Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Building of the Tower of Orthanc

There was but one choice for the Master Builder of Angrenost, and that was Curugond of Lamedon. He had overseen the building of Minas Anor nearly thirty years earlier, and though old, was the most cunning builder that the Dúnedain had produced since the days of Númenor. Great friendship he had with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, who shared their arts with him, but Curugond gleaned even more from their teachings than they guessed, and as his knowledge grew, so did his pride. Curugond’s thought was fixed on the Barad-dûr, which had been the greatest tower of its age. Why, he thought, should Gondor not build a fortress of such stature, an answer to the darkness of the previous age?

When he travelled to the vale to survey it, he discovered Ciryanar’s vision of a tower within a ring was not mere fancy. Only half-buried beneath the soil deposited by the Isen, was a rough, natural ring of black stone, the lip of some ancient volcano laid low by time and nature. Curugond’s designs were greater than they ought to have been, a mark of pride. He made plans to carve four great slabs of black stone from the centre of the ring, forming the tower’s apartments and chambers from them, and then hoisting them together to fit into a virtually impregnable tower. To carve the sides, he enlisted the aid of the dwarves of Moria, while crews recruited from Dunland performed the task of hoisting the slabs. This latter labour was far more difficult than Curugond had promised, and when the Hill-men attempted to raise the third slab, the lines broke, and many Dunlendings were crushed. Curugond cared not for their misfortune, but fretted about the tower, which was undamaged. This slight was remembered in Dunland, whose people nurse grudges like a dragon’s horde, and the people of Gondor would later come to rue the callousness of their chief builder.

Ten years after the death of Ciryanar, the tower was finally completed. Upon its lofty roof, enchantments were set to protect it from harm, from fire and stone and the natural forces that weather stone to its roots. Prince Thinyarpher, Ciryanar’s son, took the keys of Orthanc and became its first steward, bringing with him a palantír of Elendil. He served Gondor faithfully, as did his descendents, the Angrenostim, for in those days there was trust among the royal houses of Gondor and love between its brethren, and kings did not fear that a rival would use Angrenost as a citadel to supplant them. But such days were not to last forever.

As for Curugond’s fate, one tale says that he promised the Dwarves of Moria a great jewel of Númenor in exchange for their service, but besotted by a pretty granddaughter, he gave her the jewel and substituted a lesser gift in its stead. It is further said that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, who had no love for deception, seized Curugond and slew him in the dark.


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