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Cardolan is one of the new areas you'll be able to explore once the upcoming Before the Shadow expansion for The Lord of the Rings Online goes live on November 9, 2022. And if you'd like to know more about it before that, you should check out this here preview article on the game's website.
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Known as the Land of Red Hills due to the ruddy hue of its rocky moors, Cardolan has also been reddened by much bloodshed over the centuries. War and death emptied this land, once a thriving part of the great North-kingdom of Arnor, long ago. Now it is a waste of scrub and heath, where the wind sighs through crumbled ruins and among the ancient barrows that gaze down from the heights. Only a few stout folk remain, protected by the Rangers of the North from plundering Orcs and gruesome wights that stalk the mists.
At the height of Arnor’s glory, Cardolan was a prosperous province, second only to the king’s lands of Arthedain. As the years passed, however, the strength of the Dúnedain faltered and disputes over the throne tore the kingdom apart. Cardolan broke away to become its own kingdom, and centuries of wars with its neighbours and the evil realm of Angmar left it devastated. Afterward, ravaging plagues and catastrophic flooding destroyed what little remained. In recent years refugees and other outcasts have settled amid the rubble, but much of the land remains empty, watched over by bands of wandering Dúnedain.
Into this land have come servants and spies of the Enemy, some following Sauron and others bearing a new emblem: a white hand upon a field of black. And lately, folk recount in fearful whispers the passing of nine Riders, clad in black and riding black horses, who left a trail of horror behind them as they passed up the Road into the barrow-lands of Tyrn Gorthad.
Cardolan’s terrain ranges from rugged downs, where fog cloaks the dells, to treeless scrublands dotted with tumbled stones that were once the strongholds of Men. Herdsmen graze their flocks in the fields of Ruddymore, while the reckless brave the dark and tangled southern reaches of the Old Forest, remnants of the vast woodland that covered the countryside in days long gone. The war-sundered wreckage of Caranost, home to Cardolan’s kings, still clings to the stones, looking down upon the overgrown road now called the Greenway, while what is left of the once-mighty city of Tharbad stands drowned along the riverbanks, its grand bridge lying broken amid the unquiet waters.
After the Downfall of Númenor, those Dúnedain who settled among the red hills brought with them one of the Vandassari, the ancient “Oath-stones” of Fëanor, with which they forged peace with the native Hill-folk, whom they called the Amonedain. Those Hill-folk who swore fealty to the High King became citizens of Arnor; unlike their wilder cousins to the east, many remained loyal after Sauron’s agents broke the Oath-stone and freed them from its power. Their descendants endure even now, hardy folk of the sort who dwell in Bree and other towns about Eriador.
Had Arnor persisted undisturbed, Cardolan might have become the flourishing heart of the North-kingdom, for much trade with distant lands – including Gondor, the Dúnedain’s southern kingdom – passed along the Road through Tharbad. Sadly, however, this was not to be, for Sauron and his minions yearned for vengeance against the children of Númenor. The War of the Last Alliance took a heavy toll on the people of Cardolan, and after the death of King Eärendur fragmented Arnor, the Witch-king of Angmar turned his will toward destroying what remained. Centuries of bloodshed led first to the end of Cardolan’s kings, then to the fall of the kingdom itself, its last princes preyed upon by the dead, whom the Witch-king’s sorcery had roused from their barrows. The Hill-folk lingered, though even their numbers dwindled as the Great Plague spread up from the south; recently some Bree-folk have moved south in search of wilder lands, while wild Dunlendings creep north, fleeing the belligerence of their more warlike clans.
Also of late, the Orcs of the region have grown more dangerous. With Sauron ruling in Mordor once again, they have found the courage to come down out of the mountains and cross the rivers into Cardolan in ever-greater numbers. Even some Stone-trolls have roamed south, preying on the flocks and herds – and herdspeople – of the Hill-folk. At the same time, ruffians and odd Men of goblin-like aspect have crossed the fords at Tharbad, their designs unknown.
The Rangers keep a wary eye on all of these newcomers, minding the peace and protecting the Hill-folk as best they can, though their numbers are few. Halbarad, lieutenant to Chieftain Aragorn II, has joined them in guarding against trouble, though the Black Riders have thrown his forces into confusion and disarray with their passing, stirring the dead once more in their wake. The war may yet be far off, but its troubles are already at Cardolan’s doorstep: if brave folk are not willing to stand and fight, soon the safety of its villages and roads might belong to memory alone.
Explore Cardolan and beyond in Before the Shadow! Learn about our newest expansion on LOTRO.com!