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Battle of the Gladden Fields

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Battle of the Gladden Fields
Conflict: Post-Alliance War
Date: T.A. 2
Place: Gladden Fields, north of Rohan
Outcome: Death of Isildur, loss of the One Ring
Combatants
  • Isildur's Guard
Commanders
  • Unknown
Strength
  • Isildur
  • Isildur's three sons Elendur, Aratan & Ciryon
  • 200 Knights and Soldiers
  • Less then 20 Archers
  • Said to be up to ten times the number of Númenóreans
Casualties
  • Isildur
  • Entire escort save three
  • Unknown

The Battle of Gladden Fields was an ambush on Isildur and his personal guard at the beginning of the Third Age. The Dúnedain were outnumbered as much as ten to one. The great Men of Númenor towered above the tallest Orcs, their Swords and Spears far outreached the weapons of their enemies, but the Orcs of the Mountains were stiffened and commanded by grim servants of Barad-dûr. Slowly but steadily the Orcs achieved the upper hand. During the last stand, when it became clear that defeat was imminent Elendur ordered Isildur to put on the ring and flee. Isildur put on the One Ring and fled. When he reached the Anduin, he tried to swim across it, but the Ring betrayed him and slipped off his finger as he swam. As he rose out of the water in the moonlight, prowling Orcs shot him. Arnor never fully recovered from this grave loss of its manpower.

Contents

Events leading up to the Battle

After the fall of Sauron, Isildur, son and heir of Elendil, returned to Gondor. There he assumed the Elendilmir as King of Arnor. He remained in Gondor for a year, restoring its order and defining its bounds; but the greater part of the army of Arnor returned to Eriador by the Númenórean road from the fords of Isen to Fornost. When at last he decided to return to his own realm, he was in haste for he wished to go first to Rivendell, for he had left his wife and youngest son Valandil there. Therefore he decided to take the shortest route by making his way north from Osgiliath up the Vales of Anduin to Cirith Forn en Andrath the high-climbing pass that led down to Imladris.

With Isildur went his three sons Elendur, Aratan and Ciryon and his guard of two hundred knights and soldiers, stern men of Arnor and war-hardened. On the twentieth day they came within sight of the distant forest crowning the highlands, it was raining heavily and the Anduin had swollen with swift water. They wished to gain the ancient paths of the Silvan Elves that ran near the eaves of the Forest near the entrance of the Vales between Lórien and Amon Lanc.

So it came to pass that late in the afternoon of the thirtieth day of their journey, they were passing the north borders of the Gladden Fields. The fair day was waning and clouds were gathering above the distant mountains. To their right the Forest loomed above them, suddenly as the sun plunged into a cloud the Orcs attacked.

The Battle

The Dúnedain saw the Orcs issuing from the forest and moving down the slopes yelling their war-cries. In the dim light their number could not be guessed but the Dúnedain were plainly many times, even to ten times outnumbered. Isildur commanded a Thangail to be drawn up, if the land had been flatter or the slope in his favour he would have formed his company into a Dirnaith, hoping to cleave a way through them and scatter them in dismay. Isildur realized that they were on their own: Moria and Lórien were far behind and Thranduil was four days' march ahead.

Isildur ordered Ohtar his esquire to take the Shards of Narsil and flee and save the Shards from capture at all costs.

The Orcs let fly a hail of arrows, and then suddenly hurled a great mass of their chief warriors down the slope against the Dúnedain, hoping to break the shield-wall. But it stood firm, the arrows had little effect on the Númenórean armour. The great Men of Númenor towered above the tallest Orcs, their Swords and Spears far outreached the weapons of their enemies. After the initial attack the Orcs faltered and it seemed that they were withdrawing, the Dúnedain had slain many Orcs. Isildur ordered the men to resume the march at once, but he was mistaken. The Orcs of the Mountains were stiffened and commanded by servants of Barad-dûr, and there was cunning and a relentless hatered in their attacks.

The Dúnedain had gone scarcely a mile when the Orcs attacked again. This time the Orcs attacked on a wide front, which bent into a crescent and soon closed into an unbroken ring about the Dúnedain. Isildur could do nothing for he had too few archers to be of any effect and moreover the Orcs were at a distance out of range of even the dreaded steel-bows of Númenor.

The Orcs closed in on all the sides, flinging themselves on the Dúnedain with reckless ferocity. Some of the greater Orcs leaped two at a time, and with their weight dead or alive bore down a Dúnadan, so that other strong claws could drag him out and slay him. The Orcs might have paid five to one in this exchange but for them it was too cheap. Ciryon was slain in this way and Aratan was mortally wounded while trying to save him.

Isildur's Fall

"My King, Ciryon is dead and Aratan is dying. Your last counselor must advise you, nay command you, as you commanded Ohtar. Go! Take your burden, and at all costs bring it to the Keepers: even at the cost of abandoning your men and me!"
― Elendur

As the battle progressed it became clear that defeat was imminent, Elendur sought Isildur who was rallying men on the east side where the assault was heaviest. The Orcs still feared the Elendilmir that Isildur bore on his brow and avoided him. Elendur commanded Isildur to take the Ring and flee, so Isildur put on the Ring and suddenly the Elendilmir of the West which could not be quenched blazed forth. Men and Orcs gave way in fear and Isildur vanished into the night and was never seen again.

Isildur was a man of great strength and endurance such that few even of the Dúnedain of that age could equal. He covered a great distance and when he reached the Anduin, he tried to swim across it, but the Ring betrayed him and slipped off his finger as he swam. As he rose out of the water in the moonlight, prowling Orcs shot him. No trace of his body was ever found by Elves or Men.

Survivors

Of the two hundred Númenórean knights only three survived. Two of them were Ohtar and his companion who brought the Shards of Narsil to Rivendell. The third was Estelmo, he was Elendur's esquire, and was one of the last to fall; he was stunned by a club and not slain, and he was later found alive under Elendur's body.