17. Night Wanderer
Yanta shivered and drew her cloak tighter around her. It was lined with fur, and she was protected by the ring, but still the winter was bitter. The wind had a bite to it, and the snow seemed colder than was normal. It was like being in Forodwaith again, only in her home country.
The Dunlendings grumbled and huddled closer to the small fires that flickered and threatened to go out. They had gathered dead wood and dried it, but nothing large would burn. It was as if the land itself wanted them to die.
Everything had been going so perfectly. With Ringe's rejection, Morion had regained his military brilliance and set about organizing attacks on the great powers in the world. Vorea and Khamul had been sent to rally the Corsairs, Aica and Ringe went to the north, and here was Yanta in her own land. Not that she'd ever seen much of the countryside. They hadn't been called the Men of the Mountains for nothing.
Under her command, the Dunlendings had successfully been roused for vengeance for some king or another whom the Rohan king had slain. The Horse Lords' capital, Edoras, had been taken and now was under Dunlending command. Everything had been going so well…
The king had escaped. No problem. Yanta gathered the army and set after him. They tracked him to a fortress in the mountains. The Hornburg, it was called, and it looked to Yanta damn near impregnable. Still, no problem. They could wait it out.
The low bellow of a horn call rang out across the land. The Dunlendings began jabbering to one another and pointing in terror at the shadow of the enormous fortress in the dim light. All the men in the area gathered around the fires, staring with horror into the shadows as if waiting for some wraith to leap out and seize them.
Everything had been going so well, but the former Northmen had the fighting spirit of wolves. Their king – Helm Hammerhand – refused to starve to death inside his keep, and neither would he surrender. Instead, the bastard stalked Dunlending soldiers in the dead of night, clad all in white, slaying them with his bare hands. It was either that or a wraith, and Yanta didn't think she was sleepwalking.
Every night before he departed the Hornburg to begin his raid, Helm would blow the great horn, warning the Dunlendings. It should've warned them, told them to prepare for battle with a single enemy. But so great was the terror Helm inspired that his enemies cowered around the fires, shivering in petrified horror, waiting for the white wraith to appear and rend them into pieces.
Yanta had had enough of this. Casting a glare of pure loathing at the pathetic Dunlendings, she marched out into the dark. What did she have to fear from some half-starved man?
He was out here somewhere. Perhaps he was even stalking her. Well, if he was, he was in for a nasty surprise.
Yanta drew her dagger and looked into the shadows of the forest. Nothing moved, and then a snowflake drifted down to add itself to the already considerable amount on the ground. And then another, and then another.
The flurries quickly turned into a full-fledged blizzard, and Yanta curled up at the base of a large tree rather than freeze out in the open plains. Could she freeze? She wasn't sure, and she definitely didn't want to find out.
Yanta awoke to a pale, gray dawn the next morning. She was covered in snow, which she shook off. Her limbs were stiff and cold as ice. If she could have died, she certainly would've in the blizzard.
The whole world was wrapped in a thick blanket of white crusted with ice. Yanta couldn't remember the way she'd come, but she could see the Hornburg in the distance.
The snow came up to her hips in some places. It made for slow going, trudging through the snow and breaking through the ice, which was up to several inches thick.
At last the flickering lights of Dunlending fires could be seen and Yanta breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn't caught Helm, but neither had he slaughtered all her men.
She was almost halfway to the camp when she noticed a strange tree nearby. It wasn't as tall as most of the others, and it seemed both white and blue. The white was snow…most of it. Still, blue was a strange color for a tree.
Walking over to investigate, Yanta stopped several feet from the…the…it wasn't a tree. It was a man.
He was in his middle years, with dark yellow hair and a thick beard. He was dressed all in white, which was coated in snow along with ice. His eyes were still open and they glared out furiously at the world. His knees were unbent.
Dressed all in white…
Yanta threw back her head and laughed.
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.