Variel straightened up, dropping a sheaf of grain into her basket and wiping her hands on her apron. She shielded her eyes and peered across the plains of the Bruinen.
The Bruinen plains grew out from the river Bruinen, a fast moving river that flowed from the Misty Mountains southwards across Middle Earth. The small villages on its banks relied on the river to bring water for the farming. The farms of Bruinen put bread on the tables of Minas Tirith and brought traders up the river to buy grain.
Variel was the oldest daughter of one of the farmers in the small village of Brui'Hil, and worked her father's field with her younger sister Enith.
A breeze kicked up, rustling Variel's pale hair. She tightened her headscarf against the wind.
Her mother had died when she was young, leaving only Variel's unique looks as a memory. With her light hair and skin, the girl stuck out like a sore thumb among the short ruddy-faced inhabitants of the village. Her father's new wife among others had envied Variel's beauty, spreading rumors that Variel was the result of her mother's elvish witchcraft, for how else could a woman of the North be so beautiful? Elves were hated in the river villages because they refused to buy Bruinen grain, preferring to harvest their own food.
Variel stole a glance to where her younger sister was working. Nearly a decade younger, Enith was a perfect image of their father. The six year old worked diligently and silently, never leaving a chore for the last minute. But beneath her work ethic she was a bubbly little girl with a laugh like bells. Enith alone kept Variel to the hard life of the village.
A fast moving spot along the horizon behind her sister drew Vanya's attention. As she watched, multiple spots joined the other, and they turned over a hills, heading straight for the fields. That only meant one thing.
An orc raiding party.
"WARGS!" Variel shouted, leaving her basket of grain and running along one of the paths to the village, scooping up Enith as she did. Across the field, shouts began to go up as the Warg wolves drew closer. Enith clung to Variel tightly, burying her face in her sister's tresses.
They ran through the tall grain, trying to make it to the safe shelters of the village. Orc raiding parties were rare, but they usually only took food, and if the food was left undefended, the buildings and inhabitants were left undefiled.
That proved not to be the case as screams began to pepper the air and the acrid smell of burning wood began to arise form the direction of the village. Variel stopped in her tracks as the town began to erupt in flames. There would be no safe haven there.
She turned on her heel, running the opposite way from the village and trying to use the wheat as cover. She could hear the howls of the wolves now as they chased down and devoured the townsfolk.
"Keep your eyes hidden, little one." Variel said soothingly to her sister, who had begun to cry in fear. Chancing a glace around, Variel saw that the far fields had begun to burn, and the Warg riders were spreading out looking for the survivors in the fields.
She began to run again, hoping to reach one of the groves of trees that lay on the other side of her father's field. Smoke began to cloud the air as the nearer fields went up in a blaze.
"Take off your headscarf and wrap it over your face. Do it quickly, and do it now." Variel said to Enith, setting the little girl down and untying her own headscarf.
A sudden growl emanated from their right. Variel looked up to see a Warg advancing through the smoke towards them, the orc on its back licking its lips.
"Run, Enith! Hide!" She yelled, picking up a stone from the ground and hurling it at the warg rider, hitting the Orc between the eyes. As it toppled off the giant wolf, She picked up another rock and hurled it at the Warg's eye, blinding it. It growled and sprang at her, and she began to run the opposite direction that Enith had disappeared. She would try and lose the warg then come back for her sister.
A growl from close behind assured that the wolf was chasing her instead of Enith, and Variel ran faster through the wheat, trying to make it to the grove of black trees at the edge of the field.
Her hopes were dashed as the Warg on her heels howled, and a pair of eerie howls answered nearby. Left with no other choice, Variel ran to a rock formation to her right and wedged her slim body as well as she could into a crevice. The crackling of the fire drew nearer, along with the heavy panting of the wolves.
"Sounded like we was chasing a little piece of meat." One of the orcs growled.
"Grayog said we could eat as we pleased." The other orc chuckled. "Pity you lost yours."
"Not mine. Ragnak's. His Warg sent up a call after his meal fought back." Came the reply.
"Pity. Let's find some easier meat."
To Variel's relief, the warg riders bounded off towards the village, taking the rider-less wolf with them.
She shimmied her way out of the rocks, coughing as the smoke engulfed her. The sun had almost disappeared as the fields all burned and the fire worked its way across the further plains.
Variel moved in the direction of the copse of trees she had seen, sick with worry for her sister and exhaustion. When she reached the trees, she pulled herself up to the highest branches and peered through the smoke at what was left of her village. The fields still burned, obscuring her view.
As dark came on, the Warg wolves began to howl a song of victory as they returned to the dark hole from whence they came. A heavy rain rolled in, drenching Variel in her tree and beginning to put out the fires still burning slowly at the edges of the fields.
Alone in her hiding place, Variel began to feel hot tears of loss mixing with the rain from above as her stomach churned with worry for her sister. There was barely a chance that her sister had managed to survive without her. She would have been overran and devoured like the rest of her village.
Eventually exhaustion overcame her, and Variel slept.