3. The Sun Stallion
Home, Legolas had never been so far from it. It lay behind him now, miles of tangled tree and deep shadow. Of strange calls and shrieks in the night, a glimpse of giant spiderweb just off the Forest Road. The Misty Mountains lay ahead, a blue smear on the cloudy eastern horizon. And in between lay the wild. A wide rolling sea of grass, the north reaches of the Anduin snaking through the middle, and smaller creeks and streams trailing into it like the far-reaching branches of a mighty tree. Here Legolas could see farther than even on the western eaves of Mirkwood. Here he could see to the edge of forever. It took his breath!
And here the Eotheod roamed with their bands of horses, and on these wide plains a few bands had escaped long ago, forgotten by the Riders, to make their own lives despite the orcs and wargs that sometimes plagued them. It was one of those wild bands that the riders enclosed in their sun-circle now.
Legolas rose up on his knees to see better, pressing them into Rossiel's shoulders for grip. She twitched an ear and moved forward. He didn't stop her. She eased forward into a brisk trot in the direction of the herd.
A rider on a grey horse circled in front of the young prince, Sirrif, kin to the King himself. "Daro, Fileg." he said; Halt, little bird. "You will find no higher lookout to watch from, and your mare is too slow for the chase." He did not say that the chase was too risky for the young prince, or that he would likely just get in the way.
Legolas sighed, sat back on his mare. He had heard that the children of the Men he watched now in the distance grew nearly as fast as the foals in the stables. Right now he wished that he could grow that fast, then he could be out there, with the others. Rossiel dropped her head and began to graze.
He studied the small figures across the leagues of grass. Grey horses, some dark as evening, some pale as morning light. Bays and chestnuts like earth, like copper, duns the color of fresh-baked bread with manes of night.
And one of them would be his.
Which one? A golden dun? A silver grey? Dark as night? Pale as morning? He had actually been listening when the Horsemasters explained what made a horse strong and swift; the cleanness of the leg, the shape of the haunch, the set of the shoulder, the slope of the pastern, the hardness of the hoof. But even his keen Elven eyes could make out none of those details from here. He fidgeted, how long would it take them? They had been following the herd for a week now. Gradually getting closer and closer. Gradually accustoming the horses to the presence of the riders. Driving off wargs and other predators. Slaying a small band of orcs that had wandered out of the tunnels of the Misty Mountains one night. Today they had begun to surround the herd, to try to move it in the direction of the camp, and the quickly woven fence, and then choose the horses that would journey with them back to Mirkwood.
A group of riders vanished into a low place between rolling rises. A cloud of birds flew out of the trees at the top of one of those humps of land. A circling hawk shifted its hunting pattern, drifting toward the riders and the rabbits they must have disturbed in their flight. Legolas stood on his mare's round rump, rising on his toes a little to see better. Rossiel grazed on.
A wild horse came out from behind the distant woods. And another. And another. Then a wavering line of them, following the low ground beside some unseen stream. Bays and red-gold chestnuts and half a handful of painted horses, white and color woven together like a huge map of the world. One black.
Five more horses. Six.
No, seven. Just before the last rider came a flash of flowing gold. A child's dream of a horse. A horse fit for a king.
Or at least, a very small Prince. "Elo!" he breathed, awestruck. Sun glinted off the horse like firelight on one gold coin dropped on the earth. Its heavy mane and tail flew like silver, like river foam, like the high clouds called mare's tails. It ran just before the riders, just out of their reach, and it took Legolas many heartbeats to see what the golden horse was doing.
He was dancing before the riders, teasing them on, while his mares ran ahead, dodging to left and right, down hidden paths behind the wise old ones, and escaping. Ai! It was brilliant! He must be the stallion, the guardian of the herd. Wise and wily and faster than any of the horses of Woodelf or Eothoed. Oh what a wonderful beast! Legolas bounced on his toes, and Rossiel snapped her ears back and hunched her back to let him know it annoyed her. "Tiro, tiro!" Look, look! He shouted to his kin behind him.
The two Elves stood and gazed out over the leagues of grass. A slow smile came to Sirrif's face, "Now there is as fine a horse as I have ever seen."
That was enough for Legolas. Sirrif was old, even as the Woodelves counted age. And if he said it was a fine horse, than it was. Gleefully he somersaulted from his twitchy mare to the ground, and ran to Sirrif. Without being asked, the tall Elf lifted the boy onto his shoulders, where he perched like an egret in a tree. The far away mares had scattered down side paths, trailed by riders of his own folk, and a handful of the Eotheod.
One swift horse and rider still followed the glint of flowing sun that was the stallion. A blue-grey roan with a mane and tail like nightshadow, and a pale-haired girl slender and strong as a greyhound.
"Sul." Legolas breathed. Then he shouted as if she could hear him across the distance. "Sul, Sul Vi'finnel! Noro lim, noro lim!" He bounced on Sirrif's shoulders feeling as if he would explode with waiting, with wanting. Ride hard, ride fast, he whispered to Sul. Catch the Sun. Then he shouted across the leagues to her again.
They vanished behind a rise and a thicket. Legolas wished his ears could see as far as his eyes, or that his eyes could see through brush and rock and hill. He heard only the crackle of the fire behind him, the soft tearing of grass from Rossiel, and his own excited breath.
The land before him was still. Silent. Off to the east, the dust rose around a quietly moving herd. To the west, a rider, then another emerged with a stray mare snubbed to a saddle pommel.
"What if something happened. What if her horse fell. What if..."
"I would know." Sirrif said quietly. Of course, he was her uncle. He would know. Legolas bit his lip anyway, and then his fingernail, then another.
"Patience." Sirrif said.
A bird flew up, and Sul Vi'finnel emerged. And at the end of the long rope lashed to her saddle pommel danced the Sun Stallion.
Legolas felt Sirrif let out a breath. "And how is it I know," the tall Elf said, "which one you will choose?"
"Patience." Legolas had heard that word a thousand thousand times now, it seemed. From Sirrith, from Adda, from Sul. He sat on the fence of the Rhawiath, the fence they had woven in the wild to hold the handful of horses they would take back to Mirkwood with the Prince's own. He had been there for three days, except for those moments when Adda dragged him away to eat or sleep (under great protest), watching the Sun Stallion dance his furious circles among the mares and yearlings and two foals. Anor'rohanu Legolas named him, with all the enthusiasm of children for long, wild, poetic names. Names everyone would tire of tripping over in a week. Names that would be shortened to something pronounceable, like Rhaw, Sul's name for him already.
Rhaw. Wild. "He is angry." was all she would say. "He does not want to be here in our little pen of sticks."
"I'll change his heart." Legolas asserted, "I'll show him who we are. How we can protect him from wargs and wolves and hunger in the winter and drought in the summer." I will make him mine. My own.
Sul just shook her head and went to water her swift roan mare. Legolas stayed on the fence, watching, talking at, singing to the circling stallion.
Around him camp life went on. Other Mirkwood folk chose the horses they wished to keep from the herd. Some were riding them within an hour, or a day. The Men of the Eotheod (with a few women riders and a handful of children) had gathered two dozen others in a loose herd on the open grass beyond the little wooded camp. Other horses had been allowed to wander off; back into the small bands they had come from, or to form new bands under wise old mares, with younger stallions waiting for their chance to claim a place in a band. The warm summer evenings were full of cricket song and firecrackle, the smell of roasting rabbit and venison and steaming herbs, laughter and song in several tongues. Legolas was brought forth to the fire to do his diplomatic duty as the Son of the King of All the Elves of Northern Mirkwood; he yawned through endless introductions and half-listened to tales of doings beyond the Misty Mountains and as far as the Ered Mithrim. He wondered about these strange Men of the Wilderland, many of whom had faces nearly as hairy as Dwarves. He heard their deep, slow songs, in a tongue he didn't understand; but a tongue full of sadness and beauty and joy just the same. He watched the young boys and one girl racing their horses across the plain, or eyeing him uncertainly across the fire.
And when no one was looking, he slipped back to the Rhawiath.
Three days, and four, and the only horse left in the Rhawiath was Anor'rohanu. The mares and weanlings and foals were scattered about the camp with their new riders. Children played with the foals, teaching them to understand the Elvish tongue. Small children were lifted onto the backs of weanlings and yearlings for the first time. Riders went galloping over the grass in small groups with their new mares, and on the young stallions of two or three years. Legolas sat on the fence and watched Anor'rohanu trot in circles, tail flagged like a great war banner. Legolas sang, he told stories, he recited epic poetry, he talked, he nearly pleaded, Listen to me! And sometimes the great horse would stop; stop circling, stop smashing the grass into dust, stop staring out over the fence to the plains beyond. He would turn and stare at the Elf-child on the fence, look straight into his eyes in a way not even the Men of the Eotheod would.
"That is a very great horse." the voice came in the Common tongue, colored with an accent in places rolling as the grasslands, in others hard as the distant mountains.
Legolas turned in surprise, song fading on his lips, to find a girl climbing the Rhawiath fence beside him. She was taller than he, and sturdier of build than Sul, or any Elf-child he knew, and fair enough, solid and strong, with a tangled mane, like the wild horses themselves. She was clad in the colors of earth, of grass and rock and soil; a short riding tunic and leggings and worn boots. A long knife hung at her side, and a coil of thin, but strong looking rope lay over her shoulders. He knew her then, the lone girl of the Eotheod who raced with the boys.
"See how straight his legs are, how his shoulder slopes like a gentle hill, the angles of his haunch. He floats across the grass like a bird! We've seen him from afar often," she said, "but none could get close to him, or trick him into a hidden corral. That Elf-girl who caught him must be a very great rider indeed! And her horse must have invisible wings!"
"She is Sul Vi'finnel, which in the Common tongue is Wind in the Hair, because no-one can outride her, and her blue roan mare, Luiniel is the fastest in all of Mirkwood."
"I don't see her trying to tame this horse, even though she caught him."
"She caught him for me."
"That is a great gift!" The girl's brown eyes widened. "A wonderful gift!"
An embarrassed smile crossed his face. He had not thought much about why she had tried so hard to catch Anor. Maybe because Adda had asked her.
"Well, she must care for you a great deal."
"She is my kin." he explained. And thought about all the times she had come swooping in to rescue him, even when he wished she would just go jump in the Forest River. He wriggled on the fence, frowning.
"Who will tame him?"
"You? You are only small. A little boy. He would throw you to the moon, then grind you into the dust!"
She obviously had no idea who she was talking to. He sat up as tall and straight as a stallion on a hill, "I have been talking to him since he came here. He is beginning to listen to me. See how he stands?"
Indeed, Anor'rohanu was standing five strides away, low morning sun turning his coat to molten red-gold, ears following their quiet voices, honey-colored eyes following every move.
The girl leaned forward studying the golden horse. Her eyebrows folded like birdwings, "My brother told me Elves can talk to animals. Hear what they are saying. Is that true? Can you hear what he is saying?"
Ah! Legolas blinked, caught off-guard, "Of course." Of course he might know what the horse was saying...if he had spent less time talking and more time listening.
"So, what is he saying?" the girl insisted.
He fixed his eyes on the horse, a huge golden silence in the Rhawiath. He could feel the earth-brown eyes of the girl of the Edain looking straight through him to the part that felt very small and stupid. He met the great golden-brown eyes of the horse; Anor's head raised a notch, the ears twitched sideways, then forward, watching. He stood very still.
Legolas leaned on the fence, trying to understand Anor's thought. The horse stayed rooted in his place, an empty silence. "I think he is no longer afraid." Legolas said at last. Now. Yes, now was the time. Enough of this sitting on the fence and singing and watching and waiting. He dropped lightly into the corral, and walked toward the stallion, speaking soft words of encouragement.
The Sun Stallion stood like a statue, silver mane as still as snowbound fir tree, tail a frozen waterfall.
Legolas slowed, three strides away.
The stallion struck. A golden bolt of lightning and a thunder of hooves.
A thin rope sang out and snapped him on the end of his velvet nose. His jaws closed on empty air. Air that had just contained the Prince's head.
Legolas clung, panting, to the other side of the Rhawiath fence.
The girl of the Eotheod coiled her rope, and swept her eyes over him. "He did not touch you...?"
Legolas nodded, unable to make any words come out of his mouth.
"He probably wouldn't have. That was a warning. A warning such as he would give to an upstart colt he wished to drive from the herd. But I took no chance. He might strike a colt with hoof or teeth, and it would be no more than a scratch, but you are much smaller."
Legolas nodded, fighting back tears, and coming very close to losing, "Hannon le." he whispered. He saw her nod in acknowledgement, even though she certainly didn't know what it meant. Thank you.
"Well, you were right. He certainly is not afraid." She leaned on the fence, studying the horse.
Legolas found his voice, though it was still very small, and half-choked, "How do you know that? About the warning, and the colts? I did not know the Edain could hear the thoughts of horses."
"I have followed the herds since I was smaller than you. I watch. I listen. I see how they talk to each other with twitch of ear and shift of body." She shrugged as if it were no big thing.
"Our horses do not run in herds like these."
She nodded in understanding. "But you can still hear what they say?"
Legolas looked again at the Sun Stallion, standing a few strides from the fence, watching them both with high held head. Hear what they say. And what was it Adda had said?
First you must listen.
Legolas straightened on the fence, fixing his gaze on Anor's eyes. I have sung to you for days, but I have not heard what you have to say.
The stallion made a soft rasberry through his wide nostrils, an ear twitched in astonishment.
Legolas continued, Speak then, if you will. It was half Royal Command...half desperate plea.
Foolish colt. It was as clear as if the stallion had shouted it.
I am no colt, I am one of the Firstborn. Legolas hesitated, A child, yes, but a child of the Firstborn!
Firstborn, Secondborn, I care not. You are a colt, two-legged one. Young, small, weak. And not at all wise. And you have tried to command me!
I am the son of the King of all the Elves of Northern Mirkwood!
The stallion snorted, raised his head far beyond what the small Prince of Mirkwood could reach, even on the fence of the Rhawiath. Perhaps one day you may be a king. But I am one now. He arched his hard neck, and flung his silver tail like a war banner, he struck a hoof on the hard dusty ground, a hoof chipped by leagues of travel to pure water and fair pastures. He turned a great muscled haunch, scarred by hooves of lesser stallions, and teeth of predators he had kept from his mares. When you have such scars, you can bid me as you will.
The Sun Stallion blurred, like a fading dream, through small-boy tears. He dropped to the grass on the outside of the fence, vaguely aware of the girl turning and saying something to him. He wanted to run far away, he wanted to strike out at something. He wanted to call Adda to make it all better, for perhaps a king would only listen to a king.
He went to the gate and unlatched it. "Go." he said softly, and flung it wide.
The golden stallion thundered by, giving a great twisting leap of joy. He spun about, two strides from the Elf-child, and stood for a heartbeat, great golden-brown eyes meeting tear-filled grey ones. He stood, like a treasure from a dragon's hoard, a child's dream of a horse. He dipped his great head briefly, mane breaking over his ears like a wave on the Forest River. Then he wheeled and was gone.
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.