A single rider, under the wolf's-head banner of the invaders- this we expected.
What we did not expect was the identity of the rider, what we did not expect was his easy smile, his ingratiating grin.
"Surrender to me."
No pleasantries, no preludes- not even a single threat.
"Surrender to me."
Just three simple words, spoken by a thug- a foreign thug, at that.
Three simple words, greeted with a rattle of derisive laughter from our walls.
These are but Dunlendings- naught but simpletons, naught but savages- and yet they expect us to surrender without a fight?
Graig the Headsman shakes his head.
"We will not surrender to you, Wulf son of Freca- will never surrender, not so long as there is breath in our bodies- and we would advise you to return whence you came, lest you might suffer the same fate that befell your father."
The rider shrugs.
"I hear your words, headsman, but I would ask you again- surrender to me."
Graig shakes his head a second time.
"Not a one of us will bow before you, invader- we are loyal unto death to our King, and will fight to the last man against you and yours, as our fathers and their fathers did."
The rider smiles.
"Brave words, headsman- but I wonder if you truly speak for all?"
His words echo loud and long in the final blood-red rays of the setting sun, setting all sorts of fears a-sparkle as the day dies.
Graig, to give him his credit, does not falter.
"All have spoken to me, invader, and all have given me the right to speak for them. Some feared you, granted, and some feared your army, granted, and some cried that we should sue for peace rather than be food for crows..."
The rider leans forward in his saddle as Graig continues.
"...but in the end the decision was easy to make. Do your worst, invader- we will fight you to our final breath, and will die proud to fall under the white horse rather than the black wolf."
Silence hangs in the air, and then...
"So be it."
The rider turns his horse from us and trots away, but stops after a few steps.
Stops and turns, stops and fixes Graig with a stare that freeze molten steel.
"All have spoken to you, headsman, and all demand you stand against me."
As I watch, the hill above our settlement suddenly sprouts spears- Wulf was not alone after all, it would appear.
"All have spoken to you, and therefore there is no use in arguing with you."
Fire suddenly lines the hills above our village- our own hay-bales turned against us- and even if I could find something to say to the invader the words are ashes upon my tongue.
Wulf turns back to his troops.
"Leave none alive."
As the burning bales are pushed forwards and begin their unstoppable descent towards us, I close my eyes.
Tears streaking my face, I hear nothing but terrified screams.
I hope death will be swift.
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.