Saturday, 19 August 2017

A History of Middle-earth Part 6: The Downfall of Númenor

Part 1 can be found here.

In the Second Age of Middle-earth, Sauron, lieutenant of the exiled Morgoth, tricked the Noldor smiths of Eregion into forging the Rings of Power. In secret, he crafted the One Ruling Ring, the means by which he intended to conquer the world. But his student, Celebrimbor, had also crafted three rings for the elven kings under the sky, which could thwart Sauron's ambitions. The stage was set for the greatest conflict since the War of Wrath.

Heirs of Númenor, by La Zona Artistica for Fantasy Flight's Middle-earth collectable card game.

The War of Sauron and the Elves
With Sauron’s plan revealed, he now moved quickly and begun breeding a vast army of Orcs to take the offensive. Mount Doom burst into flame, covering the lands of Mordor with smoke and ash, hindering any enemy who might try to strike him there, and Easterling allies were summoned to prepare for war.

In Eregion Celebrimbor realised his folly and made his own preparations. He sent word to Gil-galad, who in turn despatched a message to Númenor. Tar-Telperien did not heed the call to arms, but her nephew Minastir did and began assembling both a great army and navy to battle Sauron’s forces. This took time, but Sauron himself had been taken unawares by how quickly he had exposed his plans, and needed time of his own to prepare.

Soon enough Sauron launched his assault. In 1695 SA Sauron’s armies marched through the Gap of Calenardhon between the Misty Mountains and the White Mountains and turned north, laying siege to Ost-in-Edhil. Gil-galad sent Elrond with a great host to the relief of the city, but after two years Sauron’s forces gained the city and put it to the torch. Celebrimbor was slain, but the greater part of the civilian populace managed to escape under Elrond’s protection. Celeborn retreated northwards with Elrond to the hidden valley of Imladris and there they made a stand, but Sauron chose not to pursue, instead directing his forces westwards against Lindon itself.

Now the war entered its bloodiest phase. Free men who inhabited the wide lands of Eriador either allied with Sauron or took up arms against him. Gil-galad fortified the havens and sent as many troops as possible east against this threat, whilst Elrond and Celeborn attacked Sauron’s flanks as often as they could.

But all seemed in vain. In the 1,700th year of the Second Age Sauron’s armies crossed the open, verdant countryside east of the White Towers and drew nigh to Mithlond. But, as all hope seemed to fade, a great fleet sailed out of the west and landed at the Grey Havens. The army of Númenor marched forth, and so many were their soldiers that the earth rumbled, and even Gil-galad was amazed. Then it became clear that this was but part of Númenor’s strength, for another host had landed at ruined Lond Daer and further north at Tharbad, thus bringing Sauron’s host under attack from two directions. Even bolstered by the power of the One Ring, Sauron could not resist such a strength of arms as that which was now arrayed against him. His army was destroyed and he fled from Eriador with but a token of his forces intact.

Now Gil-galad, Círdan, Celeborn, Elrond and Ciryatur, commander of the fleet sent from Númenor, took counsel. Ciryatur could not maintain his army in Middle-earth and had to return it to Númenor, but certainly now the rulers of Westernesse would maintain permanent fortresses and settlements in Middle-earth lest the Shadow come forth again unchallenged. Elrond was commanded to permanently settle in Imladris and he began the construction of Rivendell, which in those days was heavily fortified, but after the Last Alliance was made more beautiful, more of a home than a fortress. At this time Gil-galad surrendered the Ring of Vilya to Elrond, but kept the other ring for himself.

At length Galadriel came over the Misty Mountains from Lórinand and debated with Celeborn about their own future, where they were to dwell. And for many long years afterwards they were wanderers, living sometimes in Imladris, sometimes in Lórinand, but they also desired the Sea and journeying far to the south came to the lands below the White Mountains. There at the mouth of the River Morthond they founded a new haven, Edhellond, and many elves dwelt there as they prepared to take ship for Valinor. But for Galadriel that path was not open until Sauron was defeated, and she and Celeborn built a tower where Dol Amroth in Gondor later stood, and for many years stayed there. But at other times they would depart for Lórinand, or for Imladris or for other lands unknown, and thus passed the Second Age.

The Downfall of the Dúnedain
Now, after the War of Sauron and the Elves the rulers of Númenor resolved to keep a closer watch on the affairs of the mainland, lest Sauron strike again before they could send aid to halt him. Fortresses and citadels they established all along the coasts of Middle-earth. They rebuilt Tharbad and Lond Daer even stronger than before and established a new fortress, Angrenost (Iron Fortress), in the Gap of Calenardhon. In 2280 SA the Númenórean fleet destroyed the navy of a kingdom of southern Middle-earth that was challenging their greatness and captured the capital of their realm, Umbar. By this time the Númenóreans were becoming empire-builders, stripping distant mines bare for their own enrichment and colonising parts of Middle-earth for their own protection, rather than that of their elven allies. Indeed, after a time the Númenóreans ceased to be concerned with the affairs of the elves, save only the Lords of Andúnië, who now called themselves the “Faithful”, and kept open the lines of contact with Lindon. In 2350 SA the Faithful volunteered their ships to colonise the mouth of the River Anduin, the Great River of north-western Middle-earth, and in this year established the fortress and city of Pelargir, which was kept forevermore as a bastion of the Faithful.

Now the Kings of Númenor grew proud indeed. During the reign of Tar-Atanamir (2029-2221 SA) they began to speak openly against the ban against travelling west to Valinor, but they did not dare too much, for they still feared the Valar. But the later Kings dared much more. Tar-Calmacil become King of Númenor in 2737 SA after winning great lands along the coast of the Harad and sending troops exploring up to the very borders of Mordor, encouraging Sauron to seek new conquests in the East. Tar-Calmacil became the first of the Kings to have his name inscribed in the tongue of Númenor, Adûnaic, rather than Quenya, although his Quenya name was still inscribed in the Roll of Kings out of tradition. In Adûnaic his name was Ar-Belzagar, and upon hearing this the Faithful were filled with despair, for in this mode the title of King of Númenor was changed to Lord of the West, but in the minds of the Faithful there was only one Lord of the West and his name was Manwë. Any other claiming that title was foolhardy indeed.

Then in 2899 SA the new King of Númenor, Tar-Herunúmen, openly ruled under the name Ar-Adûnakhôr, and those kings who followed him also proclaimed their names in Adûnaic, save only Tar-Palantir, who repented the ways of his insolent forebears. But Tar-Palantir had no sons, only a daughter, Míriel, and when he died in 3255 SA she was taken forcibly to wife by Tar-Palantir’s cousin Pharazôn, who claimed the title of King of Númenor and Lord of the West.

The Downfall of Numenor, by Ted Nasmith.

The Fall of Númenor and the Flight of the Faithful
After usurping the throne of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn decreed that the time had come to put an end to the threat of the Dark Lord against the land of Westernesse and assembled a great army. This he put ashore at Umbar late in the year 3261 SA. Early in 3262 SA this army passed nigh to the pass leading from the verdant land of Ithilien into Mordor and prepared for battle, but in startlement the Númenóreans beheld a single figure alone coming forth. This was indeed Sauron, who surrendered himself to the custody of Ar-Pharazôn, claiming to have been overawed by the might of Númenor and to have seen the wisdom in serving the Lords of the West. Ar-Pharazôn was easily convinced this was so and he took Sauron in chains back to Númenor.

But once in Númenor Sauron did not long stay in chains, but whispered golden words in Ar-Pharazôn’s ear. And soon on the summit of Meneltarma, the great mountain of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn had raised a great temple dedicated to the worship of Morgoth Lord of the Dark, and Ar-Pharazôn spoke openly of his rage against the Valar for banning the westwards passage to Valinor. At this the Faithful quailed in fear, not knowing what the King would do in his madness. But Sauron spread more poison in the ear of Ar-Pharazôn, telling him of the way through the Shadowy Seas to the mouth of the Calacirya, and of how Valinor was not able to withstand attack. And Ar-Pharazôn heeded those words and built a colossal fleet he named the Great Armament.

When this began, the Faithful knew the end of Númenor had come. In many ships they fled for Pelargir, which they made into their fastness, but Amandil, Lord of Rómenna and Chief of the Faithful, refused to leave whilst Númenor still survived, and he tried in vain to counsel words of wisdom to the mighty of Númenor, but they did not heed him, and indeed some reported him as traitor and craven to the King. Amandil then fled from Númenor to seek the western way to Valinor, so he might seek the pardon of the Valar for the sins of Ar-Pharazôn, and limit their vengeance to the King alone, and he bade his son Elendil take the Faithful to Middle-earth. Elendil agreed, but tarried off the coast for a long time, waiting for a sign from the Valar that Amandil had succeeded in his mission.

But the only signs that came were ominous, for many great Eagles filled the skies over Númenor and the great temple of Morgoth was destroyed by lightning. Enraged, Ar-Pharazôn borded his flagship and led the Great Armament westwards, and at this Elendil turned to the east and fled for Middle-earth as fast as his ships could go.

Ar-Pharazôn passed through the protective enchantments of Valinor thanks to the will of Sauron and landed his army at the mouth of the Calacirya. But, as they made to invade Valinor itself, Manwë pronounced the Doom of the Númenóreans upon them. Of what happened to Ar-Pharazôn’s army, only the Valar know, save that none of them ever came back out of the west.

The Valar opened a great chasm in the seas around Númenor, and a colossal earthquake shattered the island, destroying all the cities of the Dúnedain in a matter of hours. Hundreds of thousands died, Armenelos was destroyed and even Sauron the Deceiver was slain, but in his evil cunning Sauron had left the One Ring behind in Barad-dûr, and as long as it endured so did he. His spirit fled the Downfall of Númenor and took form again in the Barad-dûr, assuming the shape of a powerful warrior clad in steel. And his servants had not been idle, for the Nine Rings had corrupted the great Kings of the East into evil, ghostly figures known as the Nazgûl, or Ringwraiths. The Nazgûl had raised a great strength of arms and Sauron now planned his stroke against his remaining foes, the elves of the north-west, and this time there would be no Númenórean intervention to save them.

The Realms in Exile
Yet Sauron miscalculated, for out of the west, barely outrunning the great tidal wave generated by the Downfall of Númenor, a number of ships bore Elendil the Tall to the shores of Middle-earth. He and his kin landed at Pelargir, bastion of the Faithful, where there had gathered many of the valiant men of Middle-earth opposed to Sauron, and with the arrival of the Númenórean survivors they were numerous indeed. This was in the 3,319th year of the Second Age. Elendil marched with his sons to that point where the White Mountains drew closest to the Mountains of Shadow on Mordor’s borders and there founded two great citadels. Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, was built on the eastern face of Mount Mindolluin and was encircled by tall and powerful walls seven times to make it impregnable to attack. Minas Anor Elendil entrusted to the care of his younger son, Anárion. Fifty miles away, opposite Minas Anor in the shadowed western pass of Mordor, Elendil built the Tower of the Moon, Minas Ithil, which he gave into the care of his eldest son and heir, Isildur. Between the two fortresses he built the great city of Osgiliath, City of the Stars, and announced the founding of the Land of Stone, Gondor, the South-kingdom of the Númenórean Realms in Exile. He then entrusted the rule of Gondor to his sons, and took ship for Lindon with another remnant of his people.

From Mithlond Elendil marched east, over the Hills of Evendim to the shores of Lake Nenuial. There, on the south-eastern shore of the lake, he founded the city of Annúminas and committed it as the capital of the Land of the King, Arnor. Further east, at the feet of the North Downs, he founded a smaller city and fortress, Fornost, and took counsel with Gil-galad and Elrond on the threat posed by Sauron.

For a century the Númenórean refugees had peace, enough time to complete the building of fortresses and raise great armies, for all knew that Sauron would now attempt to complete the destruction of his enemies.

The Last Battle of the Last Alliance, by Entar0178.

The War of the Last Alliance
Late in the year 3429 SA Sauron launched his renewed attack upon the free peoples of Middle-earth. His armies marched forth, led by the Nazgûl, and seized Minas Ithil by force of arms. Isildur escaped the fortress with most of his troops and led a fighting retreat to Osgiliath. His brother Anárion came forth from Minas Anor with great strength and there at Osgiliath a mighty battle was fought. Sauron’s armies were halted, though not destroyed, and Isildur resolved to go north and alert his father and the elves to the new threat posed by Sauron. Comitting the South-kingdom to Anárion, Isildur rode to Annúminas with great haste.

Elendil and Gil-galad now formed the Last Alliance of Men and Elves and raised their armies to march to the relief of Gondor, although this was a long task taking over a year. Many elves of Lindon joined Elendil’s host, and Gil-galad came personally to lead them. Elrond led a large force from Imladris, and many elves came over the moutains from Lórinand and North Greenwood as well. Elendil raised the hosts of Arnor and with great strength the Last Alliance set forth, but was much delayed in the passage of the High Passes, for savage men allied to Sauron assaulted them out of the land known as Dunland (by way of the Redhorn Pass and the Gap of Calendardhon), and many fell Orcs came forth from the Misty Mountains.

After the lengthy delay the host of the Alliance came down the east bank of Anduin, and skirting the Emyn Muil (Drear Hills) they came to the Dagorlad, which was after called the Battle-plain, and before the Black Gate of Mordor launched their assault on Sauron’s army in 3434 SA, for Sauron had comitted his greatest forces against Osgiliath and was late in sending his army north to meet this greater threat. Sauron miscalculated and his army was destroyed piecemeal by the Alliance, who forced the Morannon and the Isenmouthe and came down onto the Plateau of Gorgoroth. Then their armies surrounded Barad-dûr itself, allowing no entry or exit, but the fortress could not be stormed for it lay amidst a moat of lava, and its fortifications were strong. Anárion led the army of Gondor forwards and retook Minas Ithil and joined the Siege, and Sauron’s prospects now looked bleak indeed.

But Sauron held out for seven years. In the sixth year of the siege a missile was fired from the Dark Tower which felled Anárion, leaving Isildur as Elendil’s only heir. But then Sauron resolved to break the enemy, and comitted all his troops to forcing a way out of the tower. Sauron and his troops punched through the enemy lines and escaped south to Mount Doom, where they turned and stood, and thus begun the Last Battle of the Last Alliance.

In that battle the Alliance had the victory, for once the free peoples enjoyed the superiority of numbers, but Sauron himself came forth wielding the power of the Ring, and in that last battle Gil-galad was killed, and Elendil felled, and Isildur overcome. But ere Sauron could slay him, Isildur took up his father’s shattered sword, Narsil, and sliced the Ring from Sauron’s finger. And in that moment Sauron was vanquished, and the Nazgûl scattered to the shadows, and all Sauron’s armies filled with disquiet, and fled or were slain.

So ended the Second Age. The Númenóreans had their revenge upon Sauron, who they now considered dead entirely, and Isildur took the Ring for himself. But Elrond and Círdan were filled with disquiet, and bade Isildur take the Ring into Mount Doom and cast it into the flames, but Isildur refused, keeping the Ring in honour of his fallen kingdom and his slain brother and father. So, evil was allowed to endure.

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1 comment:

zammus said...

I was under the impression that Gil-Galad and Elendil defeated Sauron, but were also slain in the process. isildur only cut the ring from sauron's dead (or moribund)hand.