There is no air left to breathe in this world. We are legion, lined against the skyline there is nothing left but the dizzying euphoria of terror and quieter steel of determination. The horses can smell the fear around them, and the reigns are already slick with sweat between my fingers. At first light the men had donned their armour, breastplates battered and dented from old skirmishes, swords and scabbards as familiar as old friends. I drop my head and pretend I do not watch them, feign ignorance of the numbers that surely stand against us. Merrys' small weight is warm against me, for all my brothers' mocking laughter his sword is sharp and his courage greater than many men twice his stature.

A hobbit and a girl. Aragorn called me shieldmaiden once, a name bestowed with the indulgence of a man who has seen many battles and weathered them all. I know as well as he does that such titles must be earned. There will be no more crouching behind stone ramparts while the battle rages close enough to hear the screams of the dying. No obedient girl herded back to safety with the women and children so mute with horror they can barely remember their names. My sword is warm and heavy in my hand, and even through my fear I can feel freedom quickening my blood. The air was never sweeter, the green of the grass, the shining riders of Rohan and it's allies as beautiful and terrible as long ago legends.

Before us lies the ruin of middle earth.

That there should be so many… Against the seething darkness my uncle is as bright as the North Star,

the sunlight upon his sword as pure as fire, as incorruptible as the dawn. They ride for you King Theoden, they ride for the sun that is yet to rise and the babes not yet borne of their sweethearts.

My brother holds his stallion steady, he shows no fear, no hesitation, and the sharp pang of pride is as welcome as it is unexpected. Behind him his Eored watch the enemy with a narrowed-eyed contempt that gives heart to the younger riders.

"Courage Merry, courage for our friends."

The horns sound sweet and clear around us, the pounding of a thousand hooves thunderous and defiant.

We will die here, and it will be a glorious death. Minas Tirith glows in the distance ravaged and ghost like, here the last battle will be fought, and come sunrise the fate of Middle Earth will be irrevocably decided.