Set Me Free: Part 1 by Raven_of_the_Dunadein
I was born on March 1st of the year 2931 in the Third Age of Middle Earth. My mother was a kind, gentle, beautiful creature by the name of MeadowLark, she was a dapple grey Andalusian and more lovely than anything on the Earth. Ebony Black was my father, a great black Andalusian with a temper, he was wild as the place in which we lived, and he was leader of the Andola herd. My future had been decided the moment I was born to these parents…I was to inherit the herd when my father died, and take his place as its leader.
I was, as my mother called me, different than any other horse she had known. She said that I was full of vigor, life, happiness and truth, the very essence of life seemed to emanate from me, or so Lark said. I would always remember her words, those soft spoken nuzzles, those warm kisses, my mother was my best and closest friend. My father, well, he thought I had a fire deep within me, one that I was smothering with my kind, heartfelt nature. He wanted me to be tough, wild and never give into soft emotions that could ruin a horse, although he showed he still had some when he was around my mother.
So the months passed, and I grew from blundering, foolish foal into a subdued yearling. I still stayed close to my mother, but I had changed, I was quiet, restrained, almost empty of life and emotions. My father and mother had become worried, they thought I was sick or hurt, but I displayed no signs of injuries nor illness. As the other youngsters played, I took to grazing and sleeping for most of the day, not even bothering to look up when another colt asked me to join their game. My mother grew sick with worry, but I reassured her, it was just a phase and would soon pass, as had my baby fur. But, it did not pass with time, my spirit seemed to ebb away, day by day it faded until I was as calm and docile as a farm cow.
By the time I was a yearling, I had grown to a larger size than most Andalusians my age, and had the silkiest coat, longest mane and tail, most powerful legs and back. Most colts in the herd still had long, lanky legs that looked like spindles as they tried to outrun the wind, I would just gaze after their foolish running games, and longed deep inside, that I could be like them. No matter how hard I tried; I could just not find it in me to play and frolic like a normal yearling, nothing I did made me change.
When I had reached the age of two, horse wranglers came after my herd, riding horses that seemed to have my same problem. My herd turned and fled, I galloped next to my father, who told me to look after the herd for him, with that, he stopped, turned and faced the wranglers. His shrill, pained whinnies still haunt my dreams sometimes, but that day will remain with me forever. Ropes wrung his neck, men shouted, and then after a fight he crashed to the ground, at which point the herd leapt past me and I raced back to help him. A wiser horse would’ve turned and ran, but not me, I was wild with furry for the first time in my life. They wouldn’t take my father from me!
I crashed into one of the riders, knocking him and his steed to the ground, snapping his rope that held my father down. One by one, I broke the ropes, until Ebony struggled to his feet, looking at me as if he knew me not. My mane blew in the wind, my eyes were white, even my legs shook as I breathed heavily, I had become a wild horse at last. But it was not to be. More wranglers came, riding after the first as I neighed for my father to go take care of the herd, he wouldn’t leave me! I shoved him in the direction of the herd, telling him to take care of mother, and the others, I would hold them off. He finally gave in, and that was the last I would ever see of him, his black legs carrying him away from me.
I spun to face the oncoming men, standing tall, proud and waiting for my future to be redecided. When they reached me, I whipped around and galloped off, leading them across plains, over hills, through valleys. For seven days I ran, my blood hot within my veins as my ancient bloodline raged inside of my very soul. They fell further and further behind, until they were no more than a thought in the farthest reaches of my mind. As I halted for the first time in eight days, it hit me that I had no idea where I was, not even the slightest clue. I panicked, and turned about madly, searching for something that could lead me home, to my family, but no such thing reached my sight. Suddenly I was dragged to the ground, a rope snagged on my back pastern, I was caught, and could fight no longer, I was just too weak to go on.
At the age of four, I had been broken, and lived on a farm in the East Bight, owned by an old man who rented horses out to whomever wanted to rent them. But not me, I was his personal riding and carriage horse, he called for me every day, and I would come, docile and subdued as I had once been. In this lovely, but fenced place I lived for three years, until I reached the fiery age of seven. I could not handle living in an enclosed pasture anymore, the wilderness still ran rampant through me, and I longed to return to it, dead or alive, I would find a way to get home.
One night, a thunderstorm rolled in, and lightning struck one of the fence posts, setting the field to flames. I became bitter as my father had been, and destroyed the inside of my stall, kicking, rearing, bucking, biting and stamping I broke the hinges on the door. With a mighty leap I cleared the fallen wood, I was free! Out into the rain I charged, through the burning fields, under the boughs of flaming trees, and over the fence that was alight. On a large hill, I stopped, and through the pounding sheets of water I glimpsed the stable beginning to burn, horses wailed horribly, people screamed as they rushed into save the horses, yelling in horror to find me gone. The old man followed my tracks to the fence, and glimpsed me on the hill, outlined by a flash of lightning, before I turned and galloped off.
For seventy-nine more years I searched the lands for sign of my parents, my herd, but I found nothing of them. Nor did I find anything to answer my questions, why had I lived so long? Why did I have to lose everything that was dear to me? Why was I bound to my grief? Why? WHY? WHY?! Nothing could help me, but the person I had been bound to at my birth, where was he though? I would find him sooner than later. I hoped he would know me, for I was tattered, beaten, wild and bitter against the cruel world, only a shell of my former self, more ruthless and vicious than any other horse I had ever heard tales of. I would know soon enough…when the winds of fortune began to finally blow towards me…
Chapter 1 Change
I’m tired of the hero’s version of the story, because you never hear about their trusty steed. Whatever happened to tales of heroic war horses charging willingly into battle, knowing they might die? Well, I don’t know what happened, but I do know that I am going to relate a story to you, from the horse’s perspective.
My name is Roheyrn and I ‘belong’ to Aragorn, son of Arathorn the second. You may wonder why the steed of a king wants to tell a story? Because, it’s time the world knew how it is to be a warrior’s horse, and learn of all the hardships we face. Hardships? Yes, horses face hard times, losses and death, I of all animals should know. I used to be a beggar, wandering the back alleys of taverns, sleeping in abandoned buildings and I got beaten frequently.
I’ll start from when I first met Aragorn, please listen to my tale…
A group of nasty boys had pinned me against a building, beating me with iron rods and sticks. I was too tired from the chase to fight back; on top of that, the eldest child had broken my fore leg. My mane was in tatters and my sides had deep gouges all over. No one who passed even tired to help, they all just walked directly past, ignoring my frantic whinnies and snorts.
“‘Ere you go, you dirty, rotten, good fer nothin’ ‘orse!”
With that, the eldest swung his arm back and brought the iron rod down on my ribs. I felt as though an eight-horse hitch had collided with my chest. After glaring into the eyes of the boy I crumpled to the cold, hard ground, waiting for the end to come. But it didn’t, instead, my salvation came.
Out of a dark alley ran two tall figures, each holding a long blade of shiny steel.
“You there! Leave that horse alone!”
When the boys caught sight of the swords they cried aloud in fear and dropped their weapons as they scattered to the four winds. The men raced over and kneeled by me, but by now, I hated humans, and lashed out with my teeth to bite the nearest one. He withdrew his hand and I watched as his blue eyes glittered beneath his hood as they rested apon my badly mauled leg. With a snort, I pushed him away and tried to struggle to my feet, only finding myself in an awkward stand with three legs to support me. In my panic of realizing that my leg was useless, I reared up, thrashing my good leg wildly through the air, making enough racket to cause a sleeping dog to bark in weariness.
The two men rushed forward and tried to calm my flaring nerves but there was no stopping my sideways momentum. My left hind leg slipped on the wet stone and caused me to come crashing painfully to the rocky ground. I lay still as the blue eyed man put his elbow under my throatlatch and covered my eyes with his soft hands. The other, had taken out a belt and strips of soft cloth, edging ever closer to my injury. In a flash my legs flailed through the air, hitting rocks and one even struck the other man.
“Quiet now, steady boy! Easy, easy, it’s all right.”
I calmed slightly at the words, but flared my nostrils and perked my ears up enough so that I could catch every sound that dared to be heard. But nothing was to be heard except the breathing of the two men who were trying to help me, all though it seemed like they were trying to hurt me.
The other man had wrapped a strip of cloth around my leg as he looked up and spoke to the other man.
“His leg is pretty bad, I don’t think he’ll make it…”
“Just bandage it right so he can’t walk on it, I’ll get a good elvish friend of mine to fix him up so he can be ridden.”
“All right, but it’s really nasty looking. He’s going to have a hard time walking on three legs.”
“Of course, but, it’ll only be tied up for a day or so…then we can train him properly.”
The man proceeded to wrap my leg carefully, only stopping when I flinched or thrashed out, trying to rid myself of the humans. I was on the ground, pinned there by the human on my neck for an hour or more. Finally, he got off, nodding in approval to the good job that had been done on my leg, I raised my neck off the ground and looked over my shoulder at them. I tried to haul myself to my feet, but found my hurt leg held close to my body, tied there with an infernal piece of thick leather.
The human with the blue eyes knelt down and pushed against my neck, trying to get me upright. As I found a standing position, I shook my head and began to hobble away, not even bothering to look back.
“No you don’t! Come back here!”
I snorted as they grabbed my muzzle, and turned me forcefully around, I tried to lash out, but it was hard to on only three legs. I got use to the hobbling gait that three legs allowed you to use, as they led me into a stable yard and finally into a stall. Once inside I reared up, causing them to lose purchase on my muzzle, I came down, biting and snapping in every direction. They side stepped nimbly around me, turning me in circles until finally I was too tired to go on, I simply plopped to the soft bedding of my stall and blinked slowly.
The man with the blue eyes gently took my head in his hands and pulled a halter over my head, clipping it to a high loop on the wall. He then sat down next to me, stroking my neck. Whenever his hand made contact with my skin I flinched, twitching my skin as if he where a fly that I badly wanted to rid myself of. He only ignored the twitching and continued to get me use to human touch as the other man leapt apon a silver stallion and spurred him off.
“It’ll be all right, my friend will help you if you will let her. We’re only trying to give you a better life, a freer life.”
I shook my head agitatedly, once I got the use of my leg back, I would show these humans what a wild horse really looked like. And my old owner had thrown me off the farm because of it, but I was still a wild stallion, one who was born in the wild and will always have his heart yearning for the freedom of open fields and NO humans.
* * * *
It had been two days since the other Ranger had left for help, and during those long days, I got used to the Ranger who had stayed with me. But I wasn’t about ready to let him on my back, no way. He would have to break my very spirit or connect his own with mine in order to mount. Of course, either way I knew it would take a while, but I still had to wait for my leg to be healed.
On the third day, the other Ranger returned, with an elven maiden alongside him on a silver mare. I stood carefully, backing up into the corner of my stall, snorting and flattening my ears to my skull.
“Halbarad! What took you so long?”
The other Ranger, who I now knew was called Halbarad, dismounted and laughed.
“Nothing! It didn’t take that long did it? Only three days.”
He opened the stall door and let the elven girl in. She was fair, with pale skin and long dark brown hair. She wore a flowing cloak with a hood, apon her seemed to rest a heavenly light, but I could tell that she was no angel, she was an elven princess. I was stunned by her beauty, but not enough to let her get too close.
“Good luck taming that one, Strider. I’ll see you in a couple days.”
So…my owner’s name was Strider? Odd. But it didn’t matter.
“All right…I’ll have him tamed and broken by the time you get back.”
Oh no you won’t.
“So, what is wrong with him?” The elven maiden asked.
“Well hello to you to, Arwen.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just that…”
“Your father reprimanded you for coming and helping me, is that it?”
“Yes.” She smiled and looked me over with a critical eye, “I can’t fix his leg if he’s standing up, you’re going to have to get him to lay down”
Strider reached up and twisted my ear back; I looked at him as if he were a fly on my fur. He realized that twisting my ear once wasn’t going to do anything, so, he twisted it around two more times. I whinnied and twisted around, trying to break free of his hold, but he held on like an iron clamp. I put my weight forward, which caused me to lie down in pain, baring my teeth and snapping at his arm. I whipped around too fast for him once and latched onto his arm, grinding my jaw in order to hurt him, he flinched and tore his arm out of my mouth, pushing my head to the floor.
Arwen stared in horror at me, apparently she thought I had already been trained, of course I had been obliged to carry some one on my back thirty years ago, but my hatred for humans had turned my attitude sour. I would not let him put a saddle, bridle and himself on me without a fight. She kneeled down beside me and untied the leather belt, carefully unwrapping the bandages as she spoke to my owner. He glanced up at her and reassured her that as long as my head was down I would cause her no harm. The minute she had freed my leg I thrashed out, but missed both of them, only hurting myself in the process. She grabbed my leg and held it still, looking sadly at the wound, which ailed me so.
“I can heal it for you…but you owe me.”
“Oh really? What’s your price?”
She leaned over and kissed him. I snorted, now I knew why she had been the one to come and heal me! They were in love, but, he was a mortal and she was elf-kind. I had no time to linger on that thought, for she had pressed her hands over my mauled leg and was chanting slowly. I was in horrible pain, sears of red-hot throbs ran up my leg, my skin flinched and shook as I tried to fight my very will of killing the girl. Somehow her elvish ways and blood kept me calm, although I struggled within myself to try and hurt her, but on the other hand to leave her unscathed.
Strider had pinned my head to the floor, but it did not take long for her to finish. Within the hour I had been released from my laying position and allowed to stand. At first, having the mobility back in my fore leg felt odd, but as I rose to my hooves, the old fighting spirit flooded my senses. I bared my teeth and exhaled sharply, laying my ears flat against my skull. Arwen recoiled slightly, but Strider held his ground.
“Now hold on, what happened to the calm horse I had in here an hour ago?” He crooned.
I tossed my head and stamped a hoof.
“Stille nu, faste, hwaet nennath the?”
I relaxed a little, how did he know the language of horses? He had asked me what they called me. I snorted, hoping he understood what I had told him.
“Roheyrn…The Flame of the West…” He sighed.
I tossed my head, he had understood!
“What?” Arwen asked.
Strider turned around to face her.
“What did you say that for?”
“That’s his name, I asked him in the language of the horses, and he responded. Apparently, he is the one I’ve been looking for…”
I cocked my head, I didn’t understand. He had been looking for me?
* * * *
Out in the paddock I bucked and reared. Dust flew everywhere as I tossed myself around, hoping to throw Strider from my back. It had been a week since Arwen had come to heal me and she now stood on the outside of the railing, watching intensely as I was going mad. I finally threw him from my back and glared after him as he landed heavily in the dust. I breathed hard, pawing the ground and snorting as he stood, rubbing his arm slowly.
“Relax, boy! I’m not trying to hurt you, only help you.”
I flung myself forward and collided with his gut, shoving him to the ground as I rose on my hind legs. He rolled away swiftly as I tried to bury my hooves in his flesh. I whipped around and kicked out, catching him in the back of the leg, he fell hard and tried to get up again but I had my head in his side before he could move. I buffeted Strider around, whinnying high and shrill as I snapped and bit. He snarled a curse and jumped up, grabbing hold of the reins as he tried to get back in the saddle. I side stepped and stared him down, quickly rearing again so he couldn’t escape. This time, my hooves crashed into his chest and sent him sprawling, he cried aloud in pain as Arwen rushed into the paddock.
I shied away from her and trotted off to the other end of the paddock, looking at the other horses who shook their heads in disgust. They thought I was mad, well, I wasn’t, I was just unwilling to let him ride me so soon. Now that I had hurt him, like I planned, he wouldn’t be trying anything with me again for awhile.
“Are you all right?” She asked.
“Yes…I’m not hurt too badly…just a bruised rib or so.”
He grimaced as he stood, helped up by Arwen, he had minor cut and bruises, but his ribs ached and pained him with every breath.
“What about that horse?”
“Let him stay out here…I’ll be back tomorrow.”
She looked at him with a sidelong glance, “Why do you want him? He has only ever attacked you. He is good for nothing but being wild.”
“No, I can see it in his eyes. He’s more than just a horse. He’s descended from Isildur’s horse, our life forces are bound, when I die, he dies. We have to be together, for our own protection.”
* * * *
The next day, I was standing in a corner of the paddock, listening for signs of anyone coming outside. A few stable boys were working, but nothing that would hint to the arrival of my ‘owner’. Suddenly, unseen hands grabbed up the reins and shortened them in my mouth, I snorted, but the pain kept me still. I was afraid that I would tear my mouth if I shied or reared away. Then, I felt a weight drop onto my back, the heels of boots pressed into my sides as I realized my owner was back.
With a frightened whinny I jolted into action, running in circles to confuse my rider, but he clung on for dear life. I threw my weight onto fences and water troughs, but he still held his position atop me. It seemed hopeless when I realized that I could jump the fence, it was a high one, but I had been trained in high jumping, it was easy for me. I backed up and stood still, waiting for my owner to become more at ease, allowing him to think that I was docile now.
Strider shifted uncomfortably, it seemed he knew this was all a trick. With my mind made up I leapt forth and made for the fence, suddenly, as if I had become faster than the wind, it loomed right in front of me. I neighed as I sprung from the ground, leaping into the air with my owner still on the saddle. He leaned slightly forwards, allowing me more freedom of the reins, but then, I felt it. The bond one feels between two creatures when their souls connect, my eyes widened. It was like I had found the other half to myself, the missing piece to the puzzle, the person who mattered to me. Right when this happened, my back hoof caught on the top rail, snagging my hock on the wood.
I twisted around, trying to see how I was caught when I found myself tumbling head over hooves, through the air until I hit the ground. My owner had leapt from the saddle, but had still hurt himself; after all, it was a seven-foot jump or more from atop my back. I wriggled on the ground, my fore legs caught hopelessly in the reins, my back legs thrashed wildly as I ripped and tore at the weak reins that were made of rope. It finally snapped, sending my head careening backwards, until I regained my hooves did I realize that I was worried for my owner.
I walked over to where he lay and pushed his shoulder gently with my muzzle. He looked up at me and smiled, but I could tell he hurt something badly, I leaned down on my fore legs as my old owner had taught me, as to make mounting easier for an injured rider. I would normally snort and trot off, leaving him here to fend for himself, but his carefree nature and kind words had gotten to me, and we had connected. The bond between us was now whole and complete, and I was going to honor that by helping him get to his elvish friend for treatment.
“Hannon le, Roheyrn.”
You’re welcome, I whickered.
He nodded and grabbed hold of my mane, hard enough to haul himself up, yet light enough not to hurt me in any way. He swung his injured leg over my back and I carefully stood, letting him take up the fallen reins and guide me carefully to the stable. I walked slowly, keeping my ears back so he could ask of me anything he needed. The minute we entered the stable, Arwen came out of her horse’s stall and gasped, she though my ears bent back meant I was about to go mad, but I threw up my head and shook it, trying to make her understand, but she couldn’t fathom my language even. She saw Strider apon me and thought I was about to attack them both.
“No Arwen! It’s all right! He’s trained, we’re bonded for life now, he won’t hurt you.”
He slid off the saddle and put his arm across my shoulders so he could lean on me. Arwen saw he had hurt himself and raced over to his aid, she kneeled by his leg and pressed her fingers around his ankle to see if it was broken. I could tell that his ankle was swollen and tender, but at least he had not broken it. I was no healer, but somehow I knew it wasn’t terrible. He flinched as she healed it; she rose again and walked back into her horse’s stall.
“Hannon le, Arwen.” He said, putting his full weight on it.
“You’re welcome, it was only a sprain.”
As he walked me past her stall, I glimpsed the silver mare within; I stopped dead and stared in wonder at her beauty. She was all silver, with a black muzzle and kind, brown eyes. She had white socks and obsidian hooves that glinted in the dullest of lights, her silver mane and tail flowed like satin. Strider had to drag me away; I had fallen in love with my owner’s lover’s horse. Convenient.
* * * *
I was out in the field the next day, tossing my head and galloping around, showing off my newfound beauty. Strider had groomed me the night before and had combed my tail out, making me shine in the afternoon sun as if my coat was satin. Under a tree, a little ways off stood Arwen’s mare. She was gorgeous, my heart had been lost apon her and I would not rest until she felt the same way about me. With a neigh I galloped over, trying to get her to lift her head from her grazing, but it seemed she had no interest in me.
Look at me! Come on! Over here! I snorted.
She lifted her head slightly, chewing on a few strands of grass as she looked me over. I was nothing to her, she was an elf maiden’s horse, and I was a simple Andalusian. With a final, defeated toss of my head I snorted angrily. I dropped my head to graze when a whistle caught my attention; it was like no other sound I had ever heard. It was a loud piercing whistle, echoing across the land as if uttered from atop a mountain’s icy peak. Arwen’s mare whickered to me, inquiring after my sudden head raise. I snorted and whinnied an answer; I truly had no idea what the noise was, although when I answered, she looked at me, puzzled. Apparently she heard no such sound. With my curiosity getting the better of me, I galloped off in search of the noise.
A little ways away, I found my owner standing near the gate to the paddock, he spoke to me in my language.
“Stewa nutha le.”
I neighed, I have been out here all day, did you summon me?
A nod was all that came in reply to my question. I sighed and watched his body language; he was tense, overly tense for such a glorious day. One of his hands was held behind his back, I walked towards him and reached around his waist to see his hand. In it, he held a bridle of black leather and cold, shiny steel. The second my muzzle touched one of the buckles, the coldness of the steel passed through my skin to chill my very bones. I flinched and pulled away, shaking my head in protest to this new device. The bridal I had been wearing before was a leather halter with rope reins, not leather and steel. I could tell he meant to use it on me on this very day.
“It’s all right, come here.”
I backed up a step, hesitating. But with another coax from Strider I regained the step I had lost and earned one towards him. I was shaking; who knew what this new type of bridal meant? He gently pressed the crook of his hand to the top of my head and I lowered my neck, I exhaled sharply, letting him know that I was unsure about his bold move. He threw the reins over my neck. Apon the loose ends smacking against my hide I took a couple side steps, twisting away from him. He walked forward once again, this time, placing the bar of cold, hard steel onto my teeth. I refused to open my mouth; there was no way I would let that horrible device in.
“Musta theb le.”
He put his thumb in my mouth, behind my front teeth. In order to gag, I had to open my mouth, but the bit would be let in! He gave me no other choice. I opened my mouth and let the bit rest over my tongue, feeling its coldness pierce my very heart. He pulled the headstall over my ears and fixed the bridal in place, surprisingly, it was lighter then the other had been. He put his arms across my back and pushed down, I kept staring forward, not daring to look back. With a heave, he lifted himself off the ground and eased himself onto my back. I started in fear, jerking my head back and walking in a few, tight circles. He reined me in, gently, as if to get me accustomed to the new object in my mouth.
With a gentle press of his heels into my side we where off, walking at a slow pace, heading back out into the open field. We had been going like this for some time when he gently pulled the reins back, and I obeyed by stopping. My skin flinched and my muscles twitched, I wanted more than anything to throw him from my back and run away, back home. But our bond kept me still, for now. My nostrils flared as the wind stirred, I perked my head up at the sight of the silver mare under the tree, not so far away.
I felt the pressing of heels into my side. With a jolt I walked on, before feeling the pressing again. Somehow I knew to trot, soon, after two more presses, I was flying over the grass, my mane and tail like a war banner whipping in the wind. My hooves skipped over the ground as my heart was filled with the flying sensation one gets when traveling at incredible speeds. My owner gasped before speaking.
“Why did you never show your love for running free? I would’ve let you more often!”
I tossed my head and blazed past the silver mare who looked after my dust trail. I looked back at her to see almost longing in her eyes, as if I had finally won her over. But there was no time for that. I kept on running, for hours, just my owner and me. The feeling was wonderful, we were flying.
CHAPTER 2 TRAINING
The next day started out glorious, the sun was shinning; no clouds cluttered the light blue sky. But just as my owner entered the stable, and saw my head sticking out of my stall with my ears pricked forth; dark clouds rolled over the horizon. The sun was covered instantly as a wrathful northern storm poured onto the sky, taking away the warm rays of light, clogging out the fresh air. My owner frowned at me as he replaced the lead line back on the wall. He touched my muzzle, but I lifted my head away, neighing for him to take me out. But Halbarad called from the courtyard, saying that there was something he needed help with. I swung my head around the door, pressing my neck flat against the outside of my stall as I whinnied after him.
With a snort I shook my head and tossed it up and down, watching as his outline passed beyond my sight. A palomino stallion put his head out of his door, reaching over towards me. I did not like this at all. In a flash I whipped out at him, my ears flat, eyes white and my teeth bared. He pulled his head swiftly away as I turned back into my stall and headed for the back window. My stall had a back door that only opened so that I could stick my head out. As I did, the rain was unleashed; splattering against the ground as the awning above my head spilled rain onto my muzzle.
I kicked out, hitting my door, creating a loud bang that echoed throughout the stables. My nostrils dilated, as a sharp wind carried distant scents to my attention. But, I cared not for these things that I would usually enjoy. Instead, I pulled back into my stall and loped around, kicking at every wall and tossing my head to the roof. Thunder clashed in the distance, reflecting my mood. I was unleashed, unruly, and always moving like the rain, flashing around like the lightning. No one could control me now, I was scared, upset and terrified in my hatred for the world and my emotions against humans flooded back into my veins as I realized I was in a stall. In my fury, I kicked a panel off my wall, gashing my hind leg so that I limped with each step. But I was too enraged to care, now that my owner was not here, nothing could calm me.
A tiny stable boy, who must’ve been only sixteen rushed to my stall and opened the door, calling out to me to calm me.
“Whoa boy! Settle down! STOP IT!”
I could tell he was a fool, for he grabbed a riding crop from the stall next to me and hit my face with it. Repeatedly, over and over he hit me, until I had a few cuts across my muzzle and fore head. In pain, terrible pain my screams became more and more urgent, I reared and flailed my hooves through the air but could not rid myself of the boy. He yelled as he hit me, enjoying my pain, relishing in my agony. I heard a cry arise in the aisle, followed by the sound of running feet.
“HEY! GET OUT OF THERE!”
My whinnies became defiant screams as I was reduced to my last option; I reached down and latched my teeth onto his shoulder like an iron clamp. He howled and beat apon my head with his flailing fist, lashing at my eyes with the crop. The minute my owner reappeared in the door I released the stable boy, who was grabbed by my owner, on the same shoulder that I had bitten and threw him to the ground in the aisle.
“That should teach you not to meddle with other peoples horses!” Strider spat.
The boy scrambled to his feet and fled, terrified of the both of us. Strider tuned to me, but I shook and recoiled from his outstretched hand. My face burned and my hind leg throbbed with horrible pain, I was scared and enraged at the same time. So many emotions flooded my senses that I had no idea how to react. Some of the emotions, like the pity I felt weren’t even mine; they were my owner’s. Thunder rumbled nearby and I became spooked at the noise, rearing shortly before making for the open door. Strider put his hands against the door-frame and held his ground, until his shoulder stopped my motion.
With a toss of my head I backed up and rubbed my hindquarters against the back door, feeling the cool rain patter onto my hide. I began to shake, uncontrollably, such an introduction into the world of being owned was hard on a horse, I didn’t know what to think about the humans anymore. Strider stepped forward, calming me in the common tongue, until he had advanced enough to be next to my flinching neck. I tossed my head in between his words.
“Hey, stop, c’mon, stop.”
He put his hand out to stroke my neck, but the second I felt his touch I whinnied and took off, rearing before the now closed door. Suddenly, I felt confused, although I had no idea why, it seemed my owner was wondering about my behavior.
I turned on him and whinnied.
Help me! I’m so distressed, please, help me! I need you! I neighed.
He nodded and gestured for me to come closer, I continued to shake as I trotted over and buried my head in his chest. He hugged my head close to himself, calming my terrified and flaring nerves. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but somehow I remained scared. Again Strider spoke to me.
“Don’t be afraid, you are safe now, no one will harm you as long as I am here…”
* * * *
Later, in the evening, Strider was taking me out of the stall. I was overly excited to be leaving my prison that had caused me so much pain. With a snort a shoved him aside and raced out, turning in a circle as I felt the familiar tug on the lead line. He walked in front of me, leading me out into the refreshed and glittering world. The grass was wet and springy beneath my hooves, the air smelled renewed, almost cleaner. But I found myself being led away from the open fields and into the cobblestone courtyard where numerous other people were washing their horses. I was lead to a hitching post and tied there while Strider went back into the stable for a moment.
A few men stopped grooming to admire my gleaming coat, my azure eyes, my obsidian hooves and my tail that I always held high, like a flag. They uttered comments to one another, surprised at my stunning good looks. I got annoyed with these remarks and shifted uncomfortably. A man walked behind me and slapped my rump, thinking I would take the hit in a good way. Instead, I reared up; quickly being yanked beck to earth by the tightly tied rope. The comments immediately changed, apparently a misbehaving horse was a wild one. I was just scared, but of course, I couldn’t let them know that.
Strider soon reappeared with the bridle, and a saddle, made out of the same black leather as the bridle was. He also had a martingale and a decorative thing that hung over a horse’s rump. He put the saddle on the ground, before approaching me with the bridle in his hand. I shivered, that cold bit was NOT going in my mouth. He placed the bit against my teeth and waited for a moment, when he saw I was not opening my mouth, he stuck his thumb behind my front teeth. I stared at him, as if to ask, what are you doing? His mouth was taught as he shook his head in defeat. He let the bridle drop from my lips and threw it over the rope.
I exhaled sharply, after that afternoon, and the boy, there was NO way I was letting him ride me again. No way.
“Why are you behaving like this? You know me! I would never use a device such s the bridle against you in a harmful manner! Please, let us try to work this out.” He whispered.
I whickered and dropped my head; he turned away but just stood there. I looked over to the bridle that was hanging limply over the lead line, I thought long and hard. For once I decided to face my problem, instead of run away. With careful teeth, I grasped the throatstrap and nudged Strider’s shoulder gently. He turned back to face me and saw that I held the bridle in my teeth. He took it from me and watched as I obediently opened my mouth and LET him put the bridle on me. Next, I quietly allowed the saddle to be fitted onto my back and the other things as well. Before long, my owner was taking off the saddle and harness, deciding just to go bareback.
He untied me and led me to a low set building, with steam pouring from the chimney. He led me into it, to cross ties where he clipped me. The heat rolled through the black room, as Strider opened a door on the far side of the cubicle. A burly man came out, with a u-shaped piece of metal, he made for me with it. I then realized what it was…a horseshoe.
The man came closer, but I widened my eyes and pulled away. He kept coming. He tried to reassure me with words, but coming from a man with a red-hot horseshoe, they weren’t too comforting. Strider saw how edgy I was and ground his teeth together, deciding if he should stop the man or not. In a last effort to free myself I reared up, snapping the weak crossties, I fell over, squirming on the hot floor. He dropped the metal and reached for my bridle, trying to right me, but I lashed out.
I did not listen; instead, I tossed myself to my hooves and raced for the door. Strider again barred my way, but when I crashed into his shoulder this time, he clenched his teeth and cried out. My full weight had been thrown on his arm, almost breaking it. But, I was scared again, and angered. I pulled back and reared, flailing my hooves at my defiant owner. How dare he block my escape?! He did no t move. I tried to make him move but he only reached up and grabbed the reins, pulling my out into the courtyard. He called back to the man within.
“Maybe another time, he’s not quite stable yet.”
* * * *
That night, my owner was standing in my stall, grooming out my coat as I ate. Arwen had healed my wounds and had to leave that day, taking the silver mare with her. I was sad that she was gone, both of them. I liked both owner and horse. But, they would return soon, or so they hoped and had ridden off with Halbarad as their escort.
I was calmed down to a very lazy state, the day’s terrors and misfortunes lost in the serene quiet of the still night air. Strider was doting on me now that he saw how sensitive I was; nothing was taken lightly anymore. A snort was considered the beginning of one of my breakdowns, but I had no need to get excited tonight. It was uneventful and peaceful, the way I liked it. I stamped a hoof and snorted lazily, flinching as a wary fly rested on my shoulder.
I’m fine, I whickered.
He smiled and continued to groom, making my coat shine like a silver lamp in the Mallorn trees. I dove back into my food to find it was all gone, I smelled food somewhere. With a shake of my head I turned my neck to tug at my owners jacket. He laughed, giving my muzzle a gentle rub. I tugged harder, knowing he had the food that I was smelling. With a final grin he handed me the carrot he had been hiding from me. I tossed my head as I chewed, telling him that I was tiring of the grooming. He put the brush away and came up by my head. I looked back, only moving my eyes as he put an arm under my head to stroke the opposite side, petting both of my cheeks. He sighed, watching my every move.
I exhaled slowly, blinking in a sleepy manor. He spoke to me as he continued to rub my head.
“You are a good horse, Roheyrn, you have no need to be scared, or wild.”
I turned my head and rubbed my forelock against his chest, he again laughed and stroked my muzzle. After a final goodbye for the night, he walked out of my stall and closed the door. I knew he would be back bright and early the next morn, and I would be waiting for him.
* * * *
The next morn was bright, and the sun rose brilliantly across the red sky. I was nervous that morning, waiting for my owner to come and take me out of my prison. I paced around my stall for a half-hour; ears erect and tail swishing as I trotted. Finally, after a few more minutes of my circles, Strider came walking down the aisle. I literally threw myself at my stall door, pawing the bedding and tossing my head as I neighed to him. He smiled, knowing that I was eager to leave the stable and trade it in for the open fields. But, that was not going to happen yet.
“Good morning, Roheyrn.”
I snorted as he opened the door and pushed his shoulder into my neck, shoving me back a bit, until he had enough room to close the door behind him. I stood silent and still as he moved to my head and reached a hand down. He ran his hand down my leg until he grasped my pastern, squeezing it as he leaned into me. I danced away, shaking my head and wickering. This new move was odd and uncomfortable; I did not like having my hooves picked up. But, maybe I could somehow find it in me to let him.
He walked over, stroked my shoulder and again passed his hand down my leg until he had a firm hold on my pastern. My ears flattened, but, as he leaned into me, I lifted my hoof off the ground an inch. He pulled it up; I could feel him picking the dirt out of my hoof. When I tired of this, I simply put my foot down, forcing him to let go.
“Good boy, that’s it. C’mon.”
He moved to my back leg and grabbed my cornet band, leaning into my rump as he pulled up. Again I flattened my ears, but I allowed him to pick up my hoof and hold it up as he cleaned it. I didn’t let him hold this leg up for too long; within a minute I had yanked it free of his hand and planted it firmly on the ground. After he finished the other fore leg, he went on to my left hind leg. This time, my ears did not go back as far as they had before, but, I planted all my weight on that leg.
With a snort I lifted it, allowing him a minute to clean it out before it was wrenched from his grasp. He stood and pat my neck heartily.
“That’s a good boy, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
I tossed my head and waited to be taken out. He soon led me out, passing other horses who were stuck up, I could tell by the way they held their heads, muzzles high in the air. When we reached the field, he did not let me go, he only walked in, holding onto the lead rope with a firm hand. I did not complain, nor did I pull and try to get away, instead, I behaved and stood still. He walked me over to a stand of trees and sat down with his back to one of them, still holding the lead rope.
With a shake of my head, I went to graze. The grass was sweet and fresh after the rejuvenating rainfall, the air was full of smells, but there was one thing out of place. Suddenly, and with the swiftness of a hawk, a Black Rider flashed over a hill and stood there, sitting apon his mighty steed, gazing across the open field. Even before I saw the Rider, I felt him. A deeply disturbing primortal fear gripped my heart; a chill swept my body as I whipped my head up. Then, I saw him.
His steed was frothing at the bit, crying out in a filthy language, more like hellish screeches than a tongue of some beast. Its eyes glowed a blood red, its black harness clanging harshly in the still quiet of the morning. His rider was as horrible as him, if not worse. His black robes were worn and tattered, his hood shrouded his face, if there even was one beneath the veil of shadow. Metal covered hands gripped the reins as a pale sword hung near his hip. My owner felt something too, but not as deeply as I did.
I whinnied, high and shrill, rearing to the sky, my eyes white as marble. Strider leapt to his feet and tried to calm me, but there was nothing he could do. I was terrified beyond words this time; I had to tell him that we needed to get out of here!
“Whoa boy! Stille nu! Faste! Settle down!”
I pulled away and reared again, whinnying to him.
NO! We HAVE to get to somewhere safe! C’mon!
He grabbed the lead line and held my head in one arm, holding it tight against his chest as he looked over my shaking shoulders. Only then did he glimpse the Black Rider.
“What?! Ringwraith? Here?! That could only mean…”
Behind the first Rider, eight more appeared, riding up to the top of the hill to stare down at us. But soon, after a few more minutes of my panic and fear, their horses snorted and pawed the ground impatiently as they turned away. I could hear their hoofbeats slowly fade into the wind. I finally calmed down enough for him to lead me back into my stall for the day. But I would never forget the fear I felt on that day, for it would seize me many more times until I over came it.
Chapter 3 Riding Lessons and Ghosts
The next day was bright and clear, typical of the summer months. I was outside in the paddock as my owner was taking care of something inside the stables. The silver mare had not returned, but I was not worried in the least bit, I knew the good fortune in the weather would not herald their errand. As I was pacing, sniffing at the ground every few strides, a new horse trotted into the courtyard. He was an elegant white thoroughbred, with tiny grey spot across his hide as if he were in a rainstorm. His lively brown eyes were alert and ever watchful as he held his proud head erect and high. Each step was fancy and beautiful, gracing his appearance even more than his golden hued mane and tail that floated gently on the breeze. The gelding was a sprightly chap, a true beauty. His owner was an elegant woman herself, with a head of brown hair and a top hat perched apon it. She wore a tailed coat and high, shiny black boots. Her pants were unstained, and the harness for her horse was shiny and new. This was a woman and beast that demanded respect, and also symbolized the meaning of one body, one mind.
“Easy Lucca, easy.”
I saw no reason for the rider to tell Lucca to be easy; his gait certainly proved that he was calm and relaxed. My head spun away from the new horse when my owner reappeared, with the saddle and bridle. I was quieter than I had ever been, but I was still not the most trust worthy, and Strider knew this. With the charge of my body I could easily kill a man, but I had enough sense not to. As he approached, I shied away, tossing my head and prancing to the other end of the paddock. He sighed as I did this and reached for a leather rope, creating a loop, which he tossed over my head, pulling me back towards him.
“Now stay here.” He said
He tied me securely to a fence post and grabbed a second rope, fastening it beneath my chin. He undid the first rope and let it float to the ground, before pulling me out into the middle of the paddock. I was unsure of what he was going to do, but the second he snatched up the fallen noose and cracked it in the air above my rump I took off, galloping as fast as possible around him in a wide circle. He yanked on the lunge line twice, calling out to me.
“Easy boy! Easy! Walk! WALK!” He cried.
I slowed at the sound of his voice, to the point that I was at a walk. I kept an eye fixed on him, both ears bent back as I circled. After about twelve of these boring circles he gently skidded the rope across the ground, clicking his tongue. I jerked my head up and trotted off; keeping an ear bent his way and an eye stationed on the rope that flicked towards me. Another ten laps were in order before the rope rose off the ground and snapped at my hind legs, he clicked his tongue again and I threw my back legs up, cantering about the paddock.
“GOOD BOY! GOOD!” He praised.
I took the comment in a good way, and continued my cantering for ten more easy laps. This time, the rope hit my flank, sending me into a crazed run, fast as the wind, surging around the area until dust clouded out everything from sight. He gave no verbal command this time, but his thoughts had turned to the word I knew best…haste. I realized that this meant to run as swiftly as I possibly could, which I was doing. He pulled on the lunge and gave a verbal command.
I took my pace down to a canter and loped about, I had learned this all seventy some years ago, and it had apparently stuck with me for all that time. How? I knew not. I wasn’t even sweating yet, I could run for days and not sweat, I was one of the horses from the ancient line of Ulric, the fabled horse of Isildur, who was the greatest Meeras ever. I was swifter and more sure-footed than even Shadowfax of Rohan whom I had traveled with for some time in my youth.
I slowed again, until I was prancing smartly around him, seeing as he was just renewing my memory from all those years ago. Another pull signaled the walk, and I knew it even before he told me.
I walked around the paddock, blowing lungfulls of air through my dilated nostrils, ready to run free. But I knew that he was most likely planning on riding me out in the fields, either bareback, or with the saddle, bridle, martingale or the trapper I would move willingly beneath him, for I was all right with being his horse now. The last tug on the lunge line caused me to stop, not even turning my head to look at him as he approached me, holding the line beneath my chin. His soft hand stroked my neck gently.
“You must have learned this elsewhere! Well, I shall ride you bareback, without device to rein you, as if you were Shadowfax of the Meeras, you shall carry no harness, only me.”
I whinnied happily; this was the way life was meant to be! He untied my halter and placed a hand apon my neck. I looked at him, and as he began to walk forth, so did I, matching his pace, step for step, with only his hand apon my sturdy neck to guide me. Halbarad, who followed close behind us, opened the gate, and Arwen reappeared, with Asfaloth, her mare, at her side. The open fields called to me, the wind whistling through my ears. Roheyrn…Roheyrn…it called. But I resisted the urge that drew me forward; instead I fell beck in line with Strider.
The fields gate was opened, and we all filed through, I and my owner in the lead. He halted and my massive shoulders stopped near his own, his hand fell from my neck and he ran his hands along the length of my back, passing them down my hind legs, running them back to my shoulders. They swept my forelegs, back up to my neck, under my mane, across my cheeks until they rested on my muzzle. I gazed at him, bobbing my head gently as to not displace his hands. They left my muzzle and pressed down apon my shoulders, testing my will to allow him to ride me. I did not budge, so he lifted his weight off the ground and swung his leg over my back.
I exhaled sharply, but still did not move. I felt his fingers weave into my mane at the base of my neck, grasping the fine, silky strands that would now be his reins. The other three stood aside, watching the scene before them, I tossed my head and neighed to the sky. Barely a tug on my mane turned me to face the others, as Strider nodded to them, letting them know that all was well. Suddenly, his thoughts turned to one word…HASTE. I snorted, backed up a pace, felt his legs hug my ribs, then, with a whinny I reared up, tossing my mane and flailing my legs. I hit the ground at a flat out sprint, my ebony legs moving as swift as possible over the grass, my head dipping and rising wildly.
My mane and tail snapped in the wind, my muscles rippled like a lake on a windy day, my strides lengthened with each second, until we were a black blur racing through the fields, fighting the wind in a match race, in which I won. For hours my grueling pace continued, charging this way and that across the open lands until I felt a slight pull on my mane. I skidded to a stop and felt one hand untangle itself from my windblown mane, before my owner pat me heartily on the neck. He then put his hand back, and turned me about with kind words to accompany the command.
“Good boy, that’s my horse. You are truly descended from Ulric as I thought.”
I tossed my head and wickered, you could’ve asked.
“I know, I know, but I didn’t think of it.”
I see, I snorted sarcastically.
“All right, so what if I wanted to see for myself how fast you could run.” He laughed.
We cantered back to the stables, to find the others waiting for us.
* * * *
That night, out in the fields, I heard a horse whinny. So, I gently stood, careful not to wake my owner who was sleeping against my side, and looked out the back window. My eyes opened wide, my heart raced, my jaw hung. There, in the fields stood my parents, but they were different, a heavenly light rested apon their beautiful shoulders, their manes and tails glowed with a white light. Tears welled in the corners of my eyes as I gazed at them, not even turning as Strider stood next to me, patting my neck as he stared at the ghostly apparitions.
MOM! I whinnied, DAD! IT’S ME! I’M HERE! IT’S ME, ROHEYRN!
They did not answer, they only snorted and began to turn and walk over the hill, their manes and tails blowing in an unfelt wind. My heart broke, they were leaving! They couldn’t leave me! Not now, not there.
NO! DON’T GO! I’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR YOU! I neighed, DON’T LEAVE ME! MOM! DAD!
They ignored my frantic whinnies and continued to walk away, until the darkness of the night swallowed even the tiniest glimmer of light from their ghostly shapes. Gone. They had left me.
“Oh Roheyrn…I’m so sorry. You’re parents…weren’t they?”
I bobbed my head weakly, Yes; they were once my mother and father.
“I see where you get your beauty from, they are true horses.” He whispered.
A subdued ‘Thank you’, was all I could manage.
I turned back into my stall and settled down on my legs, before dropping my head to the soft bedding. Strider kneeled by my head, stroking my neck until I turned and rubbed my head against his chest, my eyes averted on the ground. He sighed sadly and began to tell me something.
“I lost my parents at a young age too. They were murdered before my very eyes when I was eight…it still haunts me…you’re not alone.” He said.
I put my head on the ground after lightening my mood a bit, while he resumed his place, leaning against my rising and falling side.
* * * *
CHAPTER 4 HEADING NORTH
The next morn I awoke at first light to find my owner had disappeared, as I yawned widely I heard some one heading down the isle towards my stall. With a shake of my head, flinging my long mane against my neck, and a snort I hauled myself to my hooves and stretched my slightly stiff legs. It had been a long time since I had run that hard, without anyone on my back, now that some one had ridden me, I was just a tad sore. I hung my neck over my stall door, which was half-open, and saw that Strider’s sword; quiver and cloak were propped up against the wood, or folded on the ground. That was odd, he never went anywhere without his sword, he never left it behind.
I felt a hand brush my cheek and looked up to see my owner grinning at me.
“Well boy, we go on our first trip now.”
Huh? I snorted, first trip to where?
“To Rivendel, and then to the Iron Hills from there.”
I neighed, that’s a long way off.
“Yes, but to you it will seem like a daily ride. Only three days to Rivendel, there we’ll rest for a day or so, then, Halbarad and you, plus I will head back up North. A week, ten days at the most, if the weather prevails and we don’t get hindered by trouble.” He said.
Trouble? I wickered, like what kind of trouble?
“Bandits, Wraiths, orcs, trolls, goblins…anything really, even a lame horse.”
Are you implying that this journey might lame me? I whinnied.
“Not at all, but I’m sure it’s been quite a long time since anyone has ridden you, let alone like I ride you. I’m just saying, it could happen.” He replied.
COULD? It won’t! I’m stronger than I ever was! I won’t be lamed! I snorted, rearing back.
“I bet you won’t, and I truly believe you, but it’s time to go.”
* * * *
A few minutes later I found myself standing untied, unwatched and completely trusted in the courtyard of the stables. Halbarad sat astride his mighty silver stallion who was named Captain, and besides him, standing calmly beneath Arwen was Asfaloth, waiting for the journey. Strider soon came out of the stables, with his cloak about his shoulders, sword at his hip and quiver across his back. He came first to me, and spoke quietly.
I bobbed my head, yes, I’m ready.
He stalked back around me to the left side, and twisted a few fingers into my mane, watching my body language the whole time. My tail swished calmly, I rolled my tongue around in my mouth, glad to have the bit not over it, and blinked slowly. He seemed satisfied with this show of calmness and hoisted himself up, onto my strong, broad back, quickly weaving his other hand into my mane. He thought, and I perceived what he wanted me to do…walk on. After tossing my head momentarily, I walked forward, my unshod hooves making nary a sound on the cobbled streets. The other two fell in line behind us, following silently and willingly.
My head was high, eyes bright, nostrils flaring as the wind swirled about my muzzle. Sharp scents were borne apon the breeze, flowers in fields far off, cool waters in a valley miles away, shady trees in a place that I knew not. But something else wavered on the edge of my mind; a dark shadow loomed there, far off, but close enough that I was wary of it. It was a moving thing, a mass of endless darkness and the abyss beyond was the end of all light, it was a beast, no, a person or a beast. I was not close enough to tell, but as we left the city of Bree behind on the dusty road that headed East, hoof prints caught my attention. I dropped my head and stopped, sniffing at the ground; my owner peered over my head at the ground.
The tracks smelled different, not like a horse’s at all, but they were. Something was out of place here. Suddenly the black shape in my mind shifted, and I glimpsed a rider, all in black sitting apon a white eyed, soulless horse that was washed clean of all emotions. I blinked sharply and the vision passed, my owner tugged on my mane and we set off in a brisk trot. The other two were worried now; I could sense it, to the point where they were worrying their horses. Those tracks must’ve been from something that could hinder us, or worse, do harm to my owner.
* * * *
That day we made good progress, and saw no other travelers on the road, the only living thing we saw was a fox, which darted away from us the moment it caught us in its sight. When night fell, and we pulled off the road for the night, the black shape grew larger, and I stiffened as my owner slid down from my back. It was clear to me now, a black rider with no face, just a dark hood that hid the horror beneath. A pale sword that could do damage to even the nonliving, a dagger that would snatch you from this world and drag you into the Shadow realm. A soulless horse, covered in armor, unafraid, willing to do the rider’s fell deeds, white, unkind eyes that perceived what its rider could not. A Ringwraith.
I shied backwards, my eyes wide as my head tossed through the still air. I whinnied, high and shrill, backing away from the vision, but it grew! It would not leave me! I snorted; rearing wildly over the newly made fire that Halbarad had built. Strider leapt forth to calm me, but then, he felt it. He dug into my thoughts; I tried to push him out, tried to save him from the faceless fear that ravaged my body and mind. But he saw, and he knew. He looked at Halbarad, speaking to him harshly.
“Quick! Put out the fire and move off the roadside! GO!” He shouted.
He turned back to me. I was neighing, rearing, crashing to the ground and backing away, but I did not turn tail and flee, my bond with my owner kept me.
“What is it? What’s going on?” Arwen demanded.
“Ringwraiths! Get going! A mile into the country should do it! I’ll calm him down and be after you as soon as I can.” Replied Strider.
“Hurry!” She cried, leading Asfaloth away.
He kicked more dirt over the sputtering fire, but a strong flame still burned, he then walked over to me. I stayed on the ground, but swayed on my shaking legs, eyes white with fear. He stroked my neck, eyes searching the road before returning to my own.
“Stille nu, faste. It’ll be all right! We have to get out of here!”
A hellish screech ripped the air, hooves clattered madly on the road, harnesses rattled harshly. I was gripped with a cold, chilling fear, but found that where my owner’s hand touched was unafraid. He sighed and placed both hands over my eyes, leaning his forehead against mine, scratching my forelock fondly.
“Sorry boy, but I have to do this, for your own good.”
He snatched up a lock of my mane and swung up, sitting apon me as I realized what he was doing. NO! He can’t make me! But, my love for him was too strong to deny his will even with my own life at stake.
“You have to face your fear!” Strider cried.
Arwen reappeared by the edge of our previous camp, looking at Strider as if he were mad.
“What are you doing?! If they catch you or hurt you…”
“They won’t, I’ve faced them before, they know me well enough by now to see that I won’t back down. I’ll return to you…I promise.” Responded Strider.
One word floated through my mind, before being followed by others. HASTE…Do not be afraid, I am here for you, these Ringwraiths are pure evil but weak, once they see we will not back down they will fall back and flee ,I know them. I have fought them before, many times…HASTE! I knew I had to obey, but something held me back, until, deep down, a light appeared and shone within my heart, spreading threads of hope and courage through my veins. It covered my body in seconds, giving me the courage I needed to take that first tentative step, and then I reared, hit the ground and raced off, onto the road.
I spun in a mad circle before swinging around to face the direction of the hoof beats, my tail whipping through the air, slapping my legs. Strider pulled one hand out of my long locks, drawing his sword from its sheath at his side; I felt the metal resist slightly and scrape harmoniously against the sheath, ringing in the still night air. He squeezed my ribs with his legs, urging me into the middle of the road; his mind reassuring me every few side steps I took. My will was set, and only death could break it now, I was going to stay with my owner until I could no longer serve him.
The hoof beats grew louder, thundering in my ears like a resounding drum. In an instant, the darkness before my face shimmered, or seemed to wriggle and warp in smooth movements. Only then did I see them, three Ringwraiths, each clad in such dark cloth that it seemed to be made out of shadows and night itself. Their horses stared right through me, as if they were searching for something. Strider’s mind turned to words that their meaning I knew not, I tried to contact him, but he shoved me out of his thoughts, blocking me with a wall of bright blood red. His thoughts I could no longer perceive, and I began to lose my composure for but a moment. I felt a change and delved back into his head, asking him what he wanted of me. He finally responded after tearing the red blockade down. Murders! Betrayers! Foul vermin! They must be killed! Back to the camp! It’s time they felt the heat!
With a simple tug on my mane he turned me back towards the camp and spurred me off, leaping over a fallen branch and ducking under a few sweeping tree limbs. I caught through the trees, a flickering fire and realized that he had not put out the fire, but left it burning for good reason. At a brisk trot I reentered the circle of light and stopped next to a stick that protruded from the inferno, standing still as Strider leaned over and snatched up. He held it in one hand and resheathed his sword swiftly, turning me about to face the Wraiths who were positioned behind us. They drew their pale blades and pointed them straight at my owner’s heart, threatening to kill him. I reared, shielding him from the gesture, snorting and neighing in defense as my hooves flailed wildly at them. When I returned to the ground, Strider drew his arm back and launched the flaming brand at them, watching as it spiraled towards the advancing Wraith in a sputtering arc.
The Wraith who spoke was brutally smacked in the face, or what could’ve been a face beneath its hood, with the torch, showering sparks on its companions’ robes. They screamed vigorously at us, batting away licking flames that quickly engulfed the three, scaring their horses. The mindless animals whinnied in fright, turning tail and bolting out of the dying light to someplace far away. Strider reached down and pat my neck, I exhaled strongly and snorted, shaking my head. I pushed into his thoughts for a moment, and felt the pulsating, radiating warmth of gladness and reassurance. I withdrew my mind from his and the tingling I felt when we connected subsided ’till it was gone.
“Good boy, that’s the way to be brave, see? They’re not all that scary are they?”
No, I snorted, but still, we should get back to Arwen and the others…should we not?
“Ah yes, of course.”
I turned to where they had fled the scene and stopped dead. Two more Wraiths stood before me, red eyed horses frothing at the bit, pawing the ground. I tossed my head and backed up a few paces, as they edged forward menacingly, coming closer every time I backed away. Strider gripped my sides with his legs; I knew what he would ask of me, to crash through the two creatures, sending them off their horses and into the dirt where they belonged. But before any of us could take one stride, Arwen came from the shadows and gasped as she saw us, not moving before the two Wraiths, with a dying fire in the background. My owner saw her, glancing at her for a moment, but that was enough. The Wraiths spun in their saddles, hissing at the newcomer, drawing their deadly swords and turning their horses about. One put back his spurs and his horse lunged forth, fog rolling from its nostrils, the Wraith’s blade raised in a threatning manner. Arwen stumbled back, aghast at the creature that lunged from the darkness toawrds her.
“NO!” Strider cried.
With a loud shout in his mind he sent me plunging forth, knocking my way between the two Wraiths, bruising knees, snapping armor, twisting stirrups. The horse that had been spurred forth, suddenly found itself on the ground, its master trapped beneath it as the beast struggled to find its feet. In a quickly forced shove, I hauled myself out from the tangle of black, lunging forward to get free. A sword slashed down on me, hitting my rear as I whinnied and shyed away. I felt blood trickle down my flank, but did not worry about it, if I was still standing it couldn’t be too bad. The still standing Wraith plunged past us and brought down its weapon, Arwen dodged, but the blade moved, cutting her across the shoulder and the base of her neck. My owner was furious, he knew the wounds were not life threatening, but, he was ready to take out this Wraith, and we did. I reared to the dark sky, crashing down on the Wraith’s horse, my girth slamming down on top of the beasts haunch. It paniked, throwing its self away from me in a wild, crazed fit of neighs and kicks. Its rider tried to regain control of it, but it was wild with madness, I lunged at it, doing my riders will, biting the creature in the leg. That was a tough horse, it didn’t back off, but rose on its fore legs and beat me back with a savage kick.
I snorted, swinging my head into the flailing legs of my enemy and throwing hims to the ground. The two horses quickly stood and dashed away, carrying their unwilling riders off with them. Strider reached down to Arwen, I twitched nervously, some one else was going to ride me! I would not stand for this! She could not ride me. As I raced past her, he locked hands with her and she swung up, onto my broad back as we galloped off, into the darkness, foiling the Wraiths’ plan to kill us. I could feel her slender yet strong legs holding onto me, both hands gripped tightly into my mane. Strider was behind her, head on her shoulder so her could see where he was guiding me.Suddenly, and without warning, I pitched backwards, throwing all of my weight onto my hind legs, rising, taller and taller, until I was a defiant pillar before a savage onslaught. Arwen cried aloud, gripping my neck with delicate hands. I neighed and threw my head back, twisting back onto all four legs as I danced sideways, ignoring my owners cries.
“WHOA! STILLE NU! FAESTE! STOP IT!”
My whole frame shuddered forward as my back arched, arcing into an angry hill of black sinew, my eyes whitened as she stayed apon me. NO! I will NOT let her stay on my back! No one rides me but my owner! Again I reared, walking sideways and crashing to the dirt, twisting beneath them both, tossing my head until I felt only one person on me. The elf! Where had Strider gone? He appeared out of the dark, so abrubtly that I shied back from him, but he came at me, grabbing my lower jaw.The pain! Oh! It whipped through my senses like a dose of poison to my nerves! I dropped my weight to my hooves and stopped so sharply that Arwen almost tumbled from her place atop me. He jerked my head around to face him, anger and fury in his icy eyes. My blood ran cold, I suddenly realized what I had done and looked back, completely ashamed of my actions.
“What was that for? You know better! Its just Arwen, now stop being a brute and let’s find Halbarad!”
He swung back up onto my back, Arwen leaning back against him, scared slightly of me. I didn’t walk on, but turned my head to her, wickering that I was sorry, and apologized for my actions.
“What did he say?” She asked.
“He said he was sorry for what he did and apologizes for scaring you, he was only acting on instinct.”
“I understand Roheyrn, its alright, don’t worry, I forgive you.”
I nodded and felt a drop of blood fall onto my shoulder, I gazed back at her, seeing her wounds bleeding slightly in the dark. She would recover within the night, if we carried any King’s Foil with us, which we most likely did, knowing my owner. He commanded me to gallop, so I took off with a slight jolt, racing off, into the night. After a few minutes of running to where Arwen instructed he pulled me back into a walk and I continued on the appointed path at that pace. My hind leg throbbed, something had cut me, but I kept walking despite the limp in my gait. Strider noticed this right away and commanded me in his mind to stop, but I disobeyed. He yanked my mane back to scold me, until I slowed and finally stopped. He slid off, feeling my flank with a trained hand; eventually his fingers passed over the cut. It was pretty deep, enough so that he could put his fingers in it, up to the first knuckle, his fingers searched it for anything foreign within my flesh and soon pulled a peice of metal free. I shuddered but held my stance. He sighed and asked Arwen if she could heal it later, and within minutes, were we back off, headed to where Halbarad awaited our arrival.
* * * *
An hour or so later, I was standing behind Strider, who was leaned up against his cloak, quiver, and a small pile of his belongings for support. My head hung low, lip hanging as I eyed the other horses warily. Strider put his head back and spotted my subdued look and reached back with a hand to stroke my fore head. I took a step forth and rubbed my head on his shoulder, he wrapped his arm around my head and spoke to me.
“What’s wrong, Roheyrn?” My skin tingled at the use of my name, my REAL name.
Nothing really, I wickered, I’m just thinking.
“About what exactly?”
Nothing of importance, I snorted, just letting my mind wander.
He laughed and turned back to the fire. Arwen was sleeping against his chest, his other arm around her as Halbarad leaned against Captain’s side, his hood pulled low over his head as the fire played across the visible lower half of his face. Asfaloth was lying near Arwen, curled tightly to keep warm, her liquid brown eyes glancing at me occasionally. I raised my head a bit and cocked it playfully to one side as I contemplated what to do.
Are you warm? I offered.
Her silver head rose from the ground, staring me through to my very soul it seemed.
No, she snorted, do I look it?
I shook my head, she laid her head back on the ground, and I realized that the look she had given me in the field was not that of love, but of friendship, or so I hoped at the very least. So far she had only spoken to me once, and it wasn’t what I would call ‘friendly’. With a yawn, losing interest in her for the night, I pushed the things out from under my owner’s head with my nose. He turned and scowled at me.
“What are you doing?”
Stay where you are.
I laid down behind him, my wide ribs facing him. He smiled and shook his head, leaning against me, laying his head carefully on my barrel before my head reached around and rubbed against his shoulder. He grinned and stroked me for a minute before turning back to the warm flames, staring up at the stars. It was a lovely night, quiet, serene, with nothing but the lightly crackling fire and the occasional hoot from a great owl or a silent breeze to sound out. The only thing missing was Asfaloth at my side, not as a friend, but as a lover. I laid my chin on the dirt, not even paying attention as Asfaloth stood, walking off.
Suddenly, something pushed against my shoulder, rubbing against me as another thing laid across my back. I looked over my shoulder and saw Asfaloth’s head laying on my shoulders, her eyes gazing back warmly at me; her cold body was curled next to mine. NOW the night was perfect, I thought, placing my head back down, my long mane sliding over my eyes as they slipped slowly shut.
To be continued in~Set Me Free: Part 2