Friday, October 2, 2009

Preface to a short story series I never finished.

"Concerning the people known to us as Dunlendings"

From the North-Western lands of Middle Earth beginning with the House of Haleth, second of the three houses of Edain, came distant relatives to the Dúnedain known now as the Dunlending. Split by the great river of Sirion into East and West lay Beleriand, host of the final war against Morgoth in the First Age. The three houses fought alongside the Valar, marching across Beleriand to meet the dark forces of Morgoth on the plains of Anfauglith. It is said that the glory of their weaponry illuminated the land, with brilliant lights from the battle visible for miles in any direction. In the aftermath, the Orc armies of Melkor were utterly crushed – so too were the Balrogs, a scarce few fleeing the battle to hide themselves among the darker recesses of the world. The great land of Beleriand lay in ruins, leaving only a fraction of its Eastern territory behind to form what is now known as Lindon. The survivors of the war fled to Númenor, else they crossed the Ered Luin, settling upon either side of the Gwathló, or moving into the Ered Nimrais. The Haladin of the Gwathló became the ancestors to the Dunlending people; forest dwellers, numerous and warlike.

The Gwathuirim opposed the Númenórean people, who had failed to recognize that the forest-folk of Minhiriath were their distant cousins, instead mistaking them for those descended from Morgoth’s allies, as the language they spoke bore little resemblance to that of Hador and Beor. Thus the estrangement between the peoples grew into conflicts of war and blood, as the Númenóreans had want for timber, and the Gwathuirim were natural forest-dwellers. By the Second Age, the Gwathuirim and their land were known as Enedwaith, as they lay between the newly founded Númenórean successor states of Gondor and Arnor. They were largely ignored by Gondor, but were soon to be scattered once more by the ravages of the War of Elves and Sauron in S.A. 1700. By S.A. 3320, the land of Enedwaith formed the northernmost region of the new Kingdom of Gondor, in an official capacity, before the Great Plague of T.A. 1636 began. The plague completely depopulated Cardolan, one of Arnor's 'successor states', with whom Gondor would have shared Tharbad's maintenance - Tharbad being the only settlement of Númenóreans in Enedwaith. Cardolan's few surviving Dúnedain - including those in Tharbad - fled west to Arthedain. Gondor too was devastated, and in the years following the Plague, traffic along the road through Tharbad declined considerably, leaving many parts of Eriador to fall into decay. The woodland that the Enedwaith occupied was left relatively unscathed by the plague, and with the Dúnedain slowly fading away and most of Gondor ravaged, the healthy forest-dwellers began to colonize Calenardhon, reclaiming the land between Adorn and Isen that had been given to the Éothéod; ancestors to the Rohirrim.

By the Third Age the Enedwaith’s old hatred of the descendants of Númenor kept them isolated, and encouraged them to abstain from learning Westron, the common tongue. The descendents of the Éothéod renamed the foot-hills of their western neighbours 'Dunland', the Hill Country, and its inhabitants 'Dunlendings', while also renaming the Calenardhon to Rohan. Competing for territory led to open war between the two peoples during the reign of Helm Hammerhand (T.A. 2741–2759), who had himself battled in open warfare with the Dunlendings that operated out of Isengard. Isengard itself had originally been a fortress loyal to Gondor, though the guards who were stationed there inevitably lived and died, and by the time of the Steward of Gondor Beren, they had all but intermarried with the people of Dunlending to the extent that Isengard became hostile to Gondor.

By the Long Winter of T.A. 2758–2759, Wulf, son of Freca, managed to besiege the Hornburg and capture Edoras itself, killing Helm Hammerhand's son and heir. It wasn't until Helm's nephew Fréaláf killed Wulf at the end of the Long Winter that Rohan was able to recapture Edoras and drive out the Dunlending people. In the aftermath, Saruman appeared after years of absence and offered Fréaláf his support and friendship. On Fréaláf's advice Beren gave the keys of Orthanc to Saruman, to guard it in the name of Gondor.

By the time the Númenórean city of Tharbad fell to devastating floods during the Fell Winter of T.A. 2912, only two groups survived in Enedwaith: the Dunlendings of the Far East behind the Isen, and barbarous fisher-folk along the coast. Dunland now stands north of Isenguard on the Western side of the Misty Mountains, parallel to the Fangorn forest over the hills to the East. It is in Dunland in T.A. 2983 that the one who would come be to known as Ulfheonar was born, sharing that year of birth with Faramir, brother of Boromir and second son to Denethor II, the Steward of Gondor, and Finduilas, daughter of Adrahil of Dol Amroth. And while Faramir lived and became a skilled man-at-arms and leader of men in the white city of Minas Tirith, Ulfheonar of Dunland warred and became equally proficient at leading men, though he was raised with wolves - for it should be known that the tribes of the Dunlending were nomadic in nature, prone to travelling in barbarous packs, each having different dialects of their native tongue; a mere semblance of their former glory.

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