Elf's Best Friend, An
5. Confusticate and Bebother These Horses!
“So predictable,” he murmured. Taking great care to walk noiselessly, he pulled his blue cloak more tightly around him; stealthily slipping away from the trail to creep around the edge of the forest, he approached the woodland from an easterly direction. The last rays of the sun had faded from the sky, and it was beginning to grow fairly dark.
Reaching the first of the trees that were close together (an ancient yew), he swiftly scaled it, pausing only when he had gained sufficient height that it would be difficult for a horse to see him. Then, balancing easily on the branch, he jumped out of the yew and grabbed a branch of the next tree. He swung free for a moment, then pulled himself up and looked around for another one. Spotting a suitable pine, he walked as far out as he could on the branch of the tree he was currently in, and then leaped easily into the other one. Thus he progressed through the woodland, working towards several holly bushes that were clustered close together, and covered by the overhanging branches of an ancient pine. Settling himself securely onto a thick limb, he peered down through the trees, his keen gaze easily piercing the gloom and noting the details of the landscape.
One of the first things he discerned was that the ground was quite torn up. It looked as if a herd of deer had been chased through the region or, barring that, an ill-behaved young horse had been stricken with panic and run around in circles trying to find a place to hide. Glorfindel settled on the latter. He methodically examined what he could see of the tracks. The huge clods of dirt that had been flung up and the underbrush that had been flattened clearly spoke of a thunderous passage. It appeared to lead into the clump of holly bushes. His quarry was close at hand.
‘Yes,’ he thought, ‘so very predictable.’ Remaining perfectly still, he fastened his gaze on the holly; slowly penetrating the labyrinth of criss-crossing leaves and branches, he perceived every slit and niche until nothing was hidden from perception. There! A flash of white! Minute, but he saw it.
‘I have you now, Asfaloth,’ he thought, as stealing through the trees again, he managed to slip into the top of the sheltering pine. ‘Your move.’
I have to confess that by this point, my chill had worn off and I was beginning to get bored. What is the point of running away if no one is going to come after you and try to bribe you to come back with food? Besides, I knew that I was in no danger from the goblins or the wargs or the not-human things. You see, I am Asfaloth. I am the son of Noladar, who is one of the greatest warhorses who ever came from Imladris. It was already obvious that I had inherited his talents at skulking and stealth. The minions of the dark lord were no danger to me. I would see and hear them long before they would see or hear me. Even elves cannot hide from me.
‘I truly will be a great horse for a warrior,’ I thought, ‘but only if I decide to choose one.’ That thought however, brought me back to Glorfindel. Where in Arda was he? He was supposed to follow me and apologize nicely. And maybe if I were suitably impressed, I would give him back his dagger. . . . or not. Feeling a little smug at that, I tossed my forelock out of my eyes and rose, unfortunately slamming into another low-hanging pine branch, which cracked me soundly on the poll of my head.
‘I really need to practice maneuvering around trees,’ I thought, as whimpering and blinking back tears, I steadied myself and peered out through the holly bushes (which were fairly tall, hardly to be considered bushes). Nothing. No Glorfindel, no Raimendur, no Mother or sister (I sighed in relief), no anyone. I stomped my foot and snorted. Hmph! This just was unfair!
Suddenly, I felt an odd sensation and a chill ran up and down my side. Something was different. Something had changed. I sniffed the air. At first I did not notice anything, but then. . . . metal, feathers, cloth, elf! I spun around and nearly jumped out of my skin. Ai! There was an elf. . . . standing right behind me!
‘He must have snuck up on me. But that is impossible!’ Oh, oh. I recognized Glorfindel. He did not look excessively happy. Of course, he did not look very unhappy either, but that is not the elvish way. He was standing there with his feet planted firmly apart and his arms crossed over his chest. He was giving me what I privately termed the “Elvish Look of Disapproval.” The problem was he was much better at it than Raimendur. He was actually making me feel slightly nervous. This could present a difficulty. No one makes Asfaloth the Brave feel nervous. Odd, that Glorfindel was doing such an excellent job of it. He was actually managing to make me feel somewhat (though I am loathe to admit it) guilty. Taking a deep breath (which was intended to calm me, but did not work), I silently vowed that if I survived this, I was never, ever going to borrow an elvish blade again. I also vowed never to underestimate an elvish warrior, particularly one who goes by the name “Glorfindel.” However, it was a little late for that.
Glorfindel bit back a laugh as Asfaloth, jumping about three feet off the ground, gave a neigh that came out sounding rather like a shriek when he saw him. Instead, Glorfindel stared at him calmly, remaining as still as a stalking cat. That became harder when the colt started shaking like a leaf in the wind.
‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ Glorfindel thought, ‘I am not a troll!’ However it seemed that Asfaloth did not share that opinion. Carefully removing any traces of mirth from his voice, he addressed the young horse.
“You know I came to the stables to choose a mount,” Glorfindel began. He made it a statement, not a question, and Asfaloth’s ears pricked up.
‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’ whispered a tiny little voice in Glorfindel’s head.
‘Enough.’ The voice fell silent. Glorfindel’s gaze never wavered.
“I have chosen you.”
Dead silence fell. Asfaloth’s eyes were as wide as they could get, but then he closed his drooping jaw with a click and arched his neck proudly, bowed his head regally, and answered, “A talented stallion needs a skilled rider. I find you adequate. I accept.”
The world seemed to breathe again. An owl hooted, and the wind rustled the pine needles. Glorfindel remained silent for a brief instant, concentrating with difficulty onnot laughing at the colt’s airs. Standing there looking as if he were proud of some nonexistent achievement, he was so typical of his bloodline. Glorfindel smiled at that. Asfaloth twitched his ears and looked at him askance.
“It is late,” Glorfindel spoke softly, “and time to return home. But first, where is my knife?”
Asfaloth instantly relaxed into a too-nonchalant manner, and took a few cautionary steps back.
“It was a gift from my father long ago,” Glorfindel continued pleasantly. “I would be most distressed if it were to be lost.”
If Asfaloth had been able, Glorfindel was certain he would have attempted a reassuring grin and shrug. He was nearly glowing with innocence, and had a truly odd expression on his face (which Glorfindel suspected was some kind of attempt to add to the image).
“It might be said that I am attached to it. In fact,” here Glorfindel glared fiercely at the colt, who quailed and backed up more, “I do not believe you will be going anywhere until it is returned to me.” He stared at the colt with thinly veiled menace in his eyes. That was all it took.
“I have chosen you.”
Glorfindel’s words filled the still night air. I almost panicked, but I never panic.
‘Think, Asfaloth, think! What do you do? Uhhhh. . . . good question.’ My inner thoughts were not being very helpful with reasoning at that time, so I just guessed. Pulling myself up as regally as I could (it would not do to have him think I was intimidated, or thoroughly taken aback, after all) I answered him.
“A talented stallion needs a skilled rider. I find you adequate. I accept.”
‘There! That ought to work. My mother is going to kill me anyway, so if he does first, I will be already dead. Hmm, maybe my ghost can come back and gloat. . .? Focus, Asfaloth!’
Glorfindel did not move but remained completely still for a moment. Then he smiled. I found his smile quite unsettling, if truth be told, and I was not reassured when he began speaking in a disquietingly soft voice. He reminded me of a cat about to pounce on a mouse (of course, I would usually pounce on the cat then, grab its tail and swing it around, but I did not think that would work here).
“It is late,” He spoke softly, “and time to return home. But first, where is my knife?”
Oh. Oh, no. This is bad. This is very bad.
“It was a gift from my father long ago. I would be most distressed if it were to be lost,” he added pleasantly.
Widening my eyes in innocent bewilderment, I tried to look as harmless as possible, meanwhile thinking, ‘I am not intimidated, I am not intimidated, I am not intimidated, I am not intimidated. . . . oh, who am I fooling?!’
I tried pulling my lips back over my teeth the way elves sometimes do, but he remained unimpressed.
“It might be said that I am attached to it.”
This is worse. This is much worse. I am hound food. He is going to feed me to his dogs.
“In fact,” he continued, then his visage darkened and he seemed to grow larger, glaring fiercely at me, “I do not believe you will be going anywhere until it is returned to me!”
My mind worked rapidly as I slid backward unobtrusively, though I doubted it had escaped his notice. Unfortunately, my thoughts were not very helpful. ‘I am sorry, I will never misbehave again, I will never chew on a bow, I will never almost sever a bowstring so it smacks someone’s face, I will stay in my stall when told, I will not throw mud on my sister, I will not pull the rose blossoms from the bushes, I will let the carvings stay on the walls and pillars, I will be very, very good. . .
His glare became even fiercer (I was surprised that was even possible), and I could have sworn he was glowing. I turned and bolted for the gorse bush under which I had hidden the dagger. Carefully removing it from the hole, I quelled the trepidation in my stomach when I felt the new design in the handle. Glorfindel might not appreciate it, but I refused to think of that. Walking as steadily as I could with my head held high, I hurried back over and gave him the dagger. He had ceased glaring and took it slowly from my mouth. He appeared pacified. Tranquil, even. I sighed in relief. Maybe I would survive this night. His visage was odd, though. Elves are pale-skinned, and so this one had been, but his face was changing color. It was turning all these different shades of red, finally settling on one that seemed closer to purple. I considered asking him if he was ill, but then, looked closer. His lips were pressed forcefully together, and his face was rigid. He almost looked as if he was about to. . . . explode.
‘What odd creatures these elves are!’
Elladan paused on the trail and grinned at his brother. “Do you hear that?”
Grumbling unintelligibly, Elrohir looked up from the hoof prints he was following. “Hear what?” he snapped irritably.
Pausing, the brothers and their two companions could hear a voice, far off but still intelligible. “This was forged in Valinor before Imladris was even founded! Its craftsmanship is unparalleled! Or should I say was! If I had wanted a serrated hilt, I would have taken care of it myself!
“I think Lord Glorfindel found his horse,” Meglin observed.
“Metal tooth and all,” stated Alquandil.
“I do not think he is very happy,” continued Meglin.
“I do not think his knife is in unsurpassed condition,” smiled Alquandil.
“So if you want your bow back, Elrohir,” grinned Meglin.
“You had better hurry,” finished Alquandil.
Elrohir glowered at them, and then turned to his brother who smiled annoyingly at him. “Laugh all you want now, you will most likely get a horse next, Elladan.”
“I am somewhat fond of Noladar’s foals Elrohir, we usually get along quite well.” he answered with his infuriating grin still in place. “A pity though. It was such a fine bow.”
Elrohir glared at him futilely, then turned back to the trail, trying not to listen to the rather disheartening, “. . . a disgrace to horse kind! I do not know what I was thinking! Lord Elrond may think this is funny, but if you step out of line once more. . . .”
They were following much the same path that Glorfindel had followed earlier, except now there was a second, fresher set of hoof marks, at times crossing those of Asfaloth, branching off more once they were out of the valley. Then Elrohir heard Meglin’s voice behind and above him.
O, watch where you’re going,
I see what you’re seeking,
You’re on the wrong pathway,
She is not on that way,
She’s back in the valley,
Turning around, the brothers saw their two companions in an oak tree, looking back at the Last Homely House.
“When I get my hands on Ainille, I am going to kill her!” Elrohir scowled, as scrambling up the tree as fast as they could, the brothers looked back at the valley and were greeted by the sight of a distant grey filly crossing the bridge; the one that went to the other side of the valley.
“Oh no!” whispered Elrohir.
A filly that had a stick in her mouth, paused in the middle of the bridge, and the moonlight sparkled off her mane as she released it over the rushing water.
Elladan raised his eyebrows. “You are going to have your hands full with this one, my brother.”
“I do not care what good warhorses they make; Noladar’s colts are not worth the trouble they are to train!” Elrohir all but snarled as he climbed back down the tree. “I hope someone somewhere finds that funny, because I certainly do not!”
“Well Father, Raimendur tells me Glorfindel chose Asfaloth and Elrohir chose Ainille. They are both out looking for their horses now.” Arwen said, the wind rippling her long hair as she joined her father on the porch.
Elrond turned from the landscape, and held out his hand to his daughter, which she smiled and took, stepping beside him. “They will eventually be glad of the horses, but perhaps somewhat cross for the next few days,” he said.
“Or months. Raimendur tells me Asfaloth stole Glorfindel’s dagger, and as Elrohir was preoccupied annoying Glorfindel, Ainille snuck up and grabbed his bow where he had laid it against a tree. He did not even realize it until he began looking for her again. Elrohir still has not learned to cling to his belongings as if his life depended on it when he is around your horses. But I am not surprised at either of them. Glorfindel always chooses the most talented and therefore challenging horse. And Elrohir is usually chosen himself rather than doing the choosing.” She sighed. “What happened, Father?”
Elrond turned to her, his look questioning.
“Why does Elrohir need another horse? She elaborated. “His was young. It could have been no more than ten years of age.”
Elrond placed his arm around her and turned back to the valley. “The shadow is growing, Arwen.”
“I know, Father.”
“Your brothers ride too long and far. They were tired and grew overconfident. Succinctly, his horse was shot out from under him.” Elrond sighed. “They are gone too long, too often. One day they will not return, I fear. Though I suppose that worry is part of a father’s nature,” he added, smiling sadly at his daughter.
“You need not worry about it for a few years at least, Father.” Arwen laughed suddenly, “Look!”
Elrond turned. A grey filly was standing in the middle of The Bridge and even as they watched she dropped a curved, gold-inlaid stick into the water. It glittered in the moonlight and fell gently towards the flowing water, coming to rest on the surface.
“Oh, dear,” Arwen smiled impishly. “I think that was Elrohir’s bow. He is going to be engaged for some time, I think. Such a well-behaved filly. Just like all your horses, Father. This will prove most entertaining.”
Voices drifted to them on the wind.
“If you ever touch one of my weapons again. . . .”
“Next time I am choosing a gelding! An old, plodding gelding. . . .”
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.