The Wild Westfold

By: Lauthica Green Clinkenbeard


Chapter One: The Riddermark

I was always a boisterous and wild child. While the other girls were busy playing with their hay filled, rag dolls and learning how to stich I would sneak away. I would play with the horses and run barefoot in the mud. I would follow the boys into the grasslands and practice sparring, wrestling, and throwing spears for as long as I could. Eventually I would be found and dragged back to my parents kicking and screaming. My mother would look upon me in despair, but she would say nothing; only furrowed her brow in shame and looked away while my father yelled, lectured, and eventually whipped me.

"You embarrass this family!" he scolded.

I was thirteen when I made up my mind to run away from home. I packed only a bit of bread and a water pouch in a makeshift satchel. I stole my brother's golden dagger and my father's horse leaving only a short note saying I was fleeing to Edoras. I lied to throw them off my trail. I was really planning on going north toward the elven woods. I had heard stories of the elves. Women were equal to the men and were even allowed to become soldiers and archers. I figured since they were immortal they wouldn't mind a few decades with me as part of their group. I rode north at first light under the blazing sunrise with the dagger, my satchel, and the clothes on my back.

I rode on a full gallop for two days and nights. I had to put as much distance as I could between myself and what I had left behind. I took caution to avoid getting near any villages or towns. News of a missing girl would travel fast and lookouts would be placed with fervor at every outpost and tower. I knew I was drawing close to the northern border, no more than a day or two away, when on the third night my dreary eyes did not spot the uneven ground between a patch of rocks. The horse gave out a shrilling cry as he went down head first. I flew off over him. I heard a terrible snap. I moved slowly and checked my arms and legs. The snap hadn't come from me. I rose to my feet and slowly made my way in the dark toward the horse. He landed awkwardly on his head when he tripped and his neck had snapped. He was dead.

I unloaded my satchel from the saddle and spared a few words of prayer for the horse before I quickly resumed my trek north. I had no time to lose now. I ran for as long as I could. At first light I had to stop. My heart and legs couldn't take anymore. I found a small stream and made a fire. I rinsed out my clothes and bathed. I wanted to be presentable when I reached the elves. When I was dressed again I wrapped myself in my cloak and rested by the fire. I fell asleep at some point because otherwise I never would have heard them coming.

I woke from my slumber when a hand grabbed my arm and tried to lift me up. I hurried myself into an aware state and quickly shook my arm free. I scrambled to my feet screaming. I abandoned my satchel and hurried away wading through the stream. I looked back to see three wildmen on my trail. No doubt they had hoped to capture me and take me back to their caves in the Westfold. Inbreeding was a problem for them and I had no desire to be their next captured whore. I quickened my pace, but to no avail. They were much stronger and faster than me. They soon caught up and tackled me to the ground.

They didn't say anything not even amongst themselves and quickly bound my hands together. They tied another rope around my neck and pulled me along with them like an animal on a leash. I wept. I wept for the horse. I wept to see my parents. I wept for the horrors I would soon see. They stopped to camp for the night in the dying rays of the setting sun.

The older wildman, who was no doubt the leader, untied the leash from my neck and attached it to the bonds on my wrists and hands. He wasn't going to risk an escape of such a fair prize. When he was satisfied that the rope was securely tied around his waist he fell asleep by his comrades next to their fire.

I moved as far away as I could from them without disturbing the elder one. Their smell was unbearable. Savages! I should have never left home. Death would have been a better outcome than being a prisoner till the end of my days. I decided that the next night I would throw myself into their fire and pray they were heavy sleepers.

The wildmen were heavy sleepers indeed for they did not hear the galloping hooves approach the light of their fire. The galloping of the riders stopped shy a few yards from where the glow of fire lost the battle to the darkness of the night. I heard whispers as their shadows drew nearer the ground and began slowly circling the camp. I kept silently mouthing "Help me" hoping they could see. If I had fallen asleep that night the riders would have slain me along with the wildmen trespassing their lands. They must have seen my silent plea because the next thing I knew a spear flew from the dark sky and embedded itself into the chest of one of the lesser wild men.

He gave out a cry as he was wretched from his sleep and grabbed at the spear. I covered my ears as best I could with my bound hands when I heard his blood spurt and gurgle about him. The other wildman and the elder quickly woke and rose. Unfortunately as the elder turned to flee from the situation he pulled me down. The leash was still tied to his waist. I screamed as my back scraped across the ground. I closed my eyes as I heard another scream. The other wildman had been struck down. I prayed to myself. Please! Please don't let the elder get away with me!

Even in his old age the elder wildman was quick. I prayed he would be struck down. My eyelids unhinged when I heard galloping beside me. It was one of the riders. He unhooked an axe from his saddle.

"Hyah!" he yelled as he ordered his horse to go faster. He got a few lengths ahead of me and he hurtled the axe with precise accuracy and cut the rope freeing me. I came to a stop, but laid in shock on the ground.

"Whoah!" the rider said halting the horse. His companions rode ahead in pursuit of the elder. He turned his horse around and dismounted. Light from his companion's torches quickly receded as they pursued. The rider that freed me became a shadow of the night once again. I managed to lift myself up onto my knees. He walked over to me careful not to lose his footing in the dark.

"Are you hurt Miss?" he asked. He unsheathed a small dagger from his belt and knelt down to cut the bonds on my hands. I didn't say anything. Now that I was no longer in danger the only thing that passed through my mind was the possibility of discovery and promptly taken home. I now wanted to go home more than anything, but I also now owed my father a horse, and I lost my brother's dagger that was given to him by our grandfather. I had an unpayable debt and being young and naïve I feared my retribution.

"Miss?" He asked again. He knelt down and gently grabbed my shoulders. "Can you understand me?" he asked. I looked at him. His helmet covered most of his face and it was impossible to see any of his features in the dark. I said nothing still.

Horses approached. His companion's returned.

"We slayed the third, Captain." One rider said.

"Very good, Hama." The captain said. "I need your help. I think she was rendered catatonic by the shock of our attack."

The man called Hama dismounted his horse. The other rider held his torch high to illuminate the situation. Hama took off his helmet and carried it under his arm as he walked over. He was an older and stocky man. He too knelt next to the captain and set his helmet down at my side. A bit of light casted on the captain's face but he was still a stranger. The helmet made it impossible to tell his hair colour and when the light flashed in his eyes they were only shadowy, black pools. The captain took my hands in his and looked them over.

"She has severe burns from the rope." He said and he reached behind him to a pouch on his belt. He pulled out two long strips of cloth and began to wrap them around my wrists. The shock of the raid was wearing off and my skin felt set aflame when the texture of the bandage reached my raw skin.

Hama reached his hand out and lifted my chin. No doubt in an attempt to innocently check my face for cuts and scrapes. The captain had finished tying the bandages. I recoiled from Hama and tried to scoot away backward to get to my feet to flee.

"Miss!" The captain called.

I got a few feet away and tried to stand but I lost by balance and fell backward. I felt a sharp pain shoot down my spine when my back made contact with the hard soil of the grassland. I cried out for a moment and laid back completely still waiting for the twinge to pass.

"Miss!" Hama said rushing over with the captain behind him. He rolled me over to my side gently and felt my back. He held it up into the light of the torch. He looked at the captain. "She is wounded. This is fresh blood."

"She can't be properly looked after here in the dark." The captain said rising to his feet. "Make sure she hasn't broken anything. If she has a break, splint it quickly and prepare her to ride with us to the nearest outpost."

"No!" I said trying to sit up but quickly grimaced at the pain in my back.

"Calm yourself, child." Hama said. "We mean to help you. Don't move too much. You may have also broken a bone." He said feeling my arms and legs.

"Nothing is broken, Captain." Hama called out.

"She is lucky then. She will ride with me on my horse." Said the captain.

Hama looked down at me, "I am going to help you to your feet." He said and he gently lifted me under my arms. I didn't fuss this time for fear of making my back shoot pain again. He helped me over to the horse. The captain had taken off his green, wool cloak and was holding it in his hands.

"Here, we need to keep you warm to prevent fever." He said and he draped it over my shoulders. He then grabbed at my waist. I panicked and quickly recoiled and flailed my hands at his.

"Let go!" I screamed.

"I am trying to help you onto the horse! Please, miss, we mean you no harm." He said.

"I am more than capable of getting on the horse on my own!" I said sternly and I pushed his cloak off of my shoulders. I put my foot in the stirrup and swung myself over. I winced as the pain returned and I nearly fell off the other side of the horse. The captain grabbed the hem of my dress to stabilize me. He picked up his cloak from the ground and mounted the horse sitting behind me. He returned the cloak to my shoulders.

"Be as bitter as you wish, but we will endeavor to help you none the less." He said, "Hold on tight." He said and he wrapped his free hand around my waist. "Hyah!"

I don't know if it was the pain from my back or the sheer exhaustion of my unlucky journey, but I blacked out most of the horse ride with the captain. I only have vague glimpses of arriving at the outpost. I felt the warmth of a fire on my face and opened my eyes. The captain had me in his arms wrapped tightly in his cloak. The halls of the outpost were still shadowy without the light of the suns first rays. That, and my vision was getting blurry and glassy.

The walls were wooden and had golden leafed details on intricately carved depictions of horses and kings past. I tilted my head up and saw huge columns of carved stone. This was quite a lavish outpost. Tapestries hung every few feet of great battles of the ancient days and the founding of Rohan.

The captain carried me through a large archway down a smaller hall and then stopped. He adjusted me around to free one of his hands and knocked on the door. It took a few moments before an elderly woman answered opening the door.

"Eomer?" she asked with a questioned look.

"This girl is badly wounded and needs medical attention." The captain said.

"Good heavens! Take her to the infirmary with haste. I'll fetch Eohides and your sister. You inform the king." She said and she quickly shut the door. The Captain hurried carrying me back down the hall. I felt flush and my head pulsed with every step he took. I closed my eyes again.

I felt myself being laid down. I felt the cloak unwrap around me and soon I felt the weight of a heavy wool blanket. I opened my eyes again. The captain was refolding his cloak and set it down on a table in the corner. He went over to the fire and stoked it. He picked up a couple of logs and carefully tossed them in stoking it once more. He stood again and took off his helmet setting it on the same table as his blood stained cloak.

I didn't realize quite how young he really was. He couldn't have been more than two, maybe three years older than me, but it was only in his face. He was very tall and on his way to being very broad as well. He had long, wavy hair the colour of straw and just a bit of fuzz on his chin. He looked at me. His eyes were no longer black pits but a deep, warm brown.

"I will wait to fetch the king until Da returns. I do not want to leave you alone." He said.

"Why is the king at this outpost?" I asked weakly. I had never seen the king before or any of the royal family for that matter. I never thought they would travel so far in the north of the kingdom.

"You do not remember?" the captain asked. I shook my head. "We arrived at the outpost at sunrise that morning after the night we saved you. Hama treated your wounds himself, but his expertise truly lies on the battlefield. Even with his best efforts you took a fever in the night. We rode all night to bring you here. You are in Edoras, Miss, the capitol city of Rohan, and you are in the hall of King Théoden, Meduseld. Da is the finest of the royal healers for your condition is unstable and severe."

"My wounds?…. Edoras?...What happened?" I said trying to piece together a coherent thought.

"Fret not." He said. "You must rest. You will soon be with the best hands in all of Rohan." He said softly as if trying to lure me to fall asleep like that of a hush lullaby.

"But…." I said. I could feel myself slipping away again. I heard the door open and Da came in quickly rushing to my side. Another woman came in behind Da and a girl around my age. The woman had a pitcher of steaming water and the girl had an armful of rags.

Da sat on the bed and pressed her hand to my forehead.

"She has a strong fever." She said, "Eohides, bring me that water." She said. Eohides set the pitcher on the small table by the bed. Da took a rag from the girl and dipped it in the pitcher. She rung it out and started wiping off my forehead and face. The captain bowed to the women and the girl as he left to fetch the king.

"Is it infection?" Eohides asked.

"I'm not sure." Da said. "Lord Eomer failed to tell me the extent of her wounds when he woke me. No doubt they are extensive. I do not think he would have hastened so in his steps and his voice it they were not." Da started to look me over. She noticed the bandages on my wrists and started to unwrap them. She gently looked over my raw flesh.

"Rope burns aren't that serious…." She said with another questioned look on her face.

"Lady Da, there is also a bandage on her shoulder just there." The girl said pointing.

Da reached up and pulled down the neckline of my dress.

"Indeed. That must be where our challenge lies tonight." Da said fixing my neckline back to its original position "We'll wait till after the king has been briefed on her condition before we examine her. She could have lost her life this night, no need for her to lose her dignity as well. We just have to keep her warm and comfortable. Eohides?"

"Yes, Lady Da."

"Fetch a bit of hot mead would you. It will calm her nerves. Poor dear." Da said.

Eohides nodded and left quickly. Da resumed wiping off my forehead.

"What is your name child?" she asked.

I couldn't have told her my name even if I wanted to. I felt very weak and the warmth of the wet cloth was putting me into sleep. I remained alert long enough to hear the door open once more. It was the captain and an older man in a long wool sleep shirt.

"Alright, explain to me why I have a dying teenager in my house this evening." He said. It was him. King Théoden.

"We were riding the northern patrol when we found a horse dead. He had tripped and his neck had been broken on his fall. We searched the area for his rider and found a small camp with a satchel. They were signs of a struggle and we followed the tracks. She was taken captive by a party of three wildmen." The captain said.

"Wildmen? That far north?" asked the king.

"We did not linger to investigate. During our rescue raid the girl suffered a deep gash on her back and right shoulder blade. When our own attention was not enough to save her we hastened here with all speed."

"I see…." The king said calmly. "What is her name? Where did she come from?"

"I do not know." The captain said. The king then turned to Da.

"She is not coherent enough at the moment, my king." Da said.

"How severe is her condition?" the king asked.

"We don't know yet sir." Da said.

"Very well, treat her with the best care. She may know something about why the wildmen were so far north. Report to me or Halrold as soon as you can."

"Yes, my lord." Da said bowing her head down.

"Eomer?" the king asked.

"Yes, my lord?" answered the captain.

"She'll be in your charge."

"My Lord, I must return to the patrol. Hama needs…." He began but the king cut him off.

"Don't worry about Hama. I have promoted him to my head officer of the Edoras defense and you…." The king's tone lightened. "You have been gone for too long. I am an uncle first, and a king second. Stay and rest. You sometimes forget how young you really are." Said the king and he kissed the captains forehead. The king left without any further word.

"Lord Eomer," Da said bowing again. The captain nodded back at her and then his gaze drifted to me. He stared into my half lidded eyes and lingered his gaze for a moment or two before he too left.

I felt dizzy and my mind was reeling trying to piece everything together. Dying teenager? So the captain is royalty; a nephew to the king. I looked at the girl still standing quietly with the rags in her arms. So must she be royalty if she is the captain's sister. She had a deep sorrow in her eyes as if she never smiled in her entire life. I do not think it was sorrow for my condition. The last thing I remember before the darkness took me was the flag of Rohan hanging from the ceiling. It was gently swaying from some draft somewhere in the hall. It was proud and the horse symbol seemed to be looking down into my very being. Dying? Is this what dying feels like?