The Estrangement of Gondor and the Great Plague
Copyright Eric Dubourg ©2001
Edited by Joe Mandala for The Guild Companion
Though he became King of Bellakar, Khâruzîr did not forget his home. For twenty years he maintained a strong relationship with Minardil, with frequent diplomatic and mercantile expeditions between Nîlûlondê and Osgiliath. These twenty years saw a rebuilding of the realm, and the slow re-growth of international trade. In 1623, Belkâli died. The King mourned her deeply, and built a magnificent memorial in her honor. The entire nation of Bellakar felt the loss of this gentle and generous Queen.
An alliance of Haruze lords in Pezarsan in 1633 resulted in the liberation of Lurmsakûn from Variag domination. The invading barbarians then returned to Khand, greatly weakened. This enabled trade to resume across the Dune Sea. Bellakar had not traded across this route since the Golden Age of the Tumakveh, which had ended nearly 1000 years earlier. The rise of an evil empire in Chey, led by the children of Adûnaphel had kept trade with the far interior closed. Strong trade relations were established with the western nations of Ormal Bay, the new Chyan Empire, and with Anarikê. Trade was more profitable to the south with Ormal Bay than with Gondor, and Anarikê became an important trade partner, acting as a portal to the entire panoply of goods Ormal Bay had to offer. Decades of peace followed (interrupted only by the Great Plague), which were dedicated to the rebuilding of the realm, whose infrastructure had been devastated by the Civil War.
As communications with Gondor became more rare, Khâruzîr was made aware in late 1633 that the Corsairs of Umbar were preparing for a major offensive aimed at retaking much of Harondor. A few weeks later, the fleet that had assembled in Umbar instead struck the coasts of Gondor in a massive raid. In the ensuing battles, Pelargir was badly damaged and Minardil was slain.
The architects of this raid were Angamaitë and Sangahyando, the great-grandsons of Castamir. Their father Castamaitë gained grudging admission to the Council of Captains due to his brilliant military successes, including a campaign along the Mardruak coasts. When he died in TA 1621, his sons were able to secure seats on the council due to the great influence of their father. The success of the Great Raid was unqualified, and the brothers were granted the greatest prize in Umbar - joint leadership of the Council of Captains.
Rumors of the attack soon arrived in Bellakar. Merchants rescuing Gondorian sailors adrift at sea told tales of the raid. Soon spies in Umbar reported more details. The road to Gondor was cut, to the great despair of the King. Khâruzîr feared a similar attack on his adopted homeland, and immediately laid plans to defend his realm, which was eminently vulnerable to such a large-scale assault.
In Ishat 1634, a great shipbuilding began in Ûrêzâyan, Tarkhesh and Narîk-zadan. Though he had no hope of outfighting Umbar in open war on the waves, Khâruzîr endeavored to build his fleet up to protect Bellakar. Many fortresses were built on coastward islands (including Old Vulture Island) to help defend the coasts of Mardruak and Felayja. These hastily constructed fortifications were soon forced to prove themselves, as Umbar began raiding Bellakar in early 1635. Though the raids mainly fell on settlements facing Belfalas Bay, Mardruak was also attacked. These raids marked the beginning of the periodic warfare which was to rage in the region for the next two centuries.
Two years later, in 1636, the Great Plague swept through Near Harad and Bellakar, slaying one fifth of the population. In addition, earthquakes destroyed the Old Tedjin cave city of Zimrênzil (rebuilt one century before the Second Sorijan wars). The coastal city of Hazaj Tollin was heavily damaged by the resultant tidal wave.
Khâruzîr survived the plague, as did three of his children. He immediately began recovery efforts. He sent many soldiers, healers, and advisors to all the cities of the Realm. The royal family donated heavily to the reconstruction effort, and the King himself went down into the capital city to heal his people. His actions during this time earned Khâruzîr the undying love of his adopted people, and the "Stranger King" became one of the most beloved rulers Bellakar had ever known. It is said that even a Tumakveh prince appeared out of the past, the people would support Khâruzîr as their rightful King.
Even the Cuind of Auz Azunan and the reclusive Honnin took part in healing the sick and rebuilding the kingdom. A crusade of sorts was declared against the Plague, and because of the strong leadership of Khâruzîr, Bellakar suffered less than it could have. Some murmured that Bellakar was being punished because of the evils committed during the Civil War. Most simply tried to continue their lives as they could.
In two years, the Plague was subdued. Emerging from the sickness with renewed vigor, Khâruzîr ordered the rebuilding of Hazaj Tollin and the continued fortification of the Mardruak coast. Though Umbar's raids had all but ceased during the plague, he knew they would resume as soon as the Corsairs had the ability. Even as weakened as they had been by the plague, Umbar's fleet had seized (under Sangahyando's son) the north bank of Ethir Harnen. Khâruzîr knew time was pressing. By 1640, the realm was strengthening, and trade was again being restored with Khâradûnê, Ormal Bay, and Tulwang. Contact with Gondor was still sporadic - Umbar still held the Bay of Belfalas.