In Umbar's Shadow
Copyright Eric Dubourg ©2001
Edited by Joe Mandala and Chris Seeman for The Guild Companion
Rumors began to circulate in the autumn of 1446 that the exiled Eldacar was gathering a great host in Rhovanion to liberate Gondor from his rival's clutches. To counter the threat of such an invasion, Castamir ordered the mobilization of the garrisons of Minas Anor and Minas Ithil against everyone in Calenardhon or Anórien who had shown sympathy to the exiled king.
But this policy required a large military force - greater than he controlled among his supporters, Southron or Gondorian mercenaries, and soldiers. And so many of Castamir's lieutenants departed on missions to recruit new soldiers in the nations from Near Harad to Bellakar. This campaign worked very well, especially in Umbar, as that city had benefited most from his benevolence. In Bellakar, Castamir sent an embassy led by Lord Duranil, Warden of Tolfalas, the older son of Elentinwë.
The embassy arrived in Ûrêzâyan on the last days of Sumat 1446, where it was received by the local asapthubêth, Kadurzîr. The envoys were treated as royal guests, and after the usual ceremonies, were brought to King Êruhil to request Bellakarian help against Eldacar. Êruhil, who had seen the sympathy of his people towards Castamir, was nonetheless well informed of the Usurper's brutal rule by agents in Gondor, and was outraged in the same way as the merchant Azrûbel. To Duranil's request, Êruhil replied, "When Tedjin and Sorijans were harrying our realm, my ancestors without doubt had wished for outside help, to liberate themselves from this danger, but no army came to help us. We suffered under foreign rule, until a Bellakarian and Bozishnara army came to liberate all of this country a century later. Now you come to us to request our assistance. For more than two centuries, peace has reigned in Bellakar, and I shall not be the king who brings that peace to an end. I will not, however, restrain my people from lending you aid. Any of them who wish to help you is free to do so."
And so the embassy returned to Pelargir. In order to prevent Duranil's embassy from generating controversy among his people, no official record was made of Êruhil's reply. Only his friends and closest advisors were apprised of it (and were ordered to reveal nothing to the Invocate). Castamir's call for help (relayed by Umbarean or Bellakarian merchants) was well received in the coastal cities of Narîk-zadan and Hazaj Tollin, which sent contingents in support of the Gondorian king. Others, like the merchant Azrûbel, chose instead to support Eldacar's allies. The scale of support for either contender was minimal, however, due to the vast distance involved. The vast majority of Bellakar's people had no reason to leave their comfortable existence to fight and die in a foreign civil war a thousand miles from home. Neutrality (or inertia) prevailed.
Castamir was unable to prevent the capture of Minas Anor, retain the allegiance of Dor-en-Ernil, or avoid defeat at the Crossing of Erui. Eldacar killed Castamir at Erui, and the surviving confederates fled to Pelargir, and thence to Harondor and Umbar, taking with them all the naval forces of Gondor.
With the return of the exiled king, peace was reinstated in Gondor, but no official relationships were re-established with Bellakar. Relations between Bellakar and Umbar remained cordial, because of the support some Bellakarâni gave to Castamir in the Civil War. Bellakar became an important trade partner for Umbar, with exchanges to regions as far away as the Seven Lands or Eriador. Êruhil maintained Bellakar as a strictly politically neutral state, refusing to become involved in a war against Gondor or Umbar.
As a result, many Bellakarian cities (especially Hazaj Tollin, Ûrêzâyan and Korlea) became very influential trade centers. Northern merchants came particularly from Tharbad and Sudúri, taking great interest in the events of the region. The Northerners brought herbs, weaponry and leather items, and traded for fine cloths, beer and wine (which the kings and the nobility of Arthedain had a great appreciation for). Southern merchants arrived mainly from Khâradûnê and Zimrathâni, both of which signed several trade agreements with the Tumakveh in 1478 and in 1487, but political alliance with northern powers was no longer a necessary precondition for Bellakar's prosperity.
In 1483, Êruhil died and was succeeded by his son Bêlkhôr Aruyati, who kept intact the policies of his father. The new king even increased the trade with Eriador and with the South by instituting the great merchant fairs in Ûrêzâyan and Korlea in 1488 (22 - 29 Mizir). This created a more extensive exchange of knowledge with the distant realm of Arthedain, and Bellakarian trading companies subsequently began sending expeditions to Tharbad as a result of this exchange.
In the meantime, the quarrelling factions and conspirators among the Council of Captains in Umbar and the violent devastation and pillaging of the Gondorian coast (like the raids against Tolfalas, Lebennin or northern Harondor), slowly increased the distrust of Umbar among the Bellakaranî, while the privileged trade with Eriador continued. Even so, attacks on Bellakarian shipping by Umbarean privateers began to increase. Only Umbar's obsession with the reclamation of Gondor allowed the majority of Bellakar's northern trade to reach port. As the political situation deteriorated, trade began to suffer.
The restoration of political privilege to Pelargir (which boded well for southern merchant trade), and the reorganization of the Gondorian fleet in TA 1498 convinced King Bêlkhôr to make a discreet overture to Gondor as a friend and an ally. The Tumakveh had at his disposal a stronger navy and a very efficient army, thanks to the riches flowing in from the trade with Tharbad and the South (though the primacy of Umbar's navy remained unchallenged). Zimrêbal, son of Kadurzîr (asapthubêth of Ûrêzâyan), was secretly sent to Osgiliath in TA 1515 to discuss an unofficial alliance, just after a devastating Umbarean raid along the coasts of Lebennin. Zimrêbal was aided in this task by Gondorians whose families had been saved by courageous Bellakarian merchants during the Kin-strife, and by those who had not forgotten the old friendship with the Bellakarâni. Zimrêbal was so convincing that he obtained an audience with the King's Court. Such an audience would probably have had no success with Eldacar, who remembered Bellakar's neutrality and resented it. With King Aldamir, however, the audience concluded successfully.
The relationship between the two realms remained limited and difficult, however, and resulted in only sporadic trade. Information about Umbarean activities was exchanged, warning Gondor of likely raids and informing Aldamir of its internal politics. On the other hand, relations between Bellakar and Umbar continued to worsen, and some Corsairs began to interest themselves in Mardruak coasts (much as the Sorija had in the past). Most of the confederates, however, remained more interested in reclaiming Gondor for the sons of Castamir than in extending their dominion southwards. Bellakar was, at best, a distraction. Trade with Gondor and Tharbad continued to decline.
When Aldamir was lost in battle contesting Harondor with Castamir's surviving descendants, the new king of Gondor, Vinyarion, fully affirmed the friendship with Bellakar. When Bellakarian interests were threatened, many Gondorians would often throw their support behind their southern friends, and in this way began to repay the courageous acts of Bellakarian sympathizers during the Kin-strife. For its part, Bellakar outwardly remained carefully neutral, fearing reprisal from Umbar's mighty fleet.