All Good Beasts

Elf's Best Friend, An

2. An Introduction Inauspicious

When we were called in from the pasture for our evening meal, I was surprised when Raimendur, who oversaw the young horses, called all of the foals who were under a year in age, and led us away from the rest of the herd. I did not like Raimendur (as he never paid me adequate attention), but my mother insisted, so I stomped away with the others, silently vowing that if he were going to try to fit me for shoes (I had seen some of the yearlings given shoes the day before), I was going to kick him. . . . hard. And maybe bite him, too. Fortunately for his well-being, he attempted nothing of the sort, merely giving us our oats. As usual, I quickly wolfed mine. Then thinking his behavior rather odd, I decided he must be trying to lure me into a false sense of security.

‘Ha,’ I thought, triumphantly. “He can just try to fool me!’

At that point, he noticed me watching him and rolled his eyes. I laid back my ears, narrowed my eyes and glared at him (I am very good at glaring at unappreciative people.) ‘How dare he roll his eyes at me? Why, the cheek of him! How dare . . . and who is that?!’

For another elf had joined him at the edge of the field and was speaking. He was slightly tall (for an elf), and had golden-hair that matched the beautiful highlights of my coat, and caught my attention, since most of the Imladris elves are dark-haired. An ancient-looking dagger with an ornamental design of golden flowers etched into the hilt hung at his side. He also had a bow and quiver of arrows strapped to his back. It was a slightly longer bow than most, and actually, the more I thought about it, it looked quite tempting. He seemed to be deep in conversation with Raimendur, and even though he appeared to be a warrior, surely he would not notice yet if I took just a little nibble. Before I realized what I was doing, I had started sneaking closer. His back was still turned, yes, yes, yes! Not far now. Up closer, I noticed the bow was quite ornately formed with pictures of trees and leaves on the dark wood. Elves do not realize that such exquisite designs only make such things look more enticing. I snickered inwardly. I would just strip off a few of those carvings with my teeth . . . . and maybe take one of the arrows away for a future snack. I was almost there. Just six more yards. I could start by slowly severing the bowstring so that if he touched it, it would snap in his face. . . .

Unfortunately, my mother saw me before I reached my target. I heard her stomp her forefoot just before she screeched, ‘Asfaloth! How many times have I told you not to chew on bows? Or bowstrings? And stay away from those arrows!’

I knew better than to challenge my mother when she used that voice. Worse still, the elf turned around and saw me so now he would know to watch his back. Ugh! She spoils everything! Why, just a week previously . . . . never mind. Anyway, Raimendur looked at me, and he gave me this knowing expression. I bared my teeth and shook my head. He had not looked so disgustingly smug when I had appropriated the buckle from his belt, and I just knew he would tell nasty stories about me to the warrior. Now, mind you, I am not saying that there was not a grain of truth in some of them, but I am sure he makes them sound worse than they really are. That is just a simply disgraceful thing to do. A proper elf would have more respect for a horse.

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘see if I care!’ I turned around and stomped away. I did not think either of them would pay any attention, but I was not going to let him get to me. If he thought his vile decorum could shake my supreme will, he could just think some more!

My mane was not very long yet, but I made sure that it hung handsomely on my neck as I paraded over to a little stream. There are a lot of streams that flow through Imladris, so there is always one available. I suppose it is because Imladris is situated at the bottom of a ravine, but I have never really given it much thought. Anar glared off the water into my eyes almost as soon as I reached it. I, however, had long since learned how to deal with that. It had not taken me long to discover that if I stood at just the right angle, and closed my eyes just enough, it would not bother me and I could practice all I needed. Turning, so that my side was parallel to the stream, I began to rehearse my prance.

And if the elf-warrior was not going to be impressed with me, then I was not impressed with him either. Any decent elf can tell that a horse of my unmatched talents is a worthy ally, and anyone who cannot is beneath my notice. Yet somehow I had a feeling that there was something different about this elf, compared to the other warriors and great lords and such that I had met before. I shook myself vigorously (I was dwelling on him too much) and made certain my head was raised at the right height, so I would not kick myself in the chin as I glided along.

***

Now Glorfindel did not in actual fact mind Elrond’s horses too much (though it might seem otherwise to those who were unaccustomed to his manner), but it was still with some trepidation that he waited while the elf in charge of the foals separated those among whom he would be choosing from the others. There were five of them; one dark grey colt, one light grey colt, a bay, a white, and a light grey filly. He could not help but appreciate the irony of the fact that they were all the foals of Noladar, Elrond’s favorite mount; the same Noladar who took great pleasure in tossing Elrond into the Bruinen whenever the chance presented itself. It had taken a good deal of strategizing (also a good deal of practice) before Elrond was able to outwit him. A loyal beast, yes, but Glorfindel suspected, uruk-spawn. At least Noladar showed some respect, waiting until no one was watching. Of course, while no one had yet seen exactly how he managed to scrape Elrond off (though it was believed that tree branches and rolling on pebble-strewn ground figured largely in the equation), those nearby at the time were privileged with the sight of the greatly respected and wise Lord of Imladris pulling himself out of the icy river, sputtering and spitting out gravel. Glorfindel himself had been treated to the surprising sight several times. It was partly for that reason that he was somewhat wary of any of Noladar’s foals. But at the same time, he also viewed it as a challenge; and quite truthfully thought that it might be rather entertaining. It would certainly never be dull.

The foal’s caretaker was speaking now, so he shook himself out of his thoughts and tried to pay attention. “. . . . with the white sock is Narehin. He has the potential to be a good mount one day, but he strained the tendon in his right foreleg when he was born, and it will be a weakness in strenuous circumstances.”

Glorfindel suppressed a sigh as he saw that both the bay and one of the grey colts had a white sock and he had no idea which one was Narehin. He considered asking Raimendur, but quickly discarded the idea with a glance at his companion. Raimendur did not like it when people did not listen to him, for in his opinion, the only worthwhile thing which existed in Arda was the horses. Besides that, he never displayed a sense of humor.

Oblivious, Raimendur continued. “Ainille is the filly. She has a calmer temperament, although she will bite you if you turn your back. Not hard, just enough to shred clothing. She is the twin of Asfaloth.”

This Glorfindel could understand. “And which one is Asfaloth? The grey with the sock?”

“No, I just told you that was Narehin,” Raimendur replied. He paused, scanning the field, and a disapproving look flashed across his brow. “Asfaloth is the one sneaking up behind you.”

This did not surprise Glorfindel, as it is very difficult for a horse to sneak (even if he is only a foal), so Glorfindel had already been aware of his slinking approach. Nevertheless, at Raimendur’s statement, he turned around to face him. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that one of the mares in the adjoining field was stomping and snorting as if a horse fly had flown into her ear. The foal in question jumped about a foot off the ground and his eyes went wide, when he saw he had been discovered. A pure white foal, about six months old, Glorfindel thought he had the potential to grow to be an excellent horse. His eyes were wild giving him a crazed look, but it appeared that he was trying to look intimidating. He bared his teeth and shook his head at Raimendur, before turning around and stamping off.

As Glorfindel watched him, he felt a strange idea beginning to take shape in the back of his mind. The foal was obviously going to be trouble. He had walked over to a stream and was now prancing up and down in front of it. He did not appear to have even an ounce of common sense and certainly thought too much of himself. ‘It is not a good idea,’ Glorfindel tried to convince himself.

‘Just forget about it. Besides, Elrond will never let you live it down if you choose the most demanding horse in the herd again. That is if you live at all. This is a very bad idea. No, no, no . . . . . all right, yes!’

He turned suddenly to face Raimendur. “So, Asfaloth is his name?”

Raimendur pulled his gaze from the bay colt (who was happily throwing his feed out of the bowl and onto the ground with his chin), and fixed Glorfindel with an inscrutable stare. “That is correct. He is Asfaloth, twin of Ainille, out of Vercamil and by Noladar.”

“And what is his disposition?” Glorfindel asked.

“Are you certain about this?” Raimendur returned, with an unreadable glint in his eye.

“Certain about what?” Glorfindel attempted to look confused.

“As you wish, my lord. Asfaloth is the most conceited horse I have yet had the privilege to make the acquaintance of. He thinks of nothing but himself, disapproving of anyone who does not fawn over him. He has also acquired a myriad of bad habits, including standing on the foot of the person trying to lead him.” Raimendur said this rather swiftly as if explaining was a tiresome task he wished to be done with, and he knew that Glorfindel had already made up his mind. And in truth, he had.

“Lord Elrond is never, ever going to let me forget this,” Glorfindel said, shaking his head, and with just the shadow of an amused smile.

As Raimendur continued to watch him silently and enigmatically, Glorfindel recognized that he would not be receiving much help from the reticent elf. He sighed inwardly. “I suppose it is too much to hope for that Asfaloth has any good characteristics?” he asked.

“There have been none evidenced thus far unless you count that he has an unusually good aim with his hooves,” Raimendur replied uninterestedly.

Glorfindel silently ground his teeth. Raimendur was not being much help in aiding him to understand the colt, or how he could earn his trust. He looked at the foal (who was still prancing up and down in front of the stream), and considered attempting to pry more information from Raimendur. He doubted it would be possible. For all appearances, it would seem Raimendur did not possess a sense of humor, but Glorfindel knew for a fact that he did. Watching innocent people get walked over by the horses in his care was an activity he found preferable to probably anything else. Certainly, Raimendur would be laughing up his sleeve when Asfaloth started pulling stunts on him (such as chewing the top off every rose in one of the gardens and dropping it in a pile by the gate, the way his previous horse from Elrond had). His eyes narrowed slightly.

“Hail Glorfindel!”

He had just been considering giving Raimendur his elf-lord glare when he heard his name called. He whirled around and saw a very familiar face approaching. Oh, perfect. Just what he needed.

“Well met,” he paused. “Elladan or Elrohir?”

The approaching elf cocked an eyebrow teasingly (‘He looks too much like his father when he does that,’ Glorfindel thought) and smiled innocently. “Why Lord Gorfy (Here Glorfindel glared. The twins knew he detested their old nickname for him.), do not tell me you do not know me. After all the time we have spent together. After all the teaching you have given my brother and I, and our father, too, when he was young. Surely you can tell my brother and I apart!

Glorfindel scowled fiercely. Apparently, being one of the oldest elves in Middle-Earth, in addition to having slain a Balrog and returned from the Undying Lands only lent further to its effectiveness as the object of it quailed, and immediately ceased looking so annoyingly provoking.

“Elrohir,” he enlightened Glorfindel hastily. “Elladan is still with Father giving some of the details of our trip. He said you were down here looking at his horses, so I desired to join you.”

Glorfindel stopped scowling (Elrohir breathed a sigh of relief), and nodded in greeting. “It is good to see that you are both returned safely, Elrohir.”

Elrohir shrugged carelessly. “What did you expect? We can take care of ourselves.”

“Yes, of course,” Glorfindel replied tranquilly. “But might I suggest that if you wish to depict yourself as skilled in the arts of warfare, you should be careful to wash all the blood from your visage before showing yourself.” His voice sharpened. “What happened and why are you not with your brother?”

In the background, one of the horses neighed piercingly. Elrohir hesitated, and as Glorfindel fixed him with a penetrating stare, stepped to his side and lowered his voice. “We were ambushed by mountain goblins on our return home.”

Glorfindel looked at him sharply. “Mountain goblins? When? And where?

“This morning. On our north-easternmost border, near the High Pass. We had pursued a small band of orcs into the pass, where they met the Beornings who dealt with them rather efficiently.” He paused, allowing an unsettling smile to pass across his face, expressing a sentiment which Glorfindel concurred with. “The activity of all of the foul creatures who serve the Enemy has been greatly increasing of late, so we were coming back to report to Father. We knew they were there, but we did not realize there were as many as there were. We dealt with them without too much trouble.”

Glorfindel raised a skeptical eyebrow in an unwitting imitation of the elf-lord he served.

“Well,” Elrohir amended quickly, “Elladan did most of the dealing. My horse was shot out from under me, causing my head to make unpleasant contact with a tree stump. I am afraid I do not remember much of the fight, thus my presence is not needed with Father. So after he enlightened me as to the need to remain in the realm of the living, he told me to acquire another horse. He seemed most pleased with the prospect. One might say almost smug when he told me where you were.”

“I am only looking at them,” Glorfindel replied quickly. “And after I have finished here,” he added sternly, “perhaps a lesson in ‘Retaining Your Senses During Mortal Conflict’ would be appropriate.”

Elrohir stood at attention and saluted. “As you command, Lord Gorfy,” he answered, grinning annoyingly.

“Then stop calling me Gorfy. . . .”

Elrohir did his best to make his eyes wide like a puppy’s. “But Gorfy, we called you that ever since we could talk.”

“. . . . and help me learn about that foal.”

“Ohh, so you did choose one,” Elrohir looked at him complacently. “I must remember to tell Erestor I was right. Let me guess . . . . Raimendur!”

Raimendur, who had been standing off to the side talking to and stroking the bay colt, turned at the sound of his name. “Yes, my lord Elrohir?”

“Which of these colts will likely be the most ill-behaved and generally difficult to handle when grown?”

“Most likely Asfaloth, my lord,” he replied impassively.

“Thank you, Raimendur,” Elrohir said, turning back to Glorfindel. “I guess that you are interested in Asfaloth.”

“Well,” Glorfindel demurred, “I have not decided yet.”

“Hmm,” Elrohir looked at the white foal (who was studiously ignoring him) and paid not the slightest attention to Glorfindel’s evasion, “Yes, I remember, I have heard all about him from Meglin. He likes bread, paper, and arrows, in that order. If you want to get on his good side, tell him he is brave and cunning.” He turned back to Glorfindel. “Good luck.”

“Why thank you,” Glorfindel replied dryly. “Would you mind giving me some assistance?”

“How?” Elrohir did not look exactly wary, but perhaps somewhat reckless.

“Consult with me about the best horse in the herd. . . . loudly.”

“What?” Elrohir looked at him, mystified.

“Allow me to demonstrate.” Glorfindel turned his attention to the bay colt, and began to speak rather stridently. “Ah yes, I quite admire that one. A beautiful shade of dark bay, and . . . .”

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.

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Still Anonymous

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Rating: General

Last Updated: 09/18/05

Original Post: 04/11/04

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