Spring in Angmar
Mertirio and his lieutenants did not draw back from the borders of Arnor by mid-winter, and soon rumors began to go through the border lands that Arnor to the South would welcome any who wished to settle there, as long as they carried no weapons more fearsome than belt knives. When farmers and artisans sought to take advantage of this offer, however, they found that Mertirio and his folk not only sought to seal the border against migration southward, but were threatening families and friends of those who were caught attempting to leave in hopes of deterring such losses. Resentment was growing.
After two years of drought and failed harvests through most of Angmar, they’d had one year finally when harvests had been better, but only in those lands controlled by Mertirio and his closest supporters. They had seized control of the seedcorn, had sowed their own fields; had seen to the feeding of their own people, then had sought to sell the excess to other regions at such enormous profit that others could ill afford to buy it, would have no means of purchasing seed corn for the coming year’s needs. Resentment against Mertirio grew even more.
Eight who had been thought to have been eliminated as leaders to the rest of Angmar through the winter exercised hands not lost after all, and quietly spread throughout those closest to them the word that it was otherwise elsewhere; that in Arnor the King’s Steward saw to it that seedcorn was distributed from the King’s own barns to those areas which had suffered drought, and that prices were not allowed to rise exorbitantly in those regions where there was need to take unfair advantage of those who were desperate to replenish their own stores. In Arnor Men could not lose their lands solely because they argued with the King’s policies. In Arnor the rule of law was not upheld with threat of force. Many who had followed Mertirio’s banner now began to question what they would do in the coming battle.
Perdenon, who had gone South to fight under the Witchking in the War of the Rings, was correcting what he’d said before. He was letting it be known that what he’d thought to be children were instead a new people, the Periannath, a small but doughty folk of Eriador within Arnor who were honored highly by the rulers of not only Arnor and Gondor but of Rohan as well, and by Dwarves and Elves as well as Men. The news that two of the Periannath had brought down the tower of Barad-dur and had thus vanquished Sauron himself spread swiftly throughout Angmar and was soon being told in even the most remote regions. That forces of the Periannath would march with the army sent by the Lord King Elessar quickly spread, and many became fearful of the reputation of these small folk who could walk unseen and use stones and bows equally well, whose skill with sorcery was great enough to destroy Mordor. Who knew what they might do to the land of Angmar?
Here the reports spread by Mertirio’s own folk of his encounter with two of these mysterious Periannath who’d been sent to parley worked to his detriment. Those who described the small warriors dressed in the styles of Gondor and Rohan were known to be strongest in the support of Mertirio himself, and even they could not hide the fact that Mertirio had been shaken by what he saw, had fled once the two had ridden away, apparently alongside the mysterious and powerful Lord Elessar himself, who was said to wield Elven magics as well as having earned the fealty of the Dwarves.
Mertirio, as the winter waned and spring approached, began to summon forces to more strongly man the borders; and among those who came were seven he didn’t realize were still capable of wielding swords, and one he did not realize could still bend a bow. These spread themselves along the borderlands, began to counsel those whose farms were there to withdraw, either cross south or retreat north to safety. Many of those who were also stationed along the border in expectation of the coming summer’s campaign began to listen to Mustel, Perdenon, Gershim, Sestor, and the others, began to change their ideas of what they would do when the fight came.
Over the winter the forces of Arnor had also gathered along the border, and in larger forces than those of Angmar had realized they commanded. Many younger Men of Arnor had come to maturity in times of peace, had trained hard over the last years of calm, and now rode in the patrols along the borders in sufficiently large numbers that none of Mertirio’s folks could penetrate South for raids or assays.
Then in April came word that the army of the Lord King Elessar was coming north from Gondor itself, and this of seasoned Men who had fought against the forces of Mordor for many years and who would not break against what forces Angmar could raise. They were accompanied northward by Riders of Rohan, and as they crossed the East-West Road were joined by fifty archers and twenty cooks from the land of the Periannath and a group of warriors from Imladris as well as an unnumbered group of Dwarves, or so it was rumored. As the army approached the fear of the devastation to come if they fought against the forces of Arnor and Gondor and their allies continued to grow among those who were being gathered by Mertirio, and more began to listen to counsel from those who spoke of opposing the warlords....
In mid-May Mertirio and his lieutenants found themselves facing the army of the Lord King Elessar of Arnor and Gondor. The number of Men, Elves, Dwarves, and Periannath they faced amazed them, for they had no true realization of the extent of the lands whose loyalty and alliances the Lord King Elessar commanded. They saw Men in the greens, greys and silver of Arnor on both flanks, both mounted and on foot, ready to wield sword and bow and catapults. They saw the long spears of the Rohirrim carried by Men in rich greens and browns, the swords and war axes and short yet powerful bows they also carried as they sat their strong horses, their King mounted on a powerful grey stallion of the Mearas. They saw the black and silver of Gondor, the white and silver of Ithilien, the blue and silver of Dol Amroth. They saw the rich robes of Elven forces and the axes carried by sturdy Dwarven warriors. And they saw small forms of archers led by two small figures who were reputed to have killed Nazgul and trolls and unnumbered orcs.
Mertirio looked on these forces and his heart shrank inside him, yet he would still sound the charge. A tall form in armor of sable and silver approached to parley, his banner of Tree and Stars, Crown and Sceptre beside him, accompanied by the two small figures who led the archers of the Periannath whom he’d seen before in the summer, the King of Rohan, three Elves with bows at the ready, and a Dwarf with axe in hand.
Mertirio rode forward with his lieutenants until they faced the King of Arnor and Gondor and his seconds directly. Yes, the two small ones were indeed the two who’d sat reading when he rode to see them in the summer, but they were not distracted now, their attention fixed on him and his people with deadly purpose. Nor were the faces of the others who rode with the King any less determined. As for the King himself....
Never had he seen such power revealed in a Man. Here was the one he’d seen the previous summer riding away bareback on the powerful brown stallion behind the two Periannath. Now he rode an even greater grey steed, still with no saddle or tack, one who was plainly a match for the one carrying the King of Rohan who rode alongside him, and now he was revealed in his full royalty and strength, and Mertirio wished to quail before his piercing gaze.
Finally the Man spoke. “I am the King Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar of Arnor and Gondor. You sent twenty last year to take and slay me, seeking to foment war between your land and ours. Well, you now have your wish--war has come to your own borders. Will you continue in this destructive career, or will you agree to treat with us that the war not destroy your lands and people?”
“What do we have to do with those who give women and children to the great Eagles and send them against the likes of the Nazgul?” The moment he’d said this, Mertirio realized perhaps he ought not to have said any such thing, for those who faced him began to laugh.
The King laughed loudest and hardest. Finally he turned to the smaller figure on the white pony who rode by the King of Rohan. “Sir Meriadoc, you see how still they misrepresent you?”
“It’s good our beloved Lord Samwise isn’t here,” the one identified as Sir Meriadoc said. “Even without a sword, he’d be right here in this ones face, hands on hips, to disabuse him, as if he were a young teen out stealing apples from the orchard.” He rode forward. “I know you have heard the truth by now, Mertirio of Angmar, for I told it to you the last time we met. I and my Lord King Éomer’s sister Éowyn, a shieldmaiden of Rohan, stood against the Lord of the Nazgul and between us wrought his ending, and we paid the price for it through enduring the Black Breath. Two of our people entered into Mordor to bring about the ending of Sauron, and they won through by endurance, hope, and faith, along with the grace afforded them by the Valar and the Creator. We are not children, and now will fight to support our Lord and King Aragorn Elessar. It is time to give over such fanciful tales about the horrible atrocities supposedly practiced in Gondor, for we have heard also of the black and grey healers and magicians who dwell yet among you, who learned their arts from the Witchking himself. I do now ask, out of my native curiosity as a Hobbit, are any of them effective in their magics any more, now that Sauron and their teacher are no more?”
No one looking into the eyes of this one could think him a child. No, he was clearly a seasoned warrior, and the one opposite him on the dun pony was the same. Many found themselves looking sideways at Mertirio, whose face had blanched.
“This parley is pointless,” Mertirio said, and he turned to ride back, only to find that his way was blocked by one who rode forward from among his own forces to face him, Mustel of Belgri, in whose right hand was held a sword he’d once feared, rightly, to see raised against himself.
“You will not treat with the King of Arnor and Gondor when he offers you terms of peace? Our people have endured three years of short rations, two of them through drought and the third from poor policies of government. Many who would have gone elsewhere to take lands to till in peace were turned back at the borders, and their kin and friends who’d thought to remain loyal to Angmar were punished for their temerity in wishing to find arable lands and food and peace in plenty for their families.
“I have seen this Man, he who has been made King of both Arnor and Gondor, sitting in judgment and have known both his justice and his mercy. If we fight his forces, he will crush you and your followers and all of us who stand in arms against him; but also others who are merely in the way will die also, and our lands will be ravaged for your vanity. Let it end now.”
“And who will end it?” asked Mertirio. “You?”
“If no one else will stand against you, yes, I will end it now. Although I suspect you will find I do not stand alone.” A number rode and stepped forward to stand behind Mustel. “Nor, I think, will you find that all who appear to support you will continue to stand behind you.”
Mertirio looked at his army, and saw many looking at him with enigmatic expressions. Some looked between him and the forces facing him, shrugged, and almost as a man turned and walked or rode away. Of those a significant number broke their spears before they turned back north and left the field. Others began moving to come behind Mustel, and among these he saw Gershim, Perdenon and Pelos, Sestor, and the four others who had come back from Gondor with their sword hands covered in bandages. It could be plainly seen all of these held their weapons and intended to wield them not against the forces of the Southern King but against Mertirio and his followers.
White and shaking with fear and anger, Mertirio threw himself forward, and Mustel came forward to meet him. The fight was long, but in the end Mertirio was unhorsed, then disarmed by Mustel, who’d dismounted to fight him evenly.
“Will you now yield and allow us to treat with the King Elessar?” Mustel asked.
Instead, Mertirio drew his belt knife and sought to throw it into Mustel’s face. With almost a sigh, Mustel swung his sword and decapitated the Man, and the knife fell harmlessly to the side.
Held back by the arrows aimed at them by Sestor’s archers as well as the archers from the forces brought by the King Elessar, Mertirio’s lieutenants watched as their leader fell at Mustel’s hands. Finally they turned to one another, and by mutual agreement they cast down their weapons.
The war was won with no blows struck by the forces of the Lord King Aragorn Elessar.