Daughter of Rohan
1. Fire and Death
A dark cloud loomed over the west, barely floating above the hills in the distance. Fear filled my heart; the orcs’ attacks were growing closer- only a few days ago the smoke barely floated over those hills. I looked around at the rest of the clear blue sky, trying to push the sight out of mind.
“Aldwulf, Wini, come inside now,” I called to my younger brothers, who were chasing our pony around the paddock. “Mother must have supper ready.” In truth, I could not tell, but I know it was mother’s wish, and my own, to keep them from seeing the smoke. After the last attack a survivor, seeming half mad ran through our village telling of the brutal attack and urging us to flee. Wini, the youngest, heard some of this crazed-talk and descriptions, and nightmares plagued his sleep for over a week.
As we stepped inside our humble house, I smelled the fragrant herbs my mother had used in tonight’s stew. There were five settings at the small wooden table, as my mother had set one for my father every day since he had gone. Having gone to Edoras, he was only supposed to be gone for five or so days, but it has been almost a fortnight since he left. I have watched her as the days pass; she does not cry, but glances out the windows often, as the mariner’s wives did in the tales of old that were often told in the villages passed down through many generations.
The meal went on without much talk, as children should be seen and not heard. Meals used to be filled with pleasant talk between my mother and father, but now there were only small mutterings from my mother asking about the chores. We had almost finished, and my brothers were beginning to get restless, when screams from outside interrupted us. My brothers immediately stopped their fussing and giggling, and my mother motioned for me to see what the chaos was.
As I rose from the table my legs shook with the fear that rose within me, but I was driven on by curiosity and my mother’s will. The scene outside was dreadful, though not like what was to come. Men from the neighboring village rode through brandishing their swords, which were covered with black blood, orc blood. Their faces were white with terror, and they carried their young ones whose cries could not be silenced. I glanced towards the west, and saw the black cloud of smoke, lower and closer than ever before, and I could even smell it; the devastation of the village. A line of black marched along the hills in the distance at a terrifying pace.
Screams filled the air, screams of terror. “Run!” they cried, “The orcs are near!” And soon my scream echoed with the others, “Mother, they’re here!” It was but a moment that I paused after calling her, but in that moment such a jumble of thoughts scrambled through my head, and I could not make sense of them.
Death…it was first in my mind. I was too young, only fourteen years old, and I had yet to feel love and start a family, which I longed for. I did not wish to have this all taken from me. Tears of fear began to fill my eyes; death seemed inevitable. Who was I to escape it? What would happen if we did not leave this place, or the orcs caught us as we were escaping? What would it feel like to be dead, or would you feel at all, which I could not comprehend. Was it dark and cold, or warm and light like the places the legends talk about? “Save us,” I whispered to the sky, to some higher power that now I wished was there.
“Daughter, what…” my mother said bursting through the door to my side. Her voice quickly broke off as she glanced about at the smoke, and the riders. “Ælfwyn, saddle the pony, quickly now,” she said panic rising in her voice, and she never panics. I turned and ran towards the stable; there was no time to walk and keep the pony calm. “I will get your brothers…and food,” she called back to me as I ran.
The pony reared, the whites of its eyes showing as I bolted in the stable and hastily wrapped a rope around its neck. “Please,” I cried. I grabbed the saddle and placed it as gently as I could upon its back. In the few moments I had turned away to get the girth, the saddle was off, lying in the mud of the stable floor. My patience was running dry, and fear high, but I did manage to get the saddle back on after a great deal of bucking, and I knew the bridle would be an even harder task.
By this time, I was almost shaking with panic and frustration, and, knowing the pony could sense this, tried to calm myself, though unsuccessfully. Suppressing my shaking hands, I held the bit to his mouth, but he quickly dodged it no matter how hard I gripped his forelock. I then put my thumbs into the corners of his mouth, and massaged the gums, with no more success than before. “Stubborn pony,” I muttered under my breath, my patience running dry under the fear…I wanted to scream, but resisted knowing it would only make the pony more frightened. After almost prying the pony’s mouth open, I finally got the bit in. Pulling the reins over the neck, I mounted quickly and glanced back at the army of black that was fast approaching, and then dug my heels in, urging him to the front of our house.
“Here take these,” my mother said panting, handing me a small bag of food. “Wini, Aldwulf,” she called turning back toward the house. They came out, looking panicked, for my mother must have not told them, though Aldwulf held my father’s extra sword that he had left in case of any trouble. “Here mother,” he said as he showed it to her, and then brandished it in the air. She looked at him with tears in her eyes, her face full of pride, and then she turned to me.
“Take them too,” she said, lifting Wini to the saddle, and then going to Aldwulf. I wrapped my arms under his, and then grasped the reins firmly, as for comfort.
“But mother,” I protested, “They won’t fit, and the pony…he’s old…” My voice trailed off, not bearing to think of what would happen to either of them if they were left behind. The yells of the dreadful orcs could already be heard, or else it was my imagination, but they were close. My mother had no response; she only stared at me as in disbelief. “Mother,” I said taking a deep breath, and standing up to my own fears, “I will stay.” I removed my feet from the stirrups, and began to swing my leg over the saddle, handing the reins to my brother, who had only begun to ride.
“No, Ælfwyn, you must go,” she said, settling the matter. Screams could now be heard from the end of the village, along with the hacking sound of the orc’s axes.
“Fight hard, Aldwulf,” I said, managing to fake a smile as I ruffled my brother’s hair for the last time. Turning the pony, I tried to shield my brother’s eyes as he cried, “Mum!” I nudged my horse with my one-foot, and then both, until we were galloping.
“Ride daughter of Rohan,” mother cried as she brandished one of her butchering knives, and held a broom lit with fire in her other hand.
As I turned, chaos burst out behind me. The orcs slashed at the villagers, all people I knew, and I winced at each blow that was struck to the farrier, the shopkeeper, the herdsman, the old man who gave me treats…I could not tear my eyes away. These orcs were gruesome, with black skin bulging with muscles and veins, and their teeth were fanglike and rotten…like those of a cat. Eyes burned red with fury, as did the torches they carried. They slashed at people ruthlessly, and burned every building in sight, and soon the smoke that had billowed neighboring villages billowed over my own.
I squinted trying to see my mother and brother in the fray. My brother leapt upon a neighbor’s horse, and rode up with the men to where the orcs stood. He stabbed at the orcs as the horse jumped and reared in fear. A few gruesome bodies lay at their feet already, and pride surged through me. My mother still stood in front of the door, trembling in fear as she waited for the orcs to come, trembling in fear. I turned away again, now looking at the ground ahead of me. I knew not where to run, or if I would make it still, for orcs move at fast speeds.
A cry came from the village; a cry of pain and death that pierced my heart…somehow I could tell that it was my mother’s. I glanced back for one last look at her…her face was ghastly white, and her eyes the same color; her mouth open in a soundless scream. Blood streamed from her side, and an orc, seemingly the largest of all, stood above her.
“Farewell, dear mother,” I whispered, wishing she would have not had to bear such a terrible death. “Take care of her,” I whispered to the wind.
I wondered what it was like for her…death. Was she in peace now? I certainly hoped so, for I loved her so. In addition, my father, was he with my mother…dead? I hoped they are together in peace, in the beautiful place they deserved. And at that moment, a breeze brushed gently against me, and I felt something say, “It is.”
But I am not ready to go there yet.
“Keep Aldwulf safe and I also,” I whispered, to the wind.
“Ride daughter of Rohan, ride,” was the response, “I will keep you safe.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.