3. The Gauntlet is Thrown
Hmmm, something about my having an “unusually good aim with my hooves.” That was from Raimendur. I snickered inwardly. Yes, he was certainly an authority on that subject. Since he had no sense of humor, and did not properly understand the merit of practical jokes, he had had a definite view of my rear hooves several times. Elves may be considered fast, but they cannot outrun horses, especially if those horses do not want to be caught. And a horse most unquestionably does not want to be caught after, say, he has been seen carefully removing all the bowstrings from the bows on the archery range. Elves may be considered wise, but I would think that after all the thousands of years they have lived, they would have figured out that it is not wise to allow horses free rein in their dwelling. Of course, they do not exactly allow it; it is more a matter of stealing your way along (as you happily hear your name being called out in a frustrated tone) and waiting until the archer’s back is briefly turned and his bow laid down . . . ah, the joy!
At that point, I was rudely interrupted from my ruminations, by hearing a voice call “Hail Glorfindel!” I chanced a look over my shoulder, and saw another elf approaching the golden-haired warrior.
‘Ah ha!’ I thought. ‘So Glorfindel is his name. I remembered him now. I had seen him before with Elrond.’ If I had not been so preoccupied, I would have been amused by the chagrin evidenced by the Glorfindel’s stance. His face did not change, but we horses are expert at reading, what I believe is primitively called by some, “body language.” He was obviously taking stock of his options, fight or flight. He evidently settled for fight because he remained there and started speaking to the other elf.
“Greetings, Elladan or Elrohir?” I froze and quickly returned my gaze to the ground in front of me, though I must admit, I was paying it no heed. I knew those names. Every horse in the stable knew those names. The sons of Elrond (for indeed, that is who those names belonged to) had something of a reputation for getting into scrapes. Instead of being content to remain in relative peace and quiet in the luxurious valley of Imladris, they actually felt the need to go looking for trouble. Unsurprisingly, they were also rather good at finding it. They were nearly legendary in the stable. Even though I had never seen them, for they would disappear for months at a time, my sire told me tales of them. They had left Imladris before I was foaled and this was my first opportunity to see either of them.
“Their chosen mounts,” he had said, “will have numerous anecdotes to relate when they return.” “If they return,” he would always add ominously. Having once been “borrowed” by the one called Elrohir, his eagerness for battle had been somewhat diminished when he returned. Elrohir was notorious for being caught in unpredictable dilemmas, more so than his brother. I heard the son of Elrond replying to Glorfindel, and it almost sounded as if he were attempting to provoke him.
“Why Lord Gorfy, 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!”
‘Gorfy?!’ I snickered inwardly, and with difficulty resisted the urge to glance at them again. It never does to show too much interest in those who think they are your masters. It only feeds that foolish belief. There was a moment’s silence. I heard the noise of Narehin trying to chase someone else away from his feed and getting kicked (I knew this without turning around, because it was always Narehin). Then I heard the younger elf’s voice again, sounding much graver.
“Elrohir. 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.” Ah, so it was the more intrepid of the two. Not surprising, since you had to be rather imprudent to try annoying such an obviously accomplished warrior as Glorfindel.
Now Glorfindel spoke again. “It is good to see that you are both returned safely, Elrohir.” I rolled my eyes, unfortunately forgetting that usually made me dizzy. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘he might be an accomplished warrior, but his observational skills are obviously not at their height.’ The wind had carried to me the smell of blood. Horses have a keen sense of smell, and blood is hard to be rid of. Elrohir had seen battle, and not long since.
“What did you expect? We can take care of ourselves,” Elrohir replied dismissively. I snorted. How obtuse did he think Glorfindel was?
“Yes, of course,” Glorfindel replied. He sounded deceptively calm. “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 became shrewd. “What happened and why are you not with your brother?”
Ha ha! I neighed and shook my mane. I knew it! I do have to admit, I am rather good at identifying the better warriors. It appeared that very little would be slipping by this one, but of course, I had known it all along. I heard Elrohir replying to him, but not being able to make out what was being said, I glanced at them again, and saw that Elrohir had stepped closer to him and was speaking quietly. Hmph! They obviously did not want me to hear them. I would have to fix that. And they call themselves elf-lords! Without realizing what I was doing, I stomped my foot. They continued to ignore me; their discourteousness was insufferable. My sister looked up from her patch of grass and gave me a meaningful look. I narrowed my eyes and snorted. She says I think too much of myself. I wondered what she would say when I was chosen as the personal mount of the greatest warrior in Imladris. Being a snobbish goody four-shoes, she would probably never see battle, but I on the other hand would undoubtedly be famous for my daring and intellect. I decided to ignore her, and to focus on the two warriors. Raimendur was paying no attention to them, but was stroking his favorite colt, Sailandil, the bay. He should have been paying attention to me; however I magnanimously decided to overlook the slight.
Once again, I was rudely interrupted from my musings by the less-than-considerate Lord Elrohir. I stared into the stream again, but nevertheless, pricked up my ears.
“Yes, my lord Elrohir?” answered Raimendur.
“Which of these foals will likely be the most ill-behaved and generally difficult to handle when grown?”
‘What? Well, excu-u-use me, your lordliness, horses are only “difficult” and “ill-behaved” when their masters richly deserve it! I pity your poor mount. Disappointing for a son of the Lord Elrond; you have worse manners than a wolf-chieftain’s pup!’
“Most likely Asfaloth, my lord,” said Raimendur.
‘What? WHA-AT?! How . . . how dare . . . !’ I have to admit, that even I, Asfaloth of the Cunning Mind, was temporarily rendered speechless by that! I swiftly re-evaluated my opinion of Raimendur. He was not merely annoying, he was truly vile. I was going to get him for that, somehow. No one insults Asfaloth and gets away with it. Well, except my sister, but she does not count.
By the time I had recovered my presence of mind, Elrohir had turned back to Glorfindel. Forsaking thoughts of revenge, I stared at the stream as hard as I could, paying no attention to it, my entire being focused on the vexingly too quiet conversation that was taking place behind me. I caught a few words, “paper” “brave” “assistance” “horse” (Oh, that was helpful) and “demonstrate.” I have to admit, I did wonder what Arda they were talking about. Unfortunately for the comfort of my mind, my wish was instantly granted. To my immense disgust, they were not talking about me at all! Can you believe that? They were talking about that unintelligent oaf, Sailandil. Beautiful shade of bay, indeed! I tell you it, er; well anyway, this is what happened. Glorfindel began speaking, but he was not being as careful to modulate his voice as he had been.
“Ah yes, I quite admire that one. A beautiful shade of dark bay, and good, straight legs. He appears unusually intelligent for this particular group, too.”
I have to admit I was fuming. Great elf-lord or not, Glorfindel was simply begging to get a good hard bite. I, however, showed great restraint and after throwing a glare over my shoulder, resumed my inspection of the stream. It lasted all of half a minute. It was the mention of my sister Ainille’s good manners that finished my already frayed composure. I turned around and marched straight at the three elves, Raimendur having rejoined them. Elrohir gave me a somewhat odd look, but Glorfindel was now in a deep conversation with Raimendur about the merits of the previously unmentioned grey colt, Nolatur. I stopped about three yards away, shook my mane, half-reared and came down pawing the ground, making a truly spectacular spray of dirt and little stones. Unfortunately, I only got kicked for my trouble by Narehin, who happened to be in the way. Naturally, I kicked him back, and started walking right in front of Glorfindel. It was impossible for him to miss me. Now I may not have mentioned it before, but I am rather good at prancing. In fact, I am very good at it. That was why I could not believe it when Glorfindel persisted in ignoring me. Raimendur’s disregard of me, I could understand, being the ignorant, poor excuse for an elf that he is, but I thought that surely, any half-way decent warrior would recognize that I am a horse to be reckoned with. I did get a glance from Elrohir (and a rather nasty half-smirk), but Glorfindel suddenly stepped to the side, bumping him (unusually clumsily for an elf), and he turned his attention to Narehin, who was the current topic of conversation. Hmph! Dense elves!
“In my opinion, he is the most likely of these five,” Raimendur was saying.
“Nolatur certainly appears well-mannered,” Glorfindel said with a thoughtful expression. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Asfaloth starting to approach, with an air of deepest outrage and offense. Glorfindel felt slightly smug, but carefully kept any hint of it off his face. “However, the dark grey looks good as well.” He paused.
“Narehin, my lord,” supplied Raimendur.
“Of course. I do not think I will choose him, as you said he had injured his leg, but he still looks like an excellent horse,” continued Glorfindel. “Would you not agree, Elrohir?”
He glanced at Elrohir who was giving Asfaloth a superior look. He stepped to his left, “accidentally” treading on Elrohir’s foot. Elrohir grimaced and immediately turned his attention to Narehin.
“Yes, beautiful coat. Excellent horse. Sound hooves. Well-mannered,” Elrohir answered quickly, and then added in an undertone. “I was listening.”
“Of course you were,” Glorfindel answered tranquilly, in the same undertone. “Despite the fact it was Nolatur who was well-mannered and I said nothing about a beautiful coat or sound hooves. Perhaps you should listen more carefully.” He raised his voice again. “Yes, he is indeed. But in my opinion, Sailandil has the most beautiful coat in the group. Bay is a rather uncommon color.”
He had to fight hard to contain his smile, when Asfaloth strode directly in front of Sailandil, blocking their view of the other colt. It was obvious to any observer that Asfaloth was becoming exceedingly jealous of the attention the other foals were receiving. He was no longer pretending not to watch the elves, but was now trying his hardest to get their attention. He was prancing and tossing his mane in such an exaggerated way that he looked as if he were about to spring off the ground and land on his nose, yet he did not miss any steps.
“Why do you not take that one,” Elrohir’s undertone was too innocent, and with the hint of a snicker, “Gorfy. He is so. . . . distinctive. You ought to get along just perfectly.”
“You are as humorous as your esteemed father,” Glorfindel replied dryly, in the same undertone.
“Why thank you. I will have to tell him all about this.”
“Indeed. Be so good as to tell him also, that I will be rather busy over the next few days.”
Elrohir gave him a questioning look, his self-satisfied smile slipping slightly. “Your pardon, Glorfindel?”
“I will be making the acquaintance of my new horse,” Glorfindel replied.
“Asfaloth, Glorfindel? You will never lack entertainment.” The smile became a grin and returned in full force. Raimendur looked as interested as he had been since Glorfindel had arrived. That is to say, not very.
“Asfaloth,” Glorfindel answered firmly.
Elrohir’s smile disappeared and he gaped. “You cannot possibly be serious.”
Glorfindel shrugged slightly. “Well, as you so perceptively put it, I will never lack entertainment.”
Raimendur gave the first genuine smile Glorfindel had yet seen from the reticent elf. He could not help feeling just a trifle uneasy as he viewed it. He had seen it before. The last (and memorable) time he had acquired a horse from Elrond.
“I cannot believe it. You said you would sooner ride a warg than one of Father’s horses,” Elrohir said disbelievingly, after he had stopped staring.
A slow smile played around the corners of Glorfindel’s mouth as he watched the colt gallop towards him, slide to a halt and rear majestically about two yards in front of him. “No, I think I will enjoy the challenge. Who can say? There might be a useful horse underneath all that arrogance.
Raimendur’s smile became broader. Glorfindel glanced at him uneasily as Asfaloth began turning circles as tightly as he could. Elrohir grinned.
“This will be most amusing,” he said in answer to Glorfindel’s questioning look. “Just when Father has finally come to an understanding with Noladar, and I feared life was going to become dull once more. I remember your last horse well, and your understanding with him. This is going to be hilarious.”
Asfaloth stopped, staggered a few steps and faced them. There was fire in his eyes.
‘Yes, Elrohir,’ Glorfindel thought, ‘From your point of view, this undoubtedly will be hilarious.’
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.