Part One:
The Race Is Off
Etha looked around at the turn out of the race. “So many men!” She thought. That was a good thing; it would keep attention away from her. She may be dressed like a man, but she was not a very good one! It would not be good if she were found out. “Windstep, it is fine. You will not be the only mare in this race,” Etha whispered to her horse. The golden horse, by the name of Windstep, nodded in return. “To your starting place men!” Shouted Manger, the post-starter. “Men you must race along the river, when it forks off, it is your choice. The first one to reach the finish line is the winner!” Leaning down low on Windstep, Etha was ready to begin the race. “They will not refuse me the prize if I win.” She told herself reassuringly, “If I loose, they will never know.” “Horse and rider on the stand, get ready, and…..” Manger took an arrow of fire, and shot it at a tall pole, six feet tall, twelve feet from the starting point and, as soon as it was a blaze, hundreds of horses took off by the river. Etha was keeping in the trees to the far side of the water. When she could not be seen, she through the hood of her cloak off. Her golden hair rested perfectly upon her shoulders, an unusual sight. For most let their hair grow out. But this was her secret, her way of riding with speed. Now she was in the middle of the riders, and once in a while, through the trees would catch a glimpse of a rider she had just passed. It was not long before she came to the river’s fork. She waited in the trees until three riders had gone left. Then while the coast was clear, raced down the right path. This path went close to Mirkwood, then through the Lonely Mountain. The race had begun in Lake Town, it ended in Gondor. People had travelled from all around to see the start; hundreds of men had come to race. “Windstep, we must be careful, I must tell you, The Mountain scares me,” She said aloud. Etha was a very good young woman, but could not do everything expected of her. She was in this race for herself. To see if she could do it. The only provisions she had brought with her were elven bread, provided by a friend of hers, a flask of water, and some apples and feed for Windstep. In the saddlebag she kept these things, along with a blanket and a flint to help with a fire. At her side rested a sword, a fairly good one, she could wield it well, but only when necessary. The only reason she had taken it with her was because it was part of her disguise. Women were not allowed to race in this long-term track, as it was called. Now the river became a rushing waterfall as she trotted down hill. “This will not be easy,” She whispered to herself. Little did she know it would be one of the hardest tasks in her life. She stopped at the foot of the falls. The sun was sinking down behind the hills, and darkness was not a good time to travel, anywhere on Middle Earth, at this date and time. As she made her camp she sang slowly to herself the song of Lady Lasra and Lord Losram. Her voice was sweet and pure, but the song sad. It was sung like this:
In the dark of night,
Lady and lord,
Fought side by side,
For the kingdom lore.

He took an arrow to his heart.
Then trough down his foe.
But time betray him,
For that was his last blow.

My lady lost all hope,
It was gone from sight.
There wasn’t time to mope,
For the battle raged on.

Night it crept by,
And at mornings first light,
They saw they’d won victory.
It was the end of the fight.

On the ground she went to him,
And looked upon her husband dead.
Then as her life began to dim,
Tears for him she shed.

When the song was over, a shadow passed quickly from the darkness and disappeared. Etha paid no mind, for she thought it just woodland creature. But was it? Windstep thought it not, bolted and whined. “Shhhh…” Etha said to sooth her. “I am here, it will be fine. There is nothing there.” She said this, but thought differently. There was a fowl smell on the air.

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