3. Niineteen Weary Wargs - by Stefania
The snow had fallen relentlessly all day as the traveller journeyed north west, cutting through the mountain passes. Tonight was Yuletide but there would be no celebrating for him. By his estimation, he had at least another half day's journey before he would reach his goal.
Alas, his stomach deeply resented missing the opportunity for a great feast. Unfortunately, the heavy snows had slowed him. Now they hid whatever vegetation that still grew at this elevation in the darkest part of winter. That's why the traveller was elated when the snow ceased, the clouds parted, and the full moon appeared in the West, casting a brillant gleam on the mountains' white surface. Ahead on his path he saw the half-covered tracks of a deer, no two deer, who mostly likely passed this way an hour or so ago.
Urging his weary body forward with the promise of venison on the spit, the traveller veered off the trail, following the deer tracks until an ominous sound stopped him cold. He could discern low growls, yips, and another, far more frightening noise issuing from the copse of trees ahead, where the deer tracks headed. Both repelled and fascinated, the traveller decided to move forward as soundlessly as he could, to spy on what he knew must be large carnivores supping on the very deer he had been tracking.
Half-hidden behind an immense old pine, the traveller beheld a small meadow in the eery moonlight. A great pack of wargs sat on the snow banks or wandered about slowly. A few approached the steaming carcases of two deer, gazing with what the traveller couldn't help but interpret as wistfulness. In the past, the traveller had only encountered these beasts in ambushes or similar attacks. He had never encountered them in the wild, in their normal habitat. His normal reaction to wargs was to quickly assess what he could about them and prepare for battle.
He counted the beasts. There were 19 of them, and it seemed that winter had taken its toll early on the pack. Near the deer bones lay two large, fully sated wargs, no doubt the top male and top female. Most of the others were naught but sunken skin and bones, a few shaking and barely able to walk. The traveller thought it probably took the whole emaciated pack to bring down the deer, but only the largest and strongest got to eat. The others relied on the top male and top female to be healthy and breed offspring, for the survival of the pack.
The traveller wondered, surely the necromancer's orc patrols would have fed all the beasts equally and better so that the animals would be strong enough to use as mounts. Then the obvious dawned on the traveller--that these animals did not swear fealty to any dark lord or evil man or twisted, corrupted elf. They were wild, as the Valar had originally made them. He suspected that all the wargs had picked up his scent, but were either too full or too exhausted from the kill to attack him. Or perhaps they were afraid of him.
The traveller reminded himself that no creature that walked on two legs or four was originally evil. Several of the scrawniest, most sickly wargs wandered along the periphery of the meadow, near to the traveller's tree. One of them certainly picked up his scent and looked at him. Slowly, the traveller came out from behind the tree and leaned on his staff, ready to battle but even more curious to see what a wild warg would do. In answer, the warg moved slowly away, tail between his legs, and lay down in the snow. Several of his compatriots joined him, lying next to him, sharing each others' warmth.
I guess I'll celebrate Yuletide in their company, the traveller walked back to the massive pine. He pulled a roll of blankets from his great parfleche, wrapped himself up in them, and sat down, back resting against the tree. He decided against starting a fire, just in cast the wargs might interpret this as an act of hostility. Then he let his eyes droop into tiny slits, letting most of his mind take a restful journey though some of him stayed awake, aware of his precarious situation.
Still, he must have fallen asleep at some point, because drips of water from melting snow on the pine splashed on his face and woke him the next morning. Remembering his companions of the previous night, the traveller opened his eyes and moved very slowly. Most of the wargs were gone. Only the three who had guarded him remained, curled together on the ground. One of the wargs detected his movement and sat up, watching carefully.
Taking careful, deliberate movements, the traveller stood up, untwisted the blankets from his body and stuffed them in his parfleche--but not before retrieving a large package wrapped in leather. He turned and hurled the package over the wargs' heads. The three beasts jerked up very suddenly and ran to fetch the package and ravage its contents, as the traveller hoped they would.
As the beasts tore apart the last of the traveller's jerked meat, he shouldered his parfleche, drove staff into the ground, and headed back up the past. Olorin groaned slightly and wished the Valar hadn't given him the body and stomach of an old man. Still, he knew he could last the final twelve hour's walk of his journey. Elrond's folk always had Yule leftovers.
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.