a decisive advantage, and very soon the remaining Barkum abandoned the fight and fled south towards the desert.
The Battle of The Hook, as it came to be known, was a devastating blow to the Barkum, one from which they would not recover. In the years that followed the survivors continued to attack merchant caravans and harass settlers who ventured too far south. But their numbers dwindled. And five years after Ublayr's death, his people had disappeared and their deeds had become a distant memory.
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In order to better protect the settlers, it was decided that the territories on the southern bank of the Poros would be made into a new fiefdom. The region was given the name March of Hartalf, and upon recommendation from the Steward of Gondor, King Elessar awarded Thelron, son of Caranor, Lordship over the new fief. But among the pride and the joy, Thelron felt a pang, for his father had not lived to see the House of Haeron restored to a position of honour.
He built a city on the banks of the Poros, which he named Gwestrîn. And the banners that flew above it bore the image on the medallion; and as a result, most folks started calling it The City of the Tower and then simply, The Tower. But of the treasure in his care he told no one save his heir.
After the founding of the city, Thelron became a much wiser man. He would visit Minas Tirith regularly to read the old scrolls and learn about the Númenóreans and the history of the Kingdoms of the Faithful. He would also visit often with the Prince of Ithilien in Emyn Arnen, where a great friendship developed between the two men. And Faramir's heart was glad, for in the Lord of The Tower he saw a kindred spirit, with whom he could discuss the lore of Gondor and the role of the children of the Númenóreans in the fate of the Middle-earth.
The southern banks of the Poros were also changed considerably during Thelron's time. Under his Lordship some of the waters of the river were diverted to irrigate vast tracts of land, bringing in more settlers and causing the region to grow in importance. And it is said that in the centuries that followed the Lords of The Tower came to be among the most prominent captains of the kingdom, maintaining peace and security in the South and achieving great renown for coming to the aid of the King in times of need.
But twenty-three hundred years after the death of Thelron the city was sacked. And when its banners were burned and the last heir of Haeron cast the medallion of Míriel into the depths of the Poros, the image of Avallónë at last passed out of the memory of Men.