All Good Beasts

Elf's Best Friend, An

4. Clash of the Titans

Very well. I will admit that it was not so bad at first. I thought they were just stupid, tasteless idiots. Oh, how wrong I was. Yes, I, Asfaloth the Intellectual, was wrong. It does happen sometimes (on rare occasions). They knew perfectly well that I was the best horse. They were ignoring me intentionally. I did not realize that anyone could stoop so low, let alone elves, but I soon came to see the truth. I realized it when they had exhausted the topic of the many virtues of Nolatur, Narehin, and Ainille, then had moved on to Sailandil. At first I thought my ears were deceiving me. They were talking about how beautiful his coat was. It is obvious to anyone with any taste that my coat is far more beautiful than his. So to show them the error of their ways (out of the pure kindness of my heart), I stepped between them and Sailandil. And do you know what they did? They ignored me! They ignored me! The inescapable fact hit me over the head like a stack of buckets when you pull out the one on the bottom. It was deliberate! I was so furious I could no longer think. I decided to give them one last chance. I am very skilled at turning in small circles quickly. It comes from long practice, and no, I am not telling you why. First, I reared as high as I could. Then, directly in front of them, I turned circles so fast I stunned even myself. Finally, head spinning, I stopped. I was hardly able to focus my eyes, but I could see that they were watching me. I might have been somewhat mollified but I caught Elrohir’s words, “This is going to be hilarious.” ‘Oh, he thought it was funny, did he?’ I glared at the elves, and stomped my hoof. Raimendur smirked, Elrohir laughed, and Glorfindel remained unmoved. That was the last straw. If he refused to pay attention to me, I would have to make him pay attention. Now, as I said before, you must realize that I was still somewhat dizzy, and my understandable fury had not abated. I took a deep breath, and then before I could change my mind, darted toward the elves. Even in my enraged state of mind, I found their looks of alarm somewhat amusing. Elrohir and Raimendur darted out of my way. Glorfindel jumped to the side and turned so that I would run straight past him. But he did not count on my innate dexterity. I did run straight past him, but just as I reached him, I stretched out with my nimble lips and plucked the dagger out of its sheath on his belt. Ignore me, will you? Then I ran right on. The elves had been standing facing the dwelling-places. Their backs were to the mountainside. I headed unswervingly for it never looking back. That would be the last time he underestimated me! I am not sure quite how long I ran. It did not seem that long, but Anar had visibly changed position in the sky and was now sinking toward the western edge when I slid to a halt, winded and trying to catch my breath, in front of a small wooded area made up almost entirely of fir trees, mostly pines. I had run far out of the valley, I knew, but I did not know how much farther I had come. I did not recognize the area. I tossed my forelock out of my eyes, and looked over my shoulder. There was no sign of pursuit. I smiled inwardly. ‘Serves them right,’ I thought. ‘That will be the last time Glorfindel ignores me.’ I was clenching the dagger (which I had kept) between my teeth, but because I was unable to close my mouth, all my saliva was running down the blade and dropping onto the ground, making my mouth exceedingly dry. That would never do. I needed a place to stash it. Glancing around, I saw a maple tree (too tall), and a gorse-bush (too sparse), but under the bushes’ shadow was a small round hole, probably belonging to a rabbit. ‘Oh, perfect,’ I thought gleefully. I trotted over and stuffed the dagger into the hole. Unfortunately, it stuck on a tree root and jabbed the top of my mouth painfully. I jerked my head and blinked my watering eyes. ‘That hurt!’ I glared at the happily gleaming dagger handle which continued to sit there, unperturbed. It was too much for an elvish colt to abide. I bent my head down, grabbed the hilt in my mouth and ground down. I did not merely bite, I crushed. Then I loosened my jaw and chewed a few times before pulling my head up. There! I admired my toothwork—lovely indentations. That ought to teach it. That ought to teach that self-important elf, too. But now I needed a place to hide. Some of the firs were mature enough that their branches nearly swept the ground. I squeezed in among a few of these and lay down on the needles. I would take a nap. If somehow Glorfindel managed to find this place, I doubted he would see me. ‘May your trek be long and tiring,’ I sniggered. After all, he is not a horse, and he does not have four legs. It would take him quite a bit longer than it took me. I would be rested, and he would be exhausted. As my fancies drifted through my mind, I drifted off to sleep, feeling understandably smug. I should have known better. But I was only six months old after all. *** The colt stomped his hoof and Elrohir laughed aloud. He gave Glorfindel a look of supreme anticipation, which Glorfindel ignored. He found Raimendur’s smirk to be far more unsettling. But as he considered how best to go about approaching the colt, now that he had more than succeeded in getting his attention, something nagged at his senses. There was something about the colt’s stance that he could not quite place, something. . . . Glorfindel never got to finish the thought for the colt laid his ears flat back on his head and charged. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Raimendur had already been moving away, identifying the colt’s glare correctly. Elrohir was quick to follow. But Glorfindel had a good deal of experience with this kind of horse. He waited until the colt was two strides away, and then twisted smoothly and stepped back. ‘Just like a sparring match or light skirmish,’ he thought. ‘Almost too easy.’ Then he felt a tug and heard the rasp of metal being drawn from its sheath. Time quickened again as his eyes widened, and he grasped at his knife, but only got a slight nick from the tip as it was drawn beyond his reach. He felt annoyance flare up within him, but pushed it away and began to evaluate the situation. After all, it was only an ill-bred, bad-mannered little foal, and he really did not know better. . . yet. A snicker interrupted his thoughts. “Ai, Glorfindel, if you could have seen your face!” Elrohir laughed. “Very amusing, I am sure,” Glorfindel replied dryly. “Would you like my advice choosing your foal before I pursue my own warg-spawn? But I assume you will be content picking your own poison.” Glorfindel smiled politely and gave a half-bow. “In that case, I will be on my way. May your search prove worthwhile.” Ignoring Elrohir’s disbelieving stare, he turned to Raimendur who was smiling broadly and his eyes were twinkling. “I would be most grateful if perhaps, you will be kind enough to assist Elrohir as well as you assisted me.” Raimendur bowed, not even attempting to remove the smile from his face. “As you command, Lord Glorfindel.” Glorfindel smiled in an almost predatory fashion and inclined his head. “I will return with the colt. Until then, may the stars shine brightly on your path.” Glorfindel turned swiftly and began to follow Asfaloth’s path, still ignoring Elrohir’s sputtering about his being perfectly capable of fighting on foot, and how he actually preferred it, and if he was to have one of Noladar’s bloodline, it was only fair that Elladan should have one too, and he did not wish to worry about a malevolent horse as well as the orcs. . . . Glorfindel tuned out the argument he could hear beginning about that last statement and focused on the path ahead. If he concentrated, he could barely hear the swiftly receding hoofbeats of Asfaloth, and even as he stood listening, they faded from perception. Shaking his head slightly with an amused smile, he picked up his pace to a light run, his eyes on the ground, following Asfaloth’s trail. It led to a lightly used path leading out of the valley. The way was steep and rocky, and though Glorfindel was untroubled by it, he approved of the colt’s agility. ‘Though I am most certainly not going to inform him of it,’ he thought. Reaching a flatter place, he rounded a bend and was greeted by light elf laughter.
“O where are you going? And what are you seeking? A colt was seen fleeing, From you, we’re perceiving, O tra-la-la-lally, He’s gone from the valley, Ha ha!”
Then more laughter. An ancient oak grew beside the path, and the merriment seemed to originate from it. Glorfindel raised his eyes from the ground, and his keen gaze pierced the leaves and branches until he found the singer. Seated on a bough, at some height from the ground, a dark-haired elf was reclining against the tree trunk. He met Glorfindel’s gaze and smiled mischievously. “Looking for something?” he called. “Or should I say, someone?” Glorfindel inclined his head in greeting. This was not wholly unexpected. “My greetings, Meglin, and I daresay you already know the answer to that question.” “Perhaps,” the elf returned merrily. “White foals are unusual here, thus it was unforeseen when one appeared on this very path, and made off up the hill and out of the valley. He ran with surprising fleetness.” Another dark head appeared around the trunk of the tree, a little further up. It belonged to an elf-maid who appeared to be of kin to the other in the tree, for there was a marked similarity in their faces and cheerful smiles. “And do not neglect to mention that this foal possessed an even more unusual ornament.” “Indeed, Alquandil, never have I seen a horse with what seemed to possess such an odd mouth.” “One would almost think he had warg blood at first glance. The way he appeared to have such a long front tooth.” “But what tooth is made of metal?” “Indeed, my brother, and what tooth is etched with golden flowers?” They both laughed. Glorfindel could not help smiling as he watched them. “Can you tell me which way this most unusual, warg-blooded, metal-toothed colt went?” “Left at the fork in the trail,” Meglin replied. “And he followed the edge of the valley for some distance. Alas!” he continued with mock dismay, “then he was lost to our sight, but we suspected we would be joined by you soon. Though I am surprised Elladan and Elrohir would miss this opportunity.” “They so dearly love your horses,” Alquandil finished. “They were unable to join me,” Glorfindel explained innocuously, “Elrohir is choosing his own horse.” Identical, mischievous grins sprang onto the faces of Meglin and Alquandil. “Oh, that will never do, Lord Glorfindel,” began Alquandil. “After all, we have not seen them for many months,” said Meglin. “I am sure they will value our advice,” continued Alquandil. “We really must be off now,” finished Meglin. They sprang up and climbed nimbly down the tree, Meglin first pulling out a silver harp that had been hidden by the trunk, and tucking it securely under his arm before following. “I thank you for you aid,” Glorfindel smiled. “And we thank you for yours,” Meglin grinned. “Good hunting.” Alquandil nodded in farewell, and they ran lightly away down the path. Glorfindel smiled to himself as he turned back to Asfaloth’s trail. Meglin had been born but three days before the twins, and had been their friend as the three of them grew. They had always dearly loved to badger each other, and as they saw each other more seldom now, Meglin (with Alquandil following her brother’s example) would give Elrohir little peace. Hopefully, it would distract him from composing another annoying little ditty about the Brave Warrior and the Hunt for His Faithful Steed. Now all he had to do was find his new horse and retrieve his dagger before it was damaged. How difficult could that be? *** It was some time later that I awoke. Yawning, I stretched my stiff neck and shook my mane. Blinking my eyes several times, I glanced blearily around me before starting in surprise and leaping to my feet and out of the trees, unfortunately slamming my nose into one of the pine branches on my way up. Owwww! That hurt! Sometimes speed can have its drawbacks. I took a deep breath and glanced around. I felt a heavy weight settle into my stomach as I saw Anar slipping behind the horizon. I had been here for hours. ‘Calm down, Asfaloth,’ I thought to myself. ‘It is not as if it is actually dangerous to be out after dark.’ No sooner had I finished that thought than the weight in my stomach trebled in size, and a conversation on which I had cleverly eavesdropped was recalled to mind. ‘Asfaloth, you thoughtless, rash, disgrace to your sire’s name, have you not an ounce of sense in your head? You heard Elrohir telling Glorfindel that goblins had been sighted at the north-easternmost border and you just had to run off in the north-easternmost direction!’ I probably would have hit my head against something out of sheer frustration, but since my nose was already smarting, I rethought that notion. Concentrating on my bruised nose instead of my predicament helped me clear my mind. It was probably safe here. The sons of Elrond had probably cleared the area of goblins. . . . and wargs. What else was there after that? I swiftly regretted that I had asked. A story my mother had once told me came immediately to mind. When all the mothers and their foals had long been bedded down for the night, and I was supposed to be sleeping, but had instead been trying to sneak away and explore, my mother had told me a story; a story that would certainly have frightened someone not possessing my bravery. ‘There is a far off land,’ she said, ‘a land so evil we do not speak of it. Its name can only be whispered, and only when it must be warned of. It is called,’ Here she lowered her muzzle to my ear ‘Mordor. In that dark land, there dwells a cruel lord. He is most terrible; the Enemy of the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. I shuddered appropriately. ‘He does not leave his land,’ she said, ‘but sends his servants to do his work for him. Goblins and wargs. . . . At this point, I interrupted. ‘What are goblins and wargs, Mother? ‘Wargs are like wolves, my son, but larger and more intelligent. Goblins are. . . . ‘What are wolves, Mother?’ I interrupted again. ‘Big dogs.’ ‘Oh.’ ‘But goblins are a great deal worse.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because they were elves once.’ I squealed in fright. You must remember that I was very young. It is excusable. ‘Elves?’ ‘Yes, my son, but that was a long time ago. The dark lord’s teacher stole them away, and kept them in his old fastness of Angband and turned them into orcs.’ ‘What are orcs?’ ‘Large goblins child, and do not keep interrupting.’ ‘Yes, Mother.’ ‘But the dark lord, Sauron, keeps other servants who are worse still.’ ‘Worse than ugly not-elves and doubly big dogs?!’ ‘Shhh, you will wake your sister. Yes.’ ‘What are they?!’ She lowered her voice until I could barely hear her. ‘Ringwraiths.’ ‘What are ringwraiths?’ ‘It is difficult to say with certainty. They are terrible creatures. There are only nine, but they are more than sufficient to complete his evil deeds. It is said that they were human once, but were ensnared by promises of power. ‘Humans are stupid.’ ‘They have not the years of the elves, Asfaloth. When they have dealings with the living,’ (I gasped), ‘for they are not such, they wear black cloaks and hoods. And they ride horses.’ ‘But what horses would bear such vile creatures?’ Here my mother looked at me ominously. ‘Horses foolish enough to wander away from their mothers when they were young who were found and carried away to Mordor.’ ‘Er. . . . uh. . . . oh.’ ‘Which is why it is very important that little foals do not wander away at night.’ Needless to say, I stayed beside my mother for a whole week and a half. Well, almost. The lure of an elf-maid’s long hair proved irresistible, and since nothing happened to me, well, I need not elaborate. This was the story that was recalled to my mind, at that most inopportune moment. I took a deep breath. Well, it was just a story after all. My mother had undoubtedly told it to me just to keep me with her (of course, I could not really blame her; after five foals, the last one ending up in the lap of some wandering wizard, no wonder she wanted me nearby). It was nothing to worry about. No, nothing at all. I was not scared. I mean, what is scary about the fact that you might be attacked by once-elves; big, mean, ugly dogs; and not-humans? A chill wind blew. It was very cold, I decided. Yes, too cold to be exposed like this. I turned around, went back under the trees, and huddled down in the thickest part. I was cold though, not scared. I am Asfaloth of Imladris. I do not get scared. But I was still cold. This part of the wood was not thick enough. I got up and went to some spruce trees that were clustered closer together, blocking out all light on the inside. Maybe this would do.

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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