2. Chapter Two
“I am sorry to have kept you waiting for so long,” said Aragorn. He stood tapping one foot impatiently as the groom checked the girth for the third time. “It can be very difficult to get away from my officials.”
“So we saw!” laughed Legolas.
“Do not let it worry you, Aragorn,” said Gimli. “Anything that delays me having to climb up on that thing is welcome, as far as I’m concerned.” He was eyeing the unsaddled horse with a look of deep mistrust.
“Oh, now Gimli, you said you wouldn’t complain. And you mustn’t call her a ‘thing’. She understands every word, you know. Don’t you, Laeriel?” Legolas stroked the mare’s neck affectionately. The horse turned her elegantly sculpted head and buffeted the Elf’s shoulder.
“Even when I insult her in Dwarvish?”
“Especially when you insult her in Dwarvish!” Legolas put his hands on the mare’s withers and jumped, effortlessly swinging one leg over the horse. He settled himself on her back and then spoke quietly. She walked over to a mounting block and both horse and Elf looked expectantly at Gimli. The dwarf sighed and, with the air of one much put upon, stomped towards the mounting block. Aragorn held out a hand to help him up onto the wooden slab.
“For goodness’ sake, man. I don’t need any help getting up on this! Do you think perhaps, that I need a mounting block to get on the mounting block? Honestly!”
Aragorn turned away smiling and mounted his own horse. When he turned back Gimli was in place behind the Elf, clinging on with both arms round his friend’s waist. Aragorn wasn’t quite sure whether Gimli was genuinely as frightened as he made out or whether he simply enjoyed having an excuse to put his arms round Legolas. He suspected the latter.
The destination that Aragorn had in mind when he had arranged the ride with Legolas and Gimli was a lake in the foothills of the White Mountains – close enough for it to be a safe journey, but far enough for them to get well away from the prying eyes of Aragorn’s officials.
“Come on then,” he said urging his horse forward. The bay stallion snorted and skittered sideways for a few steps. Aragorn was keeping him on a very tight rein and his caution was understandable; the tall horse was a powerhouse of muscle who seemed ready to surge into a flat gallop at the least provocation.
“Oh gods!” Gimli buried his face in Legolas’s back as the stallion’s nervous prancing brought him close to the chestnut mare, but Laeriel simply took a step backwards, quite unflustered. She seemed a model of obedience in contrast to the stallion’s fiery wilfulness.
At length Aragorn managed to persuade his horse to move in the right direction and he led the companions down through the paths and streets to the city gates. Once outside, he allowed the stallion to stretch his legs into a canter. The smaller horse followed steadily at a trot.
“Tell me again why we are doing this,” said Gimli, the pitch of his voice wavering up and down with the horse’s gait.
“Because it is pleasurable,” laughed the Elf.
“Drinking ale is pleasurable. Smoking good pipeweed is pleasurable. This is merely an excellent way of jarring every bone in your body.”
“That is because you are so tense, Elvellon. If you relax, you will find that you move naturally with the horse and then you will enjoy it. Anyway, you did not complain when we rode from Ithilien to Minas Tirith the day before yesterday.”
“Exactly! We rode from Ithilien to Minas Tirith. There was a purpose in our journey. Today we are riding from Minas Tirith to Minas Tirith. Pointless!”
“I am quite sure that Aragorn will feel better for it. It will do him good to get away from his duties at the palace for a few hours.”
“Oh, we are doing this entirely for his benefit, are we? You won’t enjoy it in the slightest, eh?” Gimli dug his fingers into the Elf’s ribs teasingly.
“I assure you the day will be an excruciating torture for me,” said Legolas with a martyred expression. “You know how much I loathe riding fast horses.”
“Yes, your hatred of riding is matched only by your abhorrence of red wine!”
“And my intense dislike of amorous dwarves!”
“Indeed! Now I think that we ought to speed up. Aragorn is leaving us behind.”
“First you are complaining that you are on a horse and now you are moaning that she is not going fast enough!”
“I just don’t want to lose sight of Aragorn. That animal of his is a menace. I’m sure he doesn’t have the slightest control over it. Come on!”
With a click of his tongue, Legolas urged the chestnut into a gallop. She stretched her long, slim legs and raced onwards, nostrils wide, tail and mane snapping back. Conversation became impossible. Gimli, his arms tightening around Legolas, could feel the Elf’s body practically humming with excitement as they sped along. The mare was closing the gap on the stallion rapidly, her easy, flowing stride eating up the ground.
They slowed as they reached Aragorn, who was still struggling to control the big horse. The animal seemed determined to go in any direction except the one Aragorn desired. The King’s face was a mask of concentration as he hauled on the reins. Sweat had broken out across his forehead, his jaw muscles stood out as he clenched his teeth. So much for a relaxing day of riding!
At length he shouted out, “I’m going to give him his head for a while.”
“I thought you already had!” laughed Legolas.
Ignoring the jibe, Aragorn continued, “Maybe it will help him to settle down.” Legolas and Gimli watched as Aragorn allowed the horse to choose his own pace and direction.
“I am glad to have you with me today, Legolas.”
“And I you, Elvellon,” said the Elf, turning and smiling warmly at Gimli.
“Oh, yes,” said Gimli. “After all, the speed Aragorn is going, he’ll beyond the range of dwarvish sight in a few seconds.”
Legolas’s face fell. “And there was I thinking dwarves could be romantic.”
Gimli chuckled and then, in a more serious tone, asked, “Is Aragorn really safe on that beast?” He shaded his eyes with one hand and studied the horse and rider.
“Aragorn is an excellent horseman, Gimli. He’ll not fall.”
The dwarf looked doubtful. “It scarcely seems tame!”
“Well, he is a young stallion, full of liveliness. Did you see the size of the muscles in his quarters? A great deal of potential there, but as yet, not a lot of experience.”
“We are still talking about the horse, aren’t we?”
“Sorry! I couldn’t resist,” Gimli grinned. “You know, I’ve never seen Aragorn have such a battle with a horse before.”
“The problem is that Aragorn does not have his emotions under control. The horse senses his rider’s anger and frustration, and it makes him even more restless.”
“You are telling me that a horse’s behaviour is dictated by the mood of its rider?”
“Yes indeed! Had you not realised that?”
“No!” said Gimli shaking his head thoughtfully. “So all those times when we rode on Arod together…”
“He could tell what we were feeling?”
Gimli thought a little more. “That was very early in our…friendship, wasn’t it?”
“Oh yes!” Legolas was smiling with fond recollection of those days when he and Gimli were just beginning to explore the many possible ways in which the rift between Elves and dwarves could be healed.
“To think Arod knew what was going through our minds as we galloped along!” said Gimli.
“Mmm,” the Elf murmured. “Just as well he was a gelding!”
Legolas could feel the dwarf behind him shaking with laughter.
“So,” Gimli continued at length, “what does this horse sense about us?”
“Well, she knows we are contented and relaxed, so she is contented and relaxed.”
“How can I be relaxed? I’m on a horse!”
“She knows full well, Gimli, that secretly you adore horse-riding and that the only reason you complain is that you feel it is expected of you. She knows that the day before you go riding, you get a pencil and paper and make a note of several handcrafted curses and complaints. Then you practise saying them over and over until they sound convincing. When you get on the horse the next day, you recite your list, Aragorn rolls his eyes, I say “Oh Gimli!” and everyone is happy.”
Gimli’s jaw dropped. “My word!” he managed at last. “I never imagined that a horse could be so perceptive! The truth is out at last!”
Laeriel had slowed to a walk now and Legolas saw no need to urge her on. Aragorn would come back to them once his horse had got the jitters out of his hooves. The early morning clouds had lifted so that the weather was quite perfect. The Elf tilted his face to the sun and closed his eyes, letting the warmth caress his skin. He crossed his arms over Gimli’s as they entwined his waist. Truly it was a wonderful day. Gimli couldn’t help but smile at the Elf’s obvious happiness. Legolas was completely at ease, moving comfortably with the rocking motion of the horse’s stride.
“So tell me, Legolas. Since you have discovered my secret love of horse-riding, can I ask you a question?”
“Mmm.” Gimli felt the affirmation as a rumble in the Elf’s body more than hearing it.
“Your intense loathing of deep, dark mines – is it, in fact, a clever subterfuge?”
Legolas nodded. “Yes, a complete act.”
“So, in the Mines of Moria…?”
“The hesitant steps were…?”
“Merely an affectation.”
“I see. And the wide eyes?
“What can I say? It was dark.”
“The goose bumps?”
“It was cold.”
“The sweating? The trembling in every muscle?”
“The pale face?”
“My natural complexion.”
“The whimpering noises?”
“I think Boromir had trodden on my foot at that point.”
Gimli snorted. “Boromir must have been excessively clumsy on a repeated basis from what I can remember.” He paused for a moment and said, with exaggerated enthusiasm, “So, next time you visit me in the Glittering Caves we can sleep in my bedroom, rather than that one I had specially constructed for you. You know, the one I had built near the surface with the high ceiling and the very, very large windows. The windows you dragged the bed across to. Hmmm? The windows that you insisted should be open at all times, even when it rained.”
Underneath his arms Gimli could feel the Elf’s muscles tense, just a little.
“Oh, but you went to so much trouble for me, mellon-nin. It would be most ungrateful not to sleep in that room after so much time and effort had been—”
“No! It was no trouble really. And my bedroom is next to some particularly fascinating deposits of quartz. I would like you to see them. Of course, such deposits are only to be expected so very, very deep underground. Oh dear, Legolas! Has someone trodden on your foot again?”
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.