To The Halls of Mandos

Chapter 3

A servant ushered her to a room with a long table, with bread, cheese, roast chicken, fruits and wine. As she filled her plate with food, she could overhear some of the women behind her talking. She strained to listen as she ate.

"I have heard that Saruman's army comes in the thousands, and we would probably not last the night." Said one woman, as she tried to hush her young baby.

"For shame! Have you no faith in our men!" said another, "They will protect us with their lives, and make sure we are safe. Even Theoden King intends to ride against the armies of Isengard..."

"Thousands of Orcs against hundreds of men... I do not think we shall survive." Said another woman, who seemed to be weeping, "They have taken my son... my son! He has barely reached eleven winters, and already these soldiers give him a sword! They intend to kill us as well as our children..."

Il-ya stopped, shocked at the news, and looked around. Already children of no more than ten are armed with weapons, and shields. She could see one boy looking at a sword he was holding. His pale blue eyes were wide with fear, and as she looked, there was a pale pallor in his cheeks, and he coughed so violently that his face spasmed with pain.

She took a deep draught of wine, and looking around, pulled at the boy's mail, "Come here, you!" She said in a rough voice, trying to sound like a man, "Your mail is too thin, boy!"

"But this is what was given to me, sir!" said the boy with a raspy voice. She pulled the boy into a corner, which was hidden with clothes. She kneeled down and looked at the boy.

"Listen to me, child." She said, in her normal voice, "You are too thin and weak to be of use in battle. Where is your mother?"

"My lady!" The boy exclaimed in shock, before shaking his head and pointing at the sobbing mother behind Il-ya only moments before. "She knows I am sickly, but the soldiers ordered it, so I had no choice but to come."

She shook her head, "A sick child such as you should not be in battle, lest you'll be slayed instantly. When you are well and have grown, you can take up a sword anytime you want." She looked around, and pulling at the clothes around them, she began wrapping them around the boy's waist, shoulders and head. Grabbing another robe, she covered it around her and tied a long cloth around her chest to flatten it. She pulled out a few strands of the boy's long hair until she was done. She smiled, "There... now you look like a girl."

"But... what about the war?" The boy said as Il-ya pulled at him again, "Who will fight?"

"Speak not." She said, "The soldiers will know you are a boy, and send you off to battle again." She bent down and gazed intently at the boy, "Listen to me... do not show yourself to your mother yet, hide your face in your cloak and speak softly as if a girl. Hide into the caves with the others, and do not remove your clothing until the war is over and you are all allowed to come out. Do you understand?"

The boy nodded and she smiled tenderly at him, causing the young boy to smile back, his pallid face lighting. He bowed a little, "My name is Folcwine... son of Ceorl. What is your name, lady?"

"My name is Il-ya." She smiled again, "You are named after one of the great kings of Rohan. When you are well, I wish you would become just as great and splendid as he." She said, and soon a soldier began ushering the women into the caves. She pushed the boy towards the other women, "Fare thee well, Folcwine." She whispered to the boy. Folcwine bowed low, giving her his sword, before running towards the women. She grasped her hair, and using the sword, cut it in one smooth stroke, pocketing the hair into her cloak. As she stood up, a soldier came up to her. "Hey you, why aren't you in armor?"

She coughed a little, "I was saying farewell to my daughter." She said, her voice low and rough, "I wish to keep her safe with the other women and children. I am on my way to return to my cottage to get my armor, my lord."

The soldier looked at the back of the "girl" Il-ya ushered into the caves and nodded, "Very well. Prepare for battle as soon as you can. The war begins tonight."

Il-ya nodded and headed out to the armory, but not before stopping at one of the rooms to adjust her shirt.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.