For the cause


The world in which this tale is set is Middle-earth. However, it is modern day Middle-earth, which means, everything is exactly the same as it is in our world. You see, in this story, Middle-earth is a parallel universe so basically everything is the same, from weapons to names of cities.

The only difference is, all the old stories of old Middle-earth (e.g. The Fellowship of the Ring) are well known in modern day Middle-earth, though they are dismissed as legends.

Got that? If you don't understand, then just read the story, it doesn't really matter...

Now let me transport you into the world of New Middle-Earth.....

Chapter One

I closed my eyes and tried to make it all disappear. All the noise of guns and the screams of my friends...I wanted it all to stop. To just stop and shut up. Worse than the screaming was the death song. That's what we used to call it, the death song. It was a kind of half cry and half scream that almost everyone made before dying. I hoped that when I died, I wouldn't sing the death song.

But I knew that I probably would, everyone died like that in this war.

We're the last hope now, and the last hope is getting slaughtered. The fate of freedom is resting on our shoulders, and it's too heavy. We all knew we are going to lose, I mean who were we kidding? 400,00 boys and girls aged 13-17 who have only had basic training vs. 630,000 marines who were each trained to be killing machines. We had guns, they had tanks. We had ships, they had fighter jets. It was so one-sided that it was getting ridiculous. I didn't understand why we hadn't given up already. Almost the entire adult population of the 'Free countries alliance' had been slaughtered in 2056. Now it was 2058 and we were literally the only ones left to fight. It was fight or die.

It was futile either way. We all knew an early grave was inevitable. I was 15 when The Great War started. It's was only two years ago but I can't really remember what it was like. I can't remember going to the mall or watching television clearly. What be so naive. The only thing I used to have to worry about was bringing home a report-card or how I was going to sneak out the house when I was I had to worry about keeping myself alive.

None of us really thought about war. Wars were things that happened in the south, not here on the wrong we were.

I flinched and shut my eyes tighter when I felt a bullet whiz over the top of my head. I tried to ignore the throbbing pain in my right leg. Some bastard had shot me in just below my kneecap. I pushed the knowledge that I couldn't run out of my mind and tried to concentrate on my memories.

I thought back to the day that this all started. February 10th 2056. The day after my birthday. I had switched on the T.V and was immediately assaulted by image after image of Paris, London, New-York...all the major cities were in flames. Notre-Dam had been burnt down, Big-Ben had been blown up, The Empire State building had collapsed....there were more and more reports coming in by the second. All over the world there were landmarks being destroyed. I shouted for my Mum and Dad and we watched in horror as people were jumping out of windows to escape flames and countless families were screaming and crying.

My Mum and Dad kept swearing and shaking their heads in amazement.

"Don't you forget this Faith," My Mum kept saying.

The news-readers were in a panic, trying to remain calm and failing utterly. I gulped, thanking god that we were out of the way of this mayhem...not thinking about the consequences of what I was watching. The phone was ringing all day. So many relatives and friends calling to check Dad wasn't on a business trip to London like he so often was.

Within two days the culprits had revealed themselves. They called themselves 'The Followers of Isengard'. They believed that everything natural should be destroyed, including anyone who would not join them. Bunch of loonies. Who knew the loonies were smart sons of bitches. The Free Countries Alliance was formed soon after, an alliance between everyone who didn't agree with 'The Followers of Isengard'.

They organized an army and sent them marching off to war, oblivious of how 'The Followers of Isengard' had countless spies in their ranks and so they knew every order that was sent out. Soon, the Free Countries had called on everyone between the ages of 20-40. Women included. All the children were sent to assigned camps because most of our parents were 'fighting the good fight'. I'll never forget the day I got sent to my camp. I was still numb from the shock, most of us were. I made a few friends there and we listened to the radio news everyday with baited breath. Waiting to hear news of our Mums, Dads, brothers and sisters.

The Free Countries had really underestimated their enemy and within one year the entire army had been defeated. That was when a new order went out. I remember listening to the order with Caleb and Ethan as clear as if it were yesterday.

"A new decree has gone out. All men and women over 40 please report to your nearest recruit office." The voice paused and shook as it read the next part. "All care-takers gather all children between the ages of 13-19 and report to your nearest recruit office. Please do so calmly. I'm so sorry...God save us all..." The voice croaked the last part and static followed. Our care-takers all cried as they herded us into the vans. Many of us tried to escape but none succeeded. 'Deserters would be shot' was the rule. Many were shot that week.

Ethan had been the first to go. He had bled to death in The Battle of Rome. Caleb and I carried him to the infirmary but it was too late. Caleb had been shot in the head two months later. He had been protecting me at the time, the shielded me with his body...he saved my life.

Now I was alone.

My eyes flew open when I felt someone topple on top of me. I pushed the person off and saw that she was still breathing. I recognized her from our briefing. It was her first time on the field. 13 years old, though she looked about 10. Very small and mousy. I shook her hard and cursed the pain in my leg.

"Hey! Hey! Wake up!" I shouted over the noise, willing her to open her eyes. It would probably be better for her if she was dead, but I'd be damned before I'd let that happen. "Kid!! Wake up!!' I shouted in her ear. Her eyelids fluttered open and gave a sigh of relief. She sat up woozily and looked about her. I watched and saw the familiar look of panic settle on her face.

Out of everything I'd learnt, I'd learnt that panicking would get you killed. I pulled her arm and forced her to look at me. I saw tears and confusion in her big brown eyes and if the situation was remotely funny, I would have laughed. She looked exactly like a lost puppy. "Listen to me kid," I said in her ear, "If you do exactly as I say then you might have a chance. If you don't, you will die. Do you want to die?" I asked, pulling back to see her face. The tears were pouring down her face now but she shook her head. I nodded and assumed my best Drill-Sergeant impression. Being sensitive and understanding would get you nowhere, you had to be tough and in control if you wanted to live.

"My name is..."

"I don't want to know!" I shouted. If you knew someone's name, it made it personal. You couldn't get personal, it made it easier when they died. "NOW SIT UP SOLDIER!" I barked. She did so, "STOP THOSE TEARS THIS INSTANT OR I'LL SAVE THEM THE TROUBLE AND KILL YOU MYSELF." I said, gesturing to the other side of the field. The tears stopped and the girl seemed to toughen up a bit. "YOU WANT TO LIVE?" I asked.



"YES SIR!" She shouted. I almost smiled. I nodded and noticed she didn't have a gun. I handed her mine, she looked horrified. "I can't ... you need ..."

"I don't need it. Now run and don't look back. Shoot as many of the bastards as you can on the way, don't hesitate or you will die. DO YOU UNDERSTAND SOLDIER?" I shouted, fighting tears of my own. She shook her head.

"You're hurt, you'll die..."

"GO NOW!! THAT IS A DIRECT ORDER!!" I screamed. I knew that if she didn't leave now I wouldn't be able to handle this. She shook her head again and a determined look settled on her face. She slung the machine gun over her shoulder and looped her arm under mine, tugging me up. I winced at the pain. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!!??" I shouted. She turned to me and I knew from the determined look on her face that she wasn't going to back down.

"Help me carry you or we'll both get shot!!" She shouted over the sounds of a helicopter. My eyes widened and I staggered with her. Helicopters were bad news, very bad news. The Free countries had none left, so we knew that only the enemy used them. They flew over head and shot us in droves, sharp shooting the leaders and creating confusion. I cried out in pain but we kept running. We ducked into what used to be a train-station to get out of the way of the helicopters and to catch our breath. I ripped off the sleeve of my T-shirt and tied it tightly above the small hold in my leg. It wasn't too bad, not much bleeding. I was lucky it didn't hit my knee-cap, and then I would've been in real trouble. After I had finished I looked up at the small girl who had just saved me from certain death and said,

"What the hell?" I said. She looked to the ceiling.

"Can't you be the least bit...?"

"GRATEFULL? Are you kidding me? You want me to be grateful that you not only disobeyed a direct order but you also put your own life in danger?!? I can't have your blood on my hands!! By Valour kid!" I shouted, my temper getting the better of me. She flinched but her look of steely determination remained.

"You were going to sacrifice your life for mine! Isn't that putting your own life in danger?!" She said indignantly. I laughed. I really laughed, for the first time in over six months, I actually laughed. This kid had balls...metaphorically speaking.

I turned to her, still chuckling but I stopped abruptly and pulled her down behind a pile of rubble. "What?" She whispered. I shoved my hand over her mouth roughly and put my finger on my lips. 'The enemy'. I mouthed, nodding towards the doorway behind her. Her eyes turned the size of saucers and I noticed her breathing quickened.

I motioned for the gun on her back and she eased if over her head and handed it to me. I licked my dry and cracked lips while I aimed. There were only two of them, probably scouts. I fired and hit the larger one in the head. The other cried out and raised his gun wildly trying to find out where the bullet came from. I shot him in the knees and watched with pleasure as he screamed and dropped the gun. I shuffled out from out from behind our hiding place, ignoring the look of horror on the other girls face.

"Eil sidoor nablee famount!!" I screamed. It was 'The Followers of Isengard's language. They followed the teachings of some ancient stupid book written by a moron who thought he was a wizard or something. It really pissed them off when anyone else dared to speak it. Several thousand of us, the older ones, had been taught the language back at training. Eil sidoor nablee famount, roughly translated meant 'I hope you are in pain you have failed your mission. You can never live up to your master.' It was always satisfying to say this. You see, they believe if you die at the hands of a non-believer you will spend eternity in torment. So, I loved reminding them before they died. It was a way of repaying them for all the pain and suffering they had caused me.

I ignored the look of disgust on the girls face and sat back against the wall.

"What's you name?" The girl asked finally. I hesitated but realized I was probably going to die within the next few hours anyway.

"Faith." I snorted at the irony. "Yours?" I said, not looking at her.

"Grace." She said quietly. I nodded and took a breath.

"I can't hear the helicopter anymore, you?" She shook her head." Right then, let's get gone." I said, gritting my teeth as I stood on my painful leg. Grace immediately steadied me and within minutes we were back in the open. I tried to block out the sounds of screaming and machine guns, but I saw so many people I knew. Tommy Draco, Mini Harris, Livi Washington...the list of faces were endless. Some dead and lifeless, some shooting over their shoulders as they ran.

I saw an older boy motioning to us and I tugged at Grace. She got the picture and we changed direction to follow him. As we got closer I noticed that there were about eight others behind him and they were all only about 13. Before I could think about it any harder, an earth-shattering boom sounded to my right and I flung my weight the opposite direction, pulling Grace to the floor with me. After that was about two minutes of silence as the dust cleared. "COMPANY, RETREAT!!" I shouted at the top of my lungs. Before I knew it, Grace and I had been pulled to our feet and we were running.

I ignored the pain below my knee and concentrated on running. I glanced to my left and saw that it was the same boy that had been motioning to us. He looked about 16, which was damn old for these days. Grace was running in front of us, occasionally glancing back. "DONT LOOK BACK!" I shouted over the din. She nodded and turned to face the woods ahead. Woods meant protection. Protection was good.

I knew that 'The Followers of Isengard' wouldn't follow us, they may have won the battle, but there were a hell of a lot of casualties on their side as well as ours. They weren't stupid...crazy but not stupid. As we got nearer to the woods I took a deep breath. "PEOPLE, GET IN THE TREES!!!" I shouted over my shoulders. I wasn't the captain of this troop for nothing; I could be damn loud when I wanted to. I nearly collapsed of exhaustion when we got into the safety of the redwoods. I slumped onto a tree and I felt strong hands easing me to the forest floor. I closed my eyes and just breathed for a minute or so before looking to my rescuer. He looked a lot like Caleb. Black shoulder-length hair in a ponytail, dark brown eyes and tanned skin. He was looking at me intently, worry and respect in his eyes. I attempted a weak smile. "Thanks." I said, my voice scratchy because of the pain in my knee.

"You're hurt." He said suddenly. I nodded and motioned to my knee. His eyes widened and he called for someone. The someone was another boy, much younger. He was obviously one of the kids who had taken extensive first aid. He untied the material above my wound and I looked away, gritting my teeth.

"Wow. You ran with this bugger? OK I'm going to take out the bullet on five ... one, two ..." Then he pulled out the little piece of metal. Sneaky little git. I would've laughed if the pain hadn't been so intense. I felt a warm hand in mine and I squeezed it, thankful for a release of the pain. The next few minutes were a blur. When the boy finally moved away I took a deep breath.

"Where's Grace? The girl who was helping me." I croaked. The guy smiled.

"Don't worry, she's over there. I think she's sleeping." He pointed to another tree and I nodded before leaning back against the tree. I cursed my gift of a loud voice but I shouted commands anyway.

"SOLDIERS!" I shouted, waiting for them to turn and pay attention before continuing, "WELL DONE. GET SOME REST, WE'LL MOVE OUT AT 0600." I shouted, my voice shaking slightly with effort. The guy next to me flinched.

"Damn women are loud." He said, giving a weak smile.

"Yeah well men are so stupid they have to be shouted at." I gave him a playful punch. It's strange, when you're in a war, you can become friends with anyone on your side in 5 minutes. I suppose it's because you all know what it's lose people and two seconds later you have fight for your life. 'No' I thought to myself. I wouldn't allow myself to think about all my people. My men and women who died today. I knew that if I did, I would go into the dead zone. That's just what we call it...dead zone. It's when a soldier turns in on themselves ... they go into a catatonic state ... trapped in a nightmare. The war never ends for them. I've seen hundreds like that. It's not a pretty sight.

"You got a name?" I cocked my head to one side considering whether or not I should tell him. He saved my life...hell he deserves to know my name.

"Faith. 17. And you are.."

"Leith. 18. We seem to be the oldies of the bunch." He said, sticking out a hand. I shook it and noticed both our hands were still shaking from battle. My ears pricked at the sound of quiet singing. It was a memorial. After every battle, the survivors would sing a song to commemorate was not necessary but we felt it was appropriate considering they would never get a proper funeral. Will and I began to join in, both knowing the words off by heart. It was an old song...made in 2002 or something. It was just so appropriate.

Mary's got the same size hands
As Marilyn Monroe
She put her fingers in the imprints
At Mann's Chinese Theater Show
She coulda been a movie star
Never got the chance to go that far
Her life was stole

Now we'll never know

Greg was always getting net from 20 feet away
He had a try out with the Sixers
Couldn't wait for Saturday
Now we're never gonna see him slam
Flying high as Kobe can
His life was stole Stole
Oh now we'll never know

Yeah their lives were stole."

As the song ended I watched the people around us. Most were only about 13, all were crying and scared. They weren't supposed to be here. None of us were. We were children for Gods sake. Children arn't cut out for fighting like this. Something inside me hardened when I saw Grace comforting a slight girl. This is wrong. That was when I decided that I was sick of this, I decided I was going to get these kids way or another.

"Help me up." I said quietly. Leith glanced at me, looking surprised. "Help me up..." I said more urgently. He did so and I shakily got to my feet. "Now prepare your ears..." I said. He looked confused but then realized my intention and promptly stepped away. "ALL SOLDIERS COME HERE." I bellowed. Within ten minutes I had about 600 kids gathered around me. Many were injured, some badly.

"ATTENTION." Leith shouted. I gave him a thankful smile and turned to the now silent group. I had no need to shout now, but I still made sure my voice was loud enough to be heard in the back.

"Has anyone here heard of the Kluck's sacred city?" I asked. 'Klucks' was the nickname we had given the Peoples movement. Don't ask why … it just is.

I saw several of them nod, though most of them just looked confused. "It's a little known fact, " I continued, "that there is a city that the Klucks haven't touched for one reason and one reason alone. They believe that it is a land of devils or some crap like that, so they stay clear of it. Actually they stay clear of it within a 20 mile radius. Now, I am about to suggest something that I could easily be court-marshalled for so if you don't like that then leave now." Nobody moved. "Good. I am suggesting that we go to the city and live there until this war is over and done with." I was immediately met by cheers and whistles of approval.

"Uhh...where is this land of milk and honey?" Leith asked, looking sceptical. I gave a grim smile. I knew where the city was alright. That was what I learnt from listening outside General Bates's office. I also learnt that travelling there was probably the most dangerous mission that we could go on. But I was willing to risk anything to escape this world of guns and death.

"Newcastle, England." I said quietly. Groans erupted but they were quiet when I snapped my eyes up. I pictured what I looked like. A tall, lean fighting machine. I almost laughed, I probably did look scary. Full army outfit, machine gun over back, short spiked up black hair, electric blue eyes and a scowl on my face.

"England?" Grace asked, her voice a little faint. I nodded.

"We are only in Ireland people, liven up. It's not that far." I said sounding exactly like my mother. I had a crisp Oxford, England accent that made me sound far more intelligent than I was. I had my Mum and Dad to thank for that.

"Not that far?!?" Someone said, sarcastically. I stood up as straight as I could.

"What do you want? Do you want to stay here and get shot or worse, captured? Or do you want to come with me and have a hope of getting out of this alive and healthy?" I said calmly. "It's your choice. Go back and face that," I pointed to the battle field that was silent and still. Full of bodies and bullet shells. That was life had come down to...bodies and bullet shells. Death and destruction. The things I had seen, that we had seen, were enough to make break the strongest mind.

But we were sane, and I was intending on keeping it that way.


"LEITH! HELP!!" I screamed, clutching Grace's pail limp form in my arms. I tried desperately to wake her up, to make her respond to me. I ignored the screams and the sounds of gunfire around me, it wasn't important. As I looked at her lifeless face I realized something...something terrible.

I had failed my mission.

We had come so far, lost so many. And now we were at Newcastle, we discovered that The People's movement had flattened our entire army, and now they were after us. Apparently, I was slightly wrong about Newcastle. They weren't scared of it because they thought it had demons...they worshiped the place because they thought it had demons. So now my kids were fighting a hopeless battle.

2000 strong against 300 tired kids. We had a slight advantage in that we were in an old fortress. Though, an old fortress and a few machine guns vs. tanks and crazy lunatics who thought we were trampling on their sacred ground, isn't much of a competition.

I felt Leith's warm hand on my shoulder and he shook his head slightly. I nodded and lay Grace on the ground gently. I wiped my eyes and turned to face my soldiers. "MEN!" I shouted over the din. "RETREAT!!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. I saw the relief on their faces as they ran down the spiral staircases, calling out the order. I realized then, that they weren't going to abandon me, even if I had ordered that we stayed. I smiled weakly and reached for Leith's hand. But it wasn't there.

I spun around to see Leith lying on the stone ground, in a puddle of crimson. "NO!!" I shouted, leaping to his side. I picked him up and saw that he was breathing weakly; there was a bullet hole in his stomach. "Shit Leith. C'mon, let's go." I said, trying to haul him to his feet. Leith shook his head and brought a bloody hand to my face, I was vaguely aware of tears on my cheeks.

"Go..." He whispered, blood trickling from the corner of his lips. I grasped his hand in mine and shook my head, my tears falling onto his chest. "I love you ... please … go." He whispered. I gave a weak smile,

"You jump, I jump remember." I joked, we were both fans of the old film, Titanic. Leith nodded, coughing up blood.

"You are going to die old and warm in your bed. Not here, not this night." He whispered, quoting Leonardo Dicaprio. Then he did something that still haunts me in my sleep.

He pushed me away with all his might and I watched as a large piece of rock collapsed on top of him from a tower above us.

"LEITH!!!" I screamed. I turned my face away form the mess that was his body. I couldn't let myself see it, I couldn't allow myself slip into the dead zone. I staggered towards the nearest door way and felt strong hands pull me inside. I looked around at the survivors of the attack. Fifty of us at the most. The majority of them were badly wounded. We were going to die.

"We don't blame you." Rodger said from the corner, tending to thin girl in the corner. We all tried to ignore the sounds of the Klucks ramming the door down.

"I blame me. Well done people. We fought like heroes and we'll die like heros. I was honoured to fight with you." I said weakly, saluting. It broke my heart to see them salute proudly back, knowing I'd failed them. We all held hands, closing our eyes and waiting for death to come. There was no way out, no escape. Resistance was futile.

As I listed to the sounds of the huge metal and wooden doors being slammed, an idea hit me. "THE EAST WINDOW!" I yelled, making everyone jump. Of course, back then I had no idea of the future significance of that window. But now I've told you, haven't I? Remember the east window, it'll be vital later. Delos's intelligent, grey eyes widen with excitement and he grinned widely.

"YES! THE EAST WINDOW!! LET'S GO!" He shouted excitedly. I heard yelps of agreement and we helped the wounded up before half-sprinting towards the large open widow leading to some sort of sacred park the Klucks had created. I helped the other climb through before jumping out onto the hard gravel myself. We dragged each other forwards, only alive because of a small flame of hope left burning in our chests. As we got into the safety of the trees I glanced back behind us and quickened the pace.

About 20 Klucks had caught on and were pursuing on foot. We kept running, I tried to ignore the sound of bullets whizzing past me as we zigzagged our way into the thick woods. I ran and ran, calling out orders and where to go, not noticing the alarming amount of us who were dropping to the ground like flies. When I finally looked back, nobody was there. I stopped abruptly and called out for someone, anyone. No reply came. I sunk to my knees in utter defeat. I don't know how long I stayed like that, the world span about me like a dream.

If I had been watching carefully I would have seen something that was to amazing to imagine.

The world was going backwards.

The trees were getting younger, the sun rising and setting, the landscape changing, the buildings disappearing. All of this was going on around me and I didn't notice, I was too wrapped up in guilt and the over overwhelming sense of defeat. When I finally came to, I stood up shakily and looked about me, confused at where I was. I was in a huge open expanse of grass and rocks, not a building in sight. I blinked and shrugged, deciding it didn't matter anyway. I didn't matter, I had failed my mission and my people.

I picked up my empty machine gun and began loading it, numbly aware that I was utterly and completely alone. As I cleaned and loaded the weapon, I became aware of a terrible pain in my shoulder. I frowned and ripped off my sleeve to find a deep cut and a shard of sharp rock embedded in my flesh. I winced but thought I deserved the pain after what my men went through. I bit my lip and yelped when I tried to pull the piece out, so I decided to leave it where it was until I could get some anti-septic.

I stood up, swaying on my feet and scoped the land about me. I could just make out a dot on the horizon which seemed to be some sort of settlement. I made up my mind to go to it. I had a wild hope that it could be some of my platoon, maybe they had escaped...

I ran as fast as I could at the prospect.

I wondered absently if it could be some Kluck holy building, and pictured it burning ... it would go up in a big whoosh. I stood still, imagining the screams of the bastards. Lot's of wood and straw … I shook my head and pinched the bridge of my nose, aware that if I was going mad. I sighed deeply and sat down on the nearest rock.

The pain in my shoulder was steadily getting worse but I chose to ignore it. I wondered whether or not I should carry on my journey towards the thing. It might just be a small mountain...that would be a fitting punishment for me. To die of thirst or starvation before I ever got there.

I heard the sounds of hoofs pounding on the foreign soil and I looked behind me to see a group of men, adult men, mounted on beautiful great horses. They were wearing armour and were carrying long spears. I blinked and stared, amazed. Why on earth did they look like that? I saw one was carrying a flag bearing the symbol of a white horse and racked my brains for an Awall troop of our army, but no, I didn't recognize it from anywhere.

I watched in amazement as the riders turned and surrounded a group of three men, spears raised. I couldn't see them, or hear what they were saying, but the guys seemed angry. I swallowed, remembering the fact that I hadn't eaten or drank anything in days. Maybe they had some food and water.

I stumbled to my feet and raised my gun, jogging up to them.

"Take these horses; pray you will be luckier than their riders..." One man was saying, offering two horses to the men. This was getting weirder and weirder. I decided to take matters into my own hands before this got ugly.

"HEY!" I shouted my voice hoarse and sore from shouting and crying. The men turned quickly. I observed the three men who I could not see beforehand. One was indeed, a really short man, he had a beard. Then there was the blond and another man with dark messy hair to his shoulders. All were wearing medieval styled clothing.

"Who are you? What business do you have with us boy?" The one who had been talking earlier asked, brandishing a sword. I blinked again; too bewildered at the swords to be insulted at the implication that I was a boy.

"I...I was wondering if you had any food or water to spare..." I stuttered. The men looked at one another and the man who spoke waved a dismissive hand at me.

"On you're way lad. You are not welcome on these lands." I narrowed my eyes at him, white hot anger searing through me. I liked being angry, it replaced the pain of defeat quickly.

"Who are you to tell me where I am not welcome! I don't even know where I am anymore!" I yelled fiercely. That gained raised eyebrows from all the men except the blond and the man who I was screaming at. He looked utterly furious.

"How dare you speak with such insolence boy!!?" He boomed.

"Enough!" The dark haired man stated firmly, "Who are you?" He asked. I hesitated answering and my mind cast back to when Grace asked me that very same question,

"My name is Faith...I was a commander of my troop but we were fighting and...I am the last one left..." I said finally. The man's eyes grew softer and I noticed the short man and the blond also seemed more sympathetic. The 'leader' of the riders was a different matter.

"Who is your enemy?" He asked, suspicion in his eyes.

"The Followers of Isengard" I replied before thinking. The man nodded and took motioned for the men to lower their spears. I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding. I debated asking them about their clothes and weapons, but decided better of it.

"Here," He tossed me a water bottle and I caught it easily, nodding thanks before drinking deeply before throwing it back. With that he and the other riders took off and rode away. I was left standing, staring at the other three men.

I turned away and sat on another rock, resting my head in my hands, aware that tears were dripping through my fingers. I was crying for all that I had lost, my true love, my best friend...and worse than anything...

I had lost my will to live.