On the appointed day of the battle, on the morning of Midsummer, the trumpets of the Eldar greeted the rising of the Sun, and eastwards was raised the standard of Fëanor; westwards the standard of Fingon, High King of the Gnomes. Fingon looked out from the walls of Eithel Sirion. His hosts were arrayed in the valleys and the woods upon the slopes of Ered Wethrin, concealed from the roving eye of Morgoth, and the host was very great for all the people of Hithlum were there assembled, as well as Elves from the Falas and Gwindor's company from Nargothrond, as well as a host of Men under the lordship of Húrin, and of Huor his brother, and to them were gathered also the Men of Brethil. And Fingon looked towards Thangorodim, and from those reeking towers there went up a black smoke, and he knew then that the wrath of Morgoth was aroused and their challenge accepted.
But doubt then pierced Fingon's heart, and he looked across Anfauglith, thinking so as to see the hosts of Maedhros. But he saw him not. He knew not that Maedhros was hindered by the treachery of Uldor, who deceived him with false warnings of assault from Angband.
But then a cry went up, and the hearts of Elves and Men were lifted in joy. For unsummoned and unlooked for Turgon, the Hidden King, had opened the leaguer of Gondolin and had come with a host ten thousands strong. And when Fingon beheld his brother, all doubt left him and he cried aloud: Utúlie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie'n auré! (The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!) And all those to whom that cry came answered: Auta i lómë! (The night is passing!).
But Morgoth, who knew much of the hidden counsels of the Gnomes, chose his hour to a nicety, and trusting to the treachery of the Easterlings, he sent a host seeming great (although only a tithe of his real might) towards Hithlum, showing no naked steel that their coming would not be marked until they were far afield. When they were seen, the hearts of the Gnomes grew hot, and many desired to assail the host, but Húrin spoke against this, bidding them ware the wiles of Morgoth, whose strength and purpose were always other than they seemed. But the signal of Maedhros came not, and many grew afraid and impatient, but still Húrin bade them wait, and to let the Orcs break in assault upon the hills.
But the Captain of Morgoth in the west had been commanded to draw out the hosts of Fingon at whatever cost, and so he marched his host to the edge of Sirion's stream, to the walls of Eithel Sirion and the outposts of Fingon could see the eyes of their enemies. But the taunting of the Orcs availed not to draw them out. And so the captain sent out riders with tokens of parley, bringing Gelmir son of Guilin with them (he was a lord of Nargothrond captured in the Dagor Bragollach and enslaved in Angband), and he had been blinded. The heralds showed him forth, crying: ''We have many more such at home, but you must make haste if you would find them; for we shall deal with them all when we return even so.'' And they hewed off Gelmir's hands and feet, and his head last, and left him.
By ill chance, Gwindor the brother of Gelmir saw this and now his wrath was kindled to madness, and he leapt upon horseback, and many riders with him, and they pursued the heralds and slew them and then drove on into the main host. And seeing this the Gnomes were set on fire and all leapt from the hills in sudden onslaught. So swift was this onslaught that almost the designs of Morgoth went astray, and before the host he had sent westward could be strengthened, it was destroyed, and the Gnomes passed even within the threshold of Angband and slew the guards, and Morgoth, hearing them beat upon his doors, trembled upon his deep throne. But the Gnomes were trapped there, and all were slain (save Gwindor, whom they took captive), and Fingon could not come to their aid. And then, by many secret doors from Angband, Morgoth sent forth his main host, and Fingon was driven back across Anfauglith with great loss.
And so on the fourth day of the battle was begun Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears. The host of Fingon was driven back over the sands, and Haldir, Lord of Brethil, was slain in the rearguard, and all his men about him. The Orcs surrounded the hosts of Hithlum and they fought all through the night. In the morning came hope, for Turgon was come with his host. The phalanx of the guard of the King broke through the ranks of the Orcs, and Turgon came to Fingon his brother and Húrin Thalion, and in that hour the trumpets of Maedhros were heard in the east, and the Orcs wavered and some were already turning to flight. But even as Maedhros came, and the Orcs fled the field, Morgoth sent forth all his strength and Angband was emptied. There came wolves and wolf-riders, and there came then Balrogs and dragons and Glaurung sire of dragons. The strength and terror of the Great Worm were then very great and Elves and Men withered before him. He came between the hosts of Fingon and Maedhros and divided them.
But Morgoth would not have won the day by the strength and terror of his demons alone, for in this hour the guile of the Easterlings was revealed. Many turned and fled, being filled with fear and lies, but some turned suddenly upon the hosts of Elves and Men and in the confusion that was wrought they came well-nigh to the standard of Maedhros. And in that hour new strength of the Easterlings came over the hills and assailed the hosts of Maedhros upon the east, who was now almost surrounded, and many fled. But fate saved the Sons of Fëanor, and gathering together the remnant of the Gnomes and Dwarves, they drove their way out of the battle and made east towards Mount Dolmed.
Last of all the eastern host to stand firm were the Dwarves of Belegost, for the Dwarves withstood fire and blast of sorcery more hardily than Men and Elves, moreover they wore great and hideous masks in battle. They made a circle about Glaurung and even his mighty armour was not full-proof against the blows of the axes of the Dwarves, and when in his rage Glaurung struck down Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost, and crawled over him, with his last breath Azaghâl drove a knife into the belly of the Dragon, so wounding him that he fled the field, and in dismay the beasts of Angband followed. Then the Dwarves raised up the body of their lord and bore it away, chanting a dirge as they went, and none dared withstand them.
In the western battle Fingon and Turgon were beset by a host of foes thrice greater than their own and Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, was come. He drove a dark wedge between the Elvenhosts, surrounding Fingon and thrusting Turgon and Húrin aside towards the Fen of Serech. Then he turned upon Fingon. At last, Fingon stood alone against Gothmog, his guard dead about him, and Gothmog beat him down into the dust, and his banner, blue and silver, he trod into the mire of his blood.
The field was lost to the hosts of Morgoth, but still in the west Húrin and Huor his brother stood strong alongside Turgon, now High King of the Gnomes, and the hosts of Morgoth could not yet win the Pass of Sirion. And Húrin bade Turgon go back to Gondolin and there lie hid, for thereby Morgoth would still know fear, and Huor added this doom: ''This I say to you, lord, with the eyes of death: though we part here for ever, and I shall not look on your white walls again, from you and from me a new star shall arise. Farewell!'' Maeglin, Turgon's nephew, who was stood nearby, heard these words, and he did not forget them, but he said nothing. And so Turgon departed, gathering such remnants of his host as he could, and they returned to the mountains. But the Men of Dor-lómin would still not retreat, and the last stand of the Men of Dor-lómin redressed the treachery of Uldor.
The hosts of Morgoth swarmed against the Men of Dor-lómin, and Huor was slain with a venomed arrow in the eye. Last of all Húrin stood alone, and he cast aside his shield, and wielding a great axe he slew the troll-guard of Gothmog until the axe withered. Each time he slew an Orc he cried: Aurë entuluva! (Day shall come again!); seventy times he uttered that cry, but at last he was taken alive, for the Orcs grappled him, and their arms clung still to him though he hewed them off, until he was buried under them. Then Gothmog bound him and dragged him to Angband with mockery.
Thus ended Nirnaeth Arnoediad as the sun went down in the West. Night fell over the northern lands, and a great storm of wind came out of the West.
Art: Ted Nasmith. This painting depicts the battle of Fingon, High King of the Gnomes, with Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.