I will never forget the night I saw with my own eyes the beginning of the war against Saruman. My family lived in Edoras, the capital city of the Riddermark, or Rohan as it is called. My father was a rider of the Riddermark, under Théodred, second marshal of the Mark. He fell in the first battle of the fords of Isen. Not three days after this, my mother sent my two brothers, Éothel and Kínlith, and me to my aunt’s house in the Westfold. We were to warn her of the danger from Saruman, and bring her family home to Edoras. For there were terrible rumors in the city. Some said that Saruman was preparing a war on us that we could never win. The Wormtongue, rumors say, had taken control of the king’s orders. It was feared that Saruman’s uruks and evil men in his service might attack some of the villages closest to Isenguard. Here in Edoras it was at least safer. We did not want Kínlith, who was not yet eleven years grown, to come, but he insisted. I think that this was perhaps because he wanted to seem as mature as Éothel, whom he and I had always looked up to. We let him come only to save precious time.
Of the journey there is little to tell. It took us only two days, for we rode hard, and our horses were strong. We stopped to rest few times, first near a stream on the edge of the mountains. Kínlith fell to sleep immediately, but for a while I sat and talked quietly to Éothel, discussing the war. He thought that we would be crushed by Isenguard long before we could help the war against Mordor. “But then”, I asked him, “Is there no hope? Could we not defeat Isenguard somehow? We have many riders.” He smiled at me. “Yes, we could defeat Isenguard, if more men would come. We have many riders, but his uruks are many more. And there will never be enough men to defeat Mordor. Still, we must always hope.” We sat in silence for a moment, before I slowly drifted off to sleep. A few hours later, not as rested as we would have liked but still able to go on, we left and continued. In the late morning, we reached a small village. There we heard more rumors of Saruman’s attacks. We pressed urgently on. After riding all through the night, we finally stopped to rest for about an hour. This time I fell asleep at once, and I am sure that it was very hard to wake me up. We continued to ride toward my aunt’s house, and did not again stop to rest.
My brothers and I reached my aunt’s village mid-morning the next day, and she did not seem very surprised that we had come. Except for Kínlith. She gave us a long talk about how dangerous it was for all three of us to come. But she was not against going to Edoras. We had agreed that we would leave the next day, so that she would have time to get ready to leave, and we could rest after our long journey. Kínlith enjoyed being with her son Héorl, who was his age, but he always looked to Éothel to see what was right. I helped my aunt, Lohwyn, take care of her children, the baby Éorae, and the three-year-old girl and boy, Anayra and Arlohn.
That afternoon, Kínlith, Éothel and I were standing and talking on a group of boulders on the edge of the village. I had noticed it when we rode in, and had later looked and found that the inside contained a sort of cave that could be entered from the top, and could hold about three people. I had pointed this out to Éothel, because we could hide in there, if the uruks came. He laughed. “If the uruks come, we would not have time to hide. And even if we could, there is not enough room for all of us. At least two of us would have to stay outside. And there is no reason why the evil men of Saruman would not think to look for people hiding. They could find us there, if they climb up.” “But they would not”, I protested. They burn the houses and kill the people, but they will not search out every last survivor.” But my brother was not listening to me. He was staring to the north, from where a dark shape could be seen on the horizon. It was the servants of Saruman.
Éothel immediately took action. “Lohda, you go help Lohwyn. You are right; this cave is safe. She, Arlohn and Anayra can hide in here. I’ll go warn the rest of the village. Kínlith, you stay here.” “But I want to fight”, he complained. “No, you must stay here. For me.” “Kínlith obediently climbed down, and Éothel and I hurried to warn the people. I ran to my aunt’s house and burst through the door. “Saruman’s men are here! They will attack within moments. I’ve found a hiding place for you. If you go to those rocks across the village, Kínlith will help you in. It’s small, so there isn’t room for all of us. Éothel and I are going to ride away. We’ll be back for you when the danger has passed. Now run! We have to go!” I picked baby Éorae up out of his crib, but before I could hand him to her, I heard a commotion outside the door, and flames slowly started to creep up the wall. I hurried out of the house, closely followed by Lohwyn, with Anayra and Arlohn clutching her skirts and looking afraid. Héorl ran ahead. I turned to pass the baby to my aunt. But there were now evil men and uruks coming down the path. The fire they had set to the house now stood between us, and uruks were setting more. People were screaming, and panic was everywhere. My aunt was nowhere to be seen. I was later glad that she made it to safety, but then I had more important things on my mind. For at that moment I turned, and saw that my brother, Éothel was fighting a desperate battle with a Dunlending of Saruman.
All of the calm that I had left in me was gone. Unable to help without a weapon, and knowing that to shout might break his concentration, I simply stood there, unmoving, watching my brother again and again parry the Dunlending’s blows. Then the Dunlending stabled, and his aim was true. That was when I screamed. I ran forward, still holding baby Éorae, and picked up my brother’s sword. If I had been a boy, I could have had at least a small chance. But I had very rarely held a sword, and my opponent was far more skilled than I. Now, the Dunlendings are a strong and ancient race, far older than the Éothéod, but this man had not my anger, nor my need for vengeance. It went far beyond any weakness that I had, beyond any fear of death. The sword was heavy and hard to hold, much harder than I could have ever dreamed when watching the riders’ effortless movements, or my brother’s. But now he lay silent. I would not give up. Clumsily, I fought off each strike, until by some luck that I only for that moment possessed, Éorae gave a small cry, distracting the Dunlending. He stumbled. I struck upward, and he fell dead.
Dropping the sword, I ran to Éothel. He lifted his hand to show that he was alive. “Lohda” He whispered. “You saved me” I could only look at him. “Say farewell to the others for me”. “No”, I whispered, “You can’t go! Not now…” “My time has come.” He answered faintly. “But you must fight.” Then he looked at me and smiled. He relaxed. Around me, I could hear more men and uruks pouring through every street of the village. I huddled against the wall of a not yet burning house, still clutching baby Éorae to me. This was going to be the end. Within five days my father and brother had died, and now Saruman’s men would find me too. This would be the end. I heard the house behind me catch fire, but didn’t move. Lohwyn and Kínlith and all the others would be found in their hiding place, and my mother and sister far away in Edoras would never hear what had happened. Then somewhere in the midst of things I did not wish to remember, I heard again Éothel’s words as I spoke to him at our camp: “We must always hope.” I crawled away from the now flaming building, and lay still among the dead in the street. Éorae began to cry softly, but I hushed him. We must not be found.
And we weren’t. It seemed that I was right; the uruks and Dunlendings did not care for searching out survivors, they only wanted to destroy as much as they could before moving on to another village. They passed us by, blending as we did with the terrible scene. When I was sure that every last one had gone, I dared to sit up, holding a now wailing Éorae and looking around me. The whole village was burning like a horrific giant torch. And Kínlith was running toward me, through all the ruin, a look of horror on his face.
It is lucky that the uruks left so quickly, for they never heard Kínlith’s cry as he saw Éothel’s body, and never saw my failed attempts to comfort him. My aunt came seconds later, hurrying after him with Anayra and Arlohn. I handed Éorae to her, then looked at the people in front of me. “We must leave.” Kínlith stared at me. I felt his pain. I searched the slain and found a sword of good workmanship, along with a short sword. Giving the short sword to Kínlith, I clasped the other in Éothel’s cold hands. His sword I took for myself. Then I whistled. The horses, who had bolted in fright, ran back, and I mounted. My aunt then, holding Éorae as if she would never let go of him again, climbed onto her own horse, and Héorl handed Anayra and Arlohn up to her. He jumped onto Kínlith’s horse. Last of all came Kínlith, who jumped up beside Héorl, taking one last look at Éothel. I urged my horse forward, and we rode away.

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