Rangers of the North
Fornost, also known more fully as Fornost Erain (Sindarin ‘Northern fortress of the Kings’ from for(n) (north) + ost (fortress); Norbury of the Kings or simply Norbury in Westron), was a city in Eriador, the north-western region of Middle-earth. It was located at the south end of the North Downs, about 100 Númenórean miles north of Bree. It was eventually abandoned and fell into ruin, and became popularly known as Deadmen’s Dike. At the time of the events of The Lord of the Rings (TA 3018 – 3019), Fornost had been abandoned for about a thousand years, and “even the ruins of Kings’ Norbury were covered with grass.”
It is not known when Fornost was founded or when the Kings of Arnor moved there from Annúminas. In TA 861, when King Eärendur died, Arnor was divided into three kingdoms, Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur. Eärendur’s eldest son, Amlaith, who became King of Arthedain, had the epithet, “of Fornost,” suggesting that Fornost immediately served as the capital of Arthedain; it may have also been the capital of Arnor before the partition.
Fornost was located along the southernmost edge of the North Downs. As a military fortress, it served to guard the gap between the North Downs and the Weather Hills against incursions by the forces of Rhudaur or Angmar. The palantír of Annúminas may have eventually been relocated to Fornost; that of Amon Sûl was taken to Fornost when the Tower of Amon Sûl fell to the Witch-king’s forces in TA 1409.
Early in TA 1974, Fornost, along with the rest of Arthedain, fell to a full-scale invasion from Angmar, and most of its inhabitants were killed or driven over the Lune. King Arvedui, after resisting for a time on the nearby North Downs, fled into the northern wastes and was eventually lost in the Ice Bay of Forochel. The Witch-king then set up his residence in Fornost, and populated the city with “evil folk”. The next year, a fleet from Gondor, led by Eärnur, landed at Mithlond. Along with allies from Lindon, Rivendell and the former territories of Arnor, they defeated the Witch-king of Angmar on the plains west of Fornost; though he escaped, Angmar’s army was utterly destroyed.
Fornost is a shadow of its former self by the time of the invasion. Enough remains 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 take the name of Deadmen’s Dike — the power of the Witch-king’s curses against the city takes a long time to fade. Undead of various sorts, as well asfaedegnir and creatures of the Underdeeps, appear among the ruins occasionally in the centuries after the fall.
At the end of the war, the northern Dúnedain, now led by Arvedui’s son Aranarth, were too few in number to rebuild their nation or maintain cities. Fornost was not resettled, and gradually fell into ruin.
The Rangers of the North visit the place and even maintain havens near it, but they do not try to live there. When the forces of the Telcontari return to the area in the early Fourth Age, they start a new village and fortress in the Vale of Senthur, just below the ruins and to the west. Adventurers have no competition for the ugly business of picking through the rubble and cleaning out the remaining curses.