The capital of Arthedain after the division of Arnor in T.A. 861, Fornost had long been the largest and busiest city north of Tharbad. The tin and lead deposits underlying this patt of the North Downs drew Eriadoran and Dwarven miners here as early as S.A 1000. For obscure reasons, the Dwarves got no support for their claims from their kinfolk in Moria, and the Eriadorans drove them out after a series of minor wars. Much later, religious mystics from Numenor arrived and received permission to build an astronomical observatory on Formenaire (Q. Northlament"; W. Norland's Glower), the highest crest of the downs around the headwaters of the Nin Erain, the most important local river. Numenorean power kept the peace locally, and the Eriadorans got used to the idea of their leadership. Around S.A. 3250, a Sauronic minion used the mystical lenses of the observatory on Formenaire to summon an Elrauko (Q. "Stardemon"). It ravaged the countryside until slain by a Dunadan wizard, Calendil Glornaur ("Goldfire"). Calendil was elected King of the Tyrn Formen by the grateful locals and eventually willed his crown to his nephew, Elendil of Andunie, who later combined the tide with several others when he made himself the first King of Arnor.
The actual name of "Fornost Erain" first appeared in Elendil's original plans for the defense of Arnor against the Orcs of the Misty Mountains. He ordered a fortification, "The Citadel," built along the highest ridge of Norland's Glower, and added a series of defensive walls around the hill as local settlement moved, from the towns down in the valleys to either side, uphill towards the center of local power. Valandil, the first King of Arnor in the Third Age, built a palace within the citadel for use in the summer, to enable him to get away from the ,heat and biting insects that troubled his official capital at Annuminas. Over the centuries. Amor's Kings transferred more and more of their officials to Fornost, seeking the knowledge of the religious mystics dwelling in the area. After Arnor was divided, the military problems of the kingdom were also best handled from its eastern citadel. By the time Annuminas fell to the Angmarim in 1409, all that remained was to move the Palantir of Annuminas eastward for the transfer of power and government to be complete.
Located on a steep rise on the southern slopes of the North Downs, Fornost had been as much a fortress as it had been a city. It was chosen to be the royal seat of Arthedain after the sack of Annúminas in T.A.1409. Since then, a somber mood had permeated every aspect of life in court, for the Dúnedain stood ever ready to meet another assault by the Witch-king. Despite, or perhaps because of, the omnipresent threat from Angmar, the people of Arthedain were a spiritual folk given over to introspection. The wisest scholars and greatest library of the Men of the North were to be found in Fornost.
Fornost was a shadow of its former self by the time the Witch-king's forces besiege it in T.A. 1974. Enough remained of its population for the Witch-king to send an army of animated corpses across the winter landscape to terrorize fleeing refugees and haunt the Shire for the next two decades. The ruins now took the name of Dead Man's Dike—the power of the Witch-king's curses against the city took a long time to fade. Undead of various sorts as well as creatures of the Underdeeps and Feadegnir, appeared among the ruins occasionally in the centuries after the fall. The Rangers of the North visited the place and even maintained Havens near it, but they did not try to live there.At the time of the War of the Ring Fornost was a forsaken ruin haunted by wild animals and known to the neighboring Breemen as "Deadman's Dike". There was a small permanent campsite maintained by the Rangers of the North, and often wandering Brigand-Tribes and Orcs roamed the surrounding wilds.When the forces of the Telcontari returned to the area in the early fourth Age, they started a new village and fortress in the Vale of Senthur, just below the ruins and to the west. Adventurers had no competition for the ugly business of picking through the rubble and cleaning out the remaining curses
Fornost in T.A. 1640
- Type: Fortified City .
- Inhabitants: 95% Dúnadan, 5% Mixed Mannish
- Population: 3,100
- Origin: First fortified by Númenoreans in S.A. 3177; capital of Arthedain after T.A.1409.
- Purpose: Center of political power in Arthedain; royal seat; intellectual and commercial center of the Dúnedain of the North.
- Symbol: Seven Stars on a Black Field .
Arthedain's capital city for the last two centuries, Fornost Erain stands as the realm's principal fortress and center of culture and trade. Perched strategically on the highest crest of the North Downs, and further protected by earthen and stone dikes and palisades beneath its high, curving stone walls, Fornost houses the royal family and nobility of the kingdom in addition to Arthedain's renowned seers, scholars, artisans, and their many assistants and servants. Sharing the city with them are the Dagorwaith Aran and the Rembar Tirrim (S. "Royal Army" and the "Citadel Guard"). The soldiers sleep in spartan two-story barracks scattered about the fortress baileys; they keep a constant lookout from high guard towers within the walls. The northern Dunedain frown upon the "baser" pleasures of the flesh—and decline in number as each year passes—so soldiers must content themselves for long periods with card games and gambling in the barracks and mess halls and contests of strength and agility outside. The military drills both within and without the walls, practicing the Dunedain's favorite offensive-defense, the formation called the thangail. It is a shielded wall of men in two ranks pressed together and bending into a defensive ring if outflanked. Archery is also practiced outside the walls of Fornost; the soldiers launch their black-feathered arrows from hollow steel-bows with studied precision. Inside the walls, a guild of armorers and weapon smiths is kept busy making swords, axes, spears, knives, and ekets—the short, but broad, twin-edged stabbing swords favored by the Dunedain. Once the Arthedain were a peaceful people who showed their weapons only as items of curiosity. That time is long past, and no one lives in or walks through Fornost without knowing that it is a city at war. The city gains most of its water supply through an extensive series of cisterns, and the wells in Fornost draw from this system rather than from the minimal ground water available. Sewage is drained into a natural complex forg of cracks and small caves deep in the limestone bedrock, preventing any secret entrance into the city, but allowing an occasional intrusion from the Underdeeps. Various guilds and fellowships take care of municipal functions. Most of these tasks are less cumbersome than in other large cities; Fornost's mountain-top location ensures clean air and relatively vermin-free buildings, while the structured, legalistic Arthadan society keeps the crime rate amazingly low. In its way, the open city of Fornost is a more secure capital than the massively fortified and oppressively policed Carn Dum. Angmarean agents and common criminals who arrive in Fornost must deal with a sturdy, proud, self-righteous populace, scrupulously honest and efficient officials and watchmen, and the knowledge that a large number of awesomely skilled seers, mystics, and other "sensitives" are alert for the presence of evil.
I. The Citadel. Also called the Royal Hold, it stands nearly a thousand feet above the Vale of Senthur to its west and three hundred above the north quarter of the city on its eastern and northern sides. Steep limestone bluffs are surmounted by fifty-foot walls of grey granite; located at intervals along the walls, circular guard towers of like stone rise some thirty feet higher. Gate-towers of elliptical shape permit passage from the city into the Citadel. The central bailey ofthe Citadel is separated from the northern fort by three curtain walls, a transition bailey, and a long ramp that winds down almost three hundred feet of cliff face through six gate-towers. The southern fort is more accessible: a single gate-tower with an internal ramp accommodates the seventy-foot difference in height. Where the curtain wall ofthe southern fort intersects that of the Citadel stands the Elbarad Ohtarion (S. "Warrior's tower").Theone-hunched-fifty-footspire was the original military construction on the "Rock," replacing an older Astrologers' tower built in the Second Age. It serves as a lookout tower and observatory; it also houses the Palantiri of Fornost and Amon Sul and is the working quarters for the Guardians of the Palantiri. The Citadel houses the royal family and their personal guards, most of the Rembar Tirrim, as well as various officials.The Mard Tirelenion (S. "Star-watchers' Hall") at the western end of the enclosure was originally designed as a summer palace for the rulers of Arnor, but it is quite adequate as a residence for the humbler Kings who have dwelt here for eight hundred years.
2. Forts. The southern fort houses most of the infantry Tulkairim currently on active-duty with the Dagorwaith Aran; it has no direct gate to the city, which, in the minds of the Arthedain, makes it an ideal training center for the Royal Army, the King's Rangers, and the better elements of the Dírais Aran of Fornost, the Royal Militia. Serving or training here is considered a great honor. Socially ambitious young nobles and mercenaries vie at tournaments for the privilege of being locked into the Citadel for months at a time and abused by the toughest soldiers in all of Eriador. The northern fort houses the active cavalry contingent of the Royal Army and serves as a training ground for the bulk of the militia. The Citadel guards train here as well. Soldiers are a common sight sight, marching to and from the gate-towers they garrison along the passage of the Men Formen up the western slopes of Norland's Glower and into the city.
3. Upper Quarter. The upper quarter does not attract the wealthiest inhabitants of Fornost, because it is too cramped in its position on the eastern slope of Citadel Hill'. However, the Mayor of Fornost and the head of the guild of weapon smiths both dwell here, as do several other important artisans and merchants. The Rath Rammas, the avenue along the main wall of the city, is the primary street in the section.
4. North Quarter. The north quarter occupies the largest terrace of reasonably flat ground on the crest of Norland's Glower. Even so, it rises almost a hundred feet from the Ronabarad (S. "East Tower") to the High Square, the open plaza at the entrance to the Citadel. Three main avenues define the quarter. The Rath Aran, "Kings Street", a processional boulevard from the East Tower to the High Square, is the broadest in Fornost. Vendors and street merchants from the lower city line it each morning to sell their goods to the wealthier inhabitants of the upper city. A park, the Glower Wood, lies along the south side of the Rath Aran, as well as the main guard barracks in the upper city. The Rath Rammas, kept clear of most street traffic so troops can move along it, wraps around the entire upper quarter and provides for rapid movement by horse or foot. The Rath Forod, the busy street which splits the north quarter in twain, is split itself by a dike. The wall is 4' feet high on its western side and as high as 14' on its north side, marking the rise between the two halves of the quarter. Narrow stairs at every cross street allow passage of pedestrians from one neighborhood to another. Note that the wall is of such a height on the upper side of the street that only the tall Dunedain can comfortably look over it. It shares this characteristic with many public structures in the city, an aspect of Fornost remarked on with irritation by travelers. The main streets split the upper quarter into three neighborhoods, west, north, and south, each slightly more exclusive as the residences climb higher and closer to the Citadel and palace. The seven great-houses in the west and east neighborhoods belong to the seven Great Houses of Arthedain. The Tarmear, Eketyar, Orromenyar, Hyarromenyar, Emeryar, Formenyar, and Noirinanya families all station a representative in Fornost to sit on the King's council; their townhouses also serve as a residence for the Hiraratar of the family when he or she visits the city and provide a social focus for the various members of the House serving in government and army.
5. Lower Quarter. The Rath Aran passes through the East Tower and does a switchback down a steep slope before reaching another relatively large, flat terrace on the gender eastern side of Norland's Glower. In the early days of the city, the. terrace comprised farmed fields. As the Arthedain moved their capital eastward, buildings began springing up among the fields, and the Kings gradually authorized a city plan and system of dikes and towers to protect the increased population. The lower city was organized into the lower, south, and east quarters by King Amlaith's officials in the ninth century of the Third Age. The lower city now houses almost all of the city's gentry and workers, as well as the field laborers needed to maintain the orchards and gardens remaining on the lower terrace. The lower quarter, the part of the lower city north of the Rath Aran, is home to a large number of artisans and professional people who primarily serve the needs of the upper city. It residents consider it a respectable neighborhood, and regularly attend quiet concerts and goods and crafts fairs in its two open squares. Queen Liriel plays here frequently, more or less in disguise, grateful for an audience that applauds her playing with more sincerity than those in the upper city. A tall, middle-aged fellow watching her from the shadows might well be King Argeleb himself; several equally tall but rather grim individuals loitering about him would be his elite bodyguards, and anyone too obviously curious about his majesty will have serious conversation with them. Another important but secretive resident of the lower quarter is Serindar the Tailor. He is an elderly fellow, well respected by the important and influential for the delicacy of his needlework and his sweeping knowledge of Fornost gossip. Serindar stopped using his house as a storefront years ago; he has wealthy clients all ovet the capital and across northern Arthedain. He does his fine gown- and vest-work now only by personal recommendation. Fine ladies and stout swordarms will rise to defend Serindar, if ever he should be slandered either professionally or personally. Serindar's long career as the Witch-king's most valuable spy in upper-class Fornost society began with a personal grudge against the Line of Isildur. The resentment arose from a criticism by King Argeleb's late mother against costume work done by his father when Serindar was a very small child. Forced to leave Fornost after the Queen-mother's rebuke caused business to dry up, Serindar's family was murdered by brigands along the Greenway. Serindar survived, and his natural gifts of hand and eye allowed him to eventually work his way back to Fornost and success. He met there a traveling seer and wizard, Greystride, who took an interest in his past and helped him discover the whole story of his family's desmiction. Serindar was already less than fond of Fornost's aristocrats and their brooding snobbery—he listened readily to Greystride's ideas for a way to make his fortune and find revenge at the same time. As the years passed, Serindar has come to regret that long-ago decision; but he resigns himself, in the stubborn Arthadan manner, to living with his choices. Since he is civilized and honorable, he is not trusted by his Angmarean masters and rarely given any responsibility other than gathering information and arranging covers for other Angmarean spies. Serindar has survived this long by being cautious. He has the gift of perfect recall, and thus never keeps any dangerous personal records. When he passes messages, he does so by writing them in minute letters on fine cloth and then embroidering over the writing. The articles of clothing thus embroidered go to certain customers who have regular business beyond the walls of Fornost. The only unusual thing about Serindar's lifestyle is his secret familiar. This is "the Imp," a cat-sized Faerie creature. The Imp occasionally acts as a snoop for Serindar, but it is mainly useful for its fine, precise, decorative needlework. The needlework is one of Serindar's trademarks, and rivals marvel at how he has been able to maintain such a delicate touch into old age. The Imp was a gift from Greystride, and Serindar suspects that its ultimate purpose, since its bite is deadly poison, is to keep him from revealing any secrets when he finally reaches his dotage.
6. South Quarter. The south quarter is Fornost's closest approximation of a poor section of town; it is fairly prosperous by the standards of Tharbad or Umbar. Most folk make a living, and even the beggars work for bed and warmth during the colder months of the year. Entertainments are rowdier than in other parts of town, and foreigners with little obvious wealth—mainly mercenaries and teamsters from the caravans—can wander without being accosted by the Watch or Guard. Fornost possesses nothing resembling a proper Thieves' Guild; a couple of local gangs handle illicit medicinals and herbs, do a little smuggling, and organize local vice. The authorities don't like to admit that vice and crime exist in Fornost, and inconspicuous thieves and rogues can have a long working lifetime as long as they remain inconspicuous. One of the more stable concerns in the south quarter is the Rag & Trade Shop, set inconspicuously amongst the crowded houses along the base of the bluff below the city wall. Borthur the Ragman runs this small store. Secondhand goods crowd its shelves, and thousands of remnants of colorful cloth decorate the walls. Scraps of fabric might be found here to mend garments or upholstery; a outmoded, but needed, tool might be discovered, well worn, for a few coppers instead of a silver. A rag merchant makes his living by sorting the things others throw away or lose or are willing to part with for almost nothing. In Fornost, a town whose inhabitants are known for their thrifty habits, picking over others' garbage does not provide easy living. Borthur employs street urchins to scavenge the goods, which he cleans and sells. He collects a lot of petty information this way, allowing him a secondary income as a snitch, but the locals in the south quarter still wonder how the smelly old man thrives on his paltry business. Borthur manages it, in large part, because he is not truly alive. He is called the "Deatheater" (S. "Gurthvador") by those who know his secret; he is a ghoul, an undead spirit in a withered human body. He is able to pass for a man due to the bulkiness of his ragged clothing and because most folk make assumptions about the appearance normal to a tired, impoverished, withered old man. Without the wrappings around his hands, someone might notice how withered and claw-like they are. If he did not keep his mouth drawn, as a man with rotted gums might do, a customer might catch a glimpse of his glittering, unusually sharp, teeth. His foul breath, possibly caused by poor diet and too much time alone, is not likely to be taken as a symptom of soul-rot and the consumption of mannish flesh. Borthur is indeed ancient; he dimly remembers his youth as the scion of a wealthy family of Fornost in the second century of the Third Age. He foolishly fell in with a strange cult with even more curious rituals. Expecting to satiate certain hedonistic appetites, he instead found himself having to satisfy a very basic appetite in a very base way. He fled Fornost after slaying and devouring a friend whose family refused to sell their silence. While Borthur has lived in many places since then, he is ever drawn to Fornost, the city of his youth; only there can he feel and act like a living man and walk among those whose blood is still warm and whose lives can still hold joy and excitement beyond merely surviving another day. The Deatheater was recruited to the service of the Witch-king four centuries ago; Serindar the Tailor, who does not know Borthur, is the only other Angmarean spy currently dwelling permanently in Fornost. Borthur has done well for his master, sending regular reports to Angmar from the poorer side of the city and acting as a contact for other agents. In return, the Witch-king gives him a purpose and a refuge; when his circumstances in Arthedain grow uncomfortable, Borthur spends a few months or years working as an undertaker in Carn Dum. Eventually, though, he knows he must come back home. The front of Borthur's shop is not distinctive; nor is the second floor where he rests and does his cooking. The clue that might confuse a guest is the lack of any food odor around Borthur's stove. All that he usually heats there are dyes for his cloth trade and the hot herb teas that mollify, slightly, his unnatural cravings and his distinctive corpsebreath. In Borthur's cellar, in a room behind the rootshelves and stacks of old bottles, cluster the tools of his darker secrets: butcher's tools, meat-hooks, and a massive chopping block. The implements hang at unusual locations along the walls, along with an assortment of odd bones and other unpleasant trophies. The Deatheater is clear-headed for a ghoul, although, like most undead, he is lacking in initiative and imagination. What he does, he does well: gathering information from corrupt sources, passing agents and couriers into and out of the city, and dealing harshly with informants and troublemakers. He magically controls a number of bats and vermin, but acts largely through corrupt or impoverished mannish.agents. Only two of his gatherers of old goods and information know Borthur's true nature. Laifrin and Boinand are Eriadoran cousins, sadists, worshipers of darkness, and addicts of the euphoric herb tartella. They have "eaten at the Master's table" and aredemented. However, the pair are quite loyal. They buy and steal bodies for Borthur from the undertakers, claiming to work for the Schools of Medicine in Fornost, and occasionally scout out a living victim for their relative when his cravings for warm flesh grow strong.
7. East Quarter. Lying between the lower and south quarters, both physically and socially, the east quarter boasts more cheap, but respectable, shops, inns, and boarding houses than any other part of the city. It is the part of Fornost where travelers from afar are most comfortable and where the widest variety of basic goods and entertainments are available. Brethildur the Healer lives in a small house in the east quarter. An older cousin of Bellaniel Uial, attendant to Crown Prince Arvegil, he has training in medicine and philosophy, but little of his family's wealth. He supports himself as a physician, retaining contacts with his cousin and a few intellectual friends. Among these are Gandalf the Grey and Elladan and Elrohir of Rivendell. Brethildur possesses a few spare rooms in his house and a small garden in his courtyard of his house—his friends stay with him whenever they visit Fornost.
The Ruins of Deadman's Dike in later Times
Places of Note:
- Ancient Channels and Waterworks
- Barad Eithel
- Barad Harn
- Barad Narthan
- Deadmen's Gate
- The Dike
- Fields of Fornost
- Fornost Square
- Haunted Keep
- Glower Wood
- Minas Erain
- Norbury Gates
- Norbury Tombs
- Norland's Glower
- Orc Camp
- Overgrown Gardens
- Ranger Camp
- Vale of Senthur
- Vault of Egalmir
Before T.A. 1640
Amlaith of Arthedain Argeleb I Beleg of Arthedain Calendil Glornaur Drogil of Fornost Lachglin
After T.A. 1640
Aranarth Arvedui of Arthedain Firiel of Arthedain Malbeth the Seer
about T.A. 3018
Brogadan Einiora Gulavhar Megoriath Remmenaeg Rhavemeldir Riamul
- MERP:Arnor - Rangers of the North
- LOTRO:The North Downs, Fornost