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"My Friend Arod"

"Sedho, sedho, nuitho i 'ruith." came the soft words, sung more than said. Be still, be still, hold your wrath. The grey horse of Rohan scuttled sideways, head high, ears turned back. Legolas held the reins loosely, moving gently with the horse. Mirroring every move, quietly, like a shadow. And listening.

Listening.

Away! You are not my Rider! Away, away! You are tall, and pale maned, but you smell strange. Not like my Rider. Not like any of the Riders.

I know. I know. Legolas shadowed another spin sideways. I'm not like the one who was there when you were foaled. Who brought you your first grain. The one who placed the first saddle on your strong back. Who guided you safely through dangerous paths. But I mean you no harm.

Arod stopped, ears twitching in surprise.

Legolas stepped to his shoulder. You have never met my kind before, are you surprised that I know your heart?

Arod lowered his head a notch, turned and stared at this strange Rider with one great brown eye. Who are you?

I knew many of your kin, long ago, on the other side of the great Greenwood. Legolas reached out and touched Arod's shoulder. Not gold, not dark night. Etched mithril and steel. And kin to those horses a small boy had loved a moment ago on the stream of time.

The small boy was tall now, taller than the fence of the Rhawiath, a colt no more. He had journeyed in the dark under the Misty Mountains, faced the terror of Durin's Bane, spoken with the Lady of the Wood and recieved her gifts, shot a Nazgul out of the sky. His eyes had seen more now than those of the wise black mare with Earendil's star.

Arod's brown eyes studied the Elf. Who are you, that you wish to command me? Are you a great Lord of your people?

No one important. Legolas answered.

Arod snorted.

Listen. Adda had said.

Legolas listened. And heard.

Fire and fear and fierce beasts howling, spears like an unyielding dark forest and the hard hurtful ring of swords. The thunder of the herd, and screams of the dying. The sudden shift of weight in the saddle, then nothing. Emptiness.

Legolas' hand slid around the young warhorse's neck. I hear you. It is over. Those fell beasts, the orcs, are destroyed. Your Rider is gone, but I have need of you. Of your speed, your strength, your courage. Not for me, for all of the land, for the black horses taken by the Dark, for the Future King who even now rides your friend, Hasufel, for the Little Folk in their far fields, for my friend Gimli's folk in their mountain halls. It may be a hard road, but it will be a harder world if we do not ride this road. And I will protect you on it, as I may. Will you bear me, and my friend?

One silver ear, tipped in black, flicked forward. Then the other. Arod lowered his head. He turned then and shoved his nose square into the Elf's chest. Legolas smiled, embraced the fine-chiseled head with his arms, and slid the bridle off. The grey horse nuzzled the Elf's hair, pale as the Riders' own, but with a strange scent, like the wind from the faraway forests. He took a slender braid in his teeth and pulled gently. Legolas laughed. He reached under the saddle skirts and undid the girth. Arod snuffled along the lines of the grey cloak, carrying the scents of a strange forest, of wood smoke, of the sweat of a long chase. He gave Legolas another nose-shove. Why was this strange Rider taking off his gear when there there was no stable near, and the other Riders and horses waited impatiently to move on?

We will not need them, mellon nin. You are free to come with me, or not, as you will.

I will.

Legolas slid the saddle off, looped the girth and breastplate and bridle over the pommel and handed them to a Rider who stood near. "I need them not." he said quietly.

The Rider stared at him, disbelieving. And watched as the Elf swung up on the grey horse like a cat leaping lightly onto a wall. Murmurs of wonder grew around the circle of Riders, as the fiery little horse that had tossed no few of them turned this way and that, pirouetting like a dancer under the stranger from Mirkwood. Legolas looked up at the nearest Riders and caught their eyes, the wonder in their faces gave way to a few broad, approving grins. He and Arod came and stood beside Gimli, Legolas reached a hand down to him.

The sturdy Dwarf's eyebrows hung over his eyes like dark clouds. "Perhaps I should ride with Aragorn...after all, he has seen fit to keep his saddle."

"With that axe, his horse would surely set you on the ground. I have made an agreement with my friend Arod, that if he suffers your presence, you will give him a thorough rubdown at our next stop."

"And I suppose you will build a ladder so I can reach his back?"

"If necessary, he will sit so you may attend to his needs."

"That I would pay gold to see, a great beast like that sitting like a hunting hound begging at the table.

"Begging is something you are not likely to see him doing."

Two Riders came forward and helped heave the stout, mail-clad Dwarf onto Arod's round rump. He clung to Legolas like one drowning to the side of a boat.

"He will not let you fall, unless you foolishly leap into midair." came the Elf's reassuring voice, tinged with amusement.

"And how would you know? I suppose you've asked him?"

"I have."

The Dwarf shook his head and did not lighten his grip.

"He says you have all the grace of a large sack of flour, but he can probably manage to keep one of your legs on each side of him."

"Elves." Gimli muttered, and felt his friend's silent laughter. "Still, it is better than trudging after a light-footed Elf and a long-legged Ranger on foot."

"We will make a rider of you yet!"

Beneath them, Arod gave a great snort of disbelief, gathered himself and cantered lightly after Hasufel.

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APPENDIX

(hippocampus, cerebellum, whatever)

Wild Horses:

Hannon le and a tip of the hard hat to Teddy the Pony, my patient bay Anglo-Arab Saraf (who taught me to work without saddle or rein), Bazraf the grey Elf horse (a Welsh/Arab pony with one blue eye) who made the SCAdians believe in unicorns and understood "noro lim!", Olori Cuthalion (mustang), Hambone (properly Hamdan, Arab), Sahabi (Arab), Yatalii (mustang), Svaha Daughter of Olori (mustang/Arab)...

And especially the real Black Mare: my mustang, Olori Eldalie, who spent the first 8 years of her life running wild on the high desert of south-eastern Oregon, and taught me about wild horses.

..and all the others who have tried to teach me the elvish way with all good beasts.

(More at http://www.geocities.com/makenuk)

Horse whispering, Edain style: At the local distribution center for the Bureau of Land Management's Adopt-a-Horse program (which takes "excess" mustangs from western states and brings them east) I have seen a good trainer take a wild horse from the pens and have a small child on him within hours.

"I need them not": There is, in this tale, one small departure from the Letter of the Book, (in which Legolas asked the Riders to take off saddle and rein), it seemed to work better here if Legolas did it himself.

And yes, the Elven roundup riders are using saddles, as Glorfindel did (complete with stirrups, which proved useful for Frodo) in LOTR. While their ability to communicate with their horses means Elves likely don't need bridles, a saddle is a very good thing to have when you are trying to lead a reluctant wild horse. It's also a useful place to hang extra gear, like waterskins, food pouches, and that rope. As Samwise once said, never know when you might need a bit of rope.

SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronisms, is a serious historical recreation/education group found worldwide promoting an understanding of the arts and history of the Middle Ages...

...aw heck, we all know they're just a bunch of fans who couldn't book a flight to Middle-earth.

Sindarin 101:

(unless otherwise specified, from Ryszard Derdzinski's Sindarin Dictionary,

www.elvish.org/gwaith-i-phethdain)

Nariel= firemaiden, nar=fire, iel=maiden, a typical girl name ending.

Sul Vi'finnel; sul=wind, finnel=braided hair, vi=in...a nod to Rodney Grant's character in Dances With

Wolves; Wind in His Hair...the concept of a girl who has that kind of wild power, but also one who has the controlled complexity of a braid.

Cail=palisade (fence of sharp stakes) ephel=outer fence, gad=fence, catch...iath=fence

Belegad=really big fence

Thon=pine tree...brethil, fer=beech tree...galadh, gald=tree...lalm=elm...orn=tree,

regorn=holly...toss=bush-tree(low-growing tree)

Elbereth=the Starkindler, Varda, Vala of the Stars

Amar, ambar=Earth...cae, or cef is soil...Ennor is Middle-earth

Hannon le=thank you, from the Two Towers film.

ross=copper, iel=girl name ending, rossiel

rif=border, margins...sir=river, sirrif

fileg=small bird

rhaw=wild

anu=male, roh=horse, anor=sun anor'rohanu

the Eotheod and Eorlingas:

Lihtfota=lightfoot which is Rohirric or Anglo-Saxon (from a translation of "Snowmane's Epitaph" into Rohirric @ http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/turbeth.htm Lightfoot is also the name of the mother of Snowmane, King Theoden's horse)

Elfhild= from the Rohirric name of Theodred's mother (the Peoples of Middle-earth)

On horse names: Hamdan, Saraf, Sahabi, Bazraf are all typical of the (somewhat mangled) Arabic names given to horses with Arabian blood. Yatalii is Navajo (the name of the highest type of medicine person; the Singer), Svaha is the title of an excellent fantasy novel by Charles DeLint; supposedly an American Indian word for the space between thunder and lightning. Cuthalion is Sindarin, "Strongbow" the name of my favorite character from the Silmarillion.

Ol = dream, (plural=elei, or ely in FotR soundtrack). Olori was pulled by me from Unfinished Tales in 1985 as the name of my mustang mare, and I think it is Quenya. Eldalie is "Elvish" or "of the Elves". Edhel (plural=edhil) is Sindarin for elf.

Ol'edhel would be Olori Eldalie's name in Sindarin.

The Color of Horses:

Arod's color is not mentioned, only that he was smaller, lighter; possibly in build, or color, if color, he would be a grey, lighter than Hasufel's dark grey. (Not that darn chestnut stand-in in the film!) I thought it more interesting if he was young and inexperienced. Therefore he is a darkish dapple...greys (and 99.99 percent of "white" horses) start out some normal horse color and get more white hairs with age till they are white or nearly so, somewhere between the ages of five and ten. Some, like the aforementioned Bazraf, get a marvelous chocolate chip ice cream pattern called "flea-bitten". Both Arods ( the white-maned one and the dark-maned one) in the film are older greys, as is Shadowfax.

The Spotted Mare: Appaloosas are a breed in America (originating with the Nez Perce Indians of the northwest), but the color (varying from dark with snow or marble patterns to solid with a spotted blanket to white with "leopard" spots...more like cheetah, really...) is found in other breeds like the Knapstrupper, the Pony of Americas, and others. Spotted horses of this type have been found in art millenia old, and art on the walls of ancient caves. Most Appaloosas have dark eyes, but rimmed in white like a Two-legged's eye.

Some horses have pale blue eyes, the color of a Siberian Husky's, nearly white. Usually blue eyes exist because of a nearby white face marking. One exception I saw, was on the Island of Chincoteague Virginia, at the wild pony auction one summer; a solid bay filly with no white markings at all had two beautiful pale blue eyes.

Chestnut is any brown color from near-black to near-palomino (gold), the mane and tail are always the same or lighter color than the body (black points makes a "brown" horse a bay), often chestnuts are reddish. Brown horses look black, but have a few lighter hairs around muzzle and flank, or are the shade of dark chocolate. Black horses are black, except for my mustang mare, who is black twice a year when she sheds, then sunbleaches to the color of nuclear-burnt toast.

The Sun Stallion is of course, the archetypal palomino, which decorated endless westerns (think Roy Rogers) and calendars of the fifties and sixties.

A Really Short History of Middle-earth:

(or; whattheheck was going on around Mirkwood when Legolas was a kid, when was he a kid, and where would you find wild horses?)

From "The New Tolkien Companion", JEA Tyler, 1980:

Wilderland is Rhovanion which stretched from the Misty Mountains in the east to the River Celduin-Carnen in the west to the Grey Mountains (Ered Mithrin) in the north. Beorn's house sat between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood, on the north reaches of the Anduin. He was not yet born at the time of this tale, though his ancestors might have been in that region. They were akin to the Eotheod and to the Men of the vales of Anduin, their language a northern dialect related to the language of Dale.

The Eotheod lived between the Misty Mountains, the Ered Mithrin, and northwestern Mirkwood (1977-2510 third age). In 2510 a group of Easterlings, the Balchoth, assaulted Gondor.

The Eotheod, the host of Eorl, arrived in the nick of time and turned the tide of battle. Gondor rewarded them with the depopulated land of Calenardhon between the Isen and the Anduin. Whence they became the Rohirrim, the Horse-lords. (The Atlas of Middle-earth, Karen Wyn Fonstad, 1991)

Despite Peter Jackson's inventive numbers (2000 + years old), Tolkien never tells us exactly how old Legolas is, but there are some clues. In his article "speaking of Legolas" Michael Martinez makes the most of these clues and suggests: "Legolas may have been born after his father left the Emyn Duir (Mountains of Mirkwood) and led his people north to settle along the Forest River. That would have been shortly after Sauron rose again and established himself on the hill of Amon Lanc, building the fortress of Dol Guldur (1050)...it may be...that Legolas was born sometime in The Watchful Peace, and perhaps towards the end of it."

The Watchful Peace; 2063-2460 Third Age; when Dol Guldur was temporarily abandoned by Sauron because of a desire to preserve his true identity from an increasingly inquisitive White Council. (New Tolkien Companion).

He was likely born a century or two before the Eotheod became the Rohirrim, the premise I used in this tale.

I always saw him as quite young, for an Elf, and agree with Mr. Martinez. I like the fact we don't have a specific age for him: he's a wonderful conundrum of young and old, naive and wise, skilled and inexperienced, all at once. For that reason I didn't give him a specific age in this story either; an Elf child who appeared to be eight or ten would have far more experience and knowledge and skill in some areas than a ten year old human child, yet be more childish and younger in other ways.

The Hobbit begins in the year 2941 Third Age.

LOTR in 3001 with Bilbo's farewell feast, 3018 Gandalf arrives back in Hobbiton to send Frodo on his Quest.

LOTR Lines: "How did you escape our sight? Are You Elvish folk?" "...who has heard of a horse of the Mark being given to a Dwarf?" "...you shall sit behind me..." "I need them not." LOTR readers will recognize these lines as lifted straight from the book, I used them because that's what the characters actually said. in places rolling as the grasslands, in others hard as the distant mountains is a nod to Legolas' description of Aragorn's song in the language of Rohan (Two Towers). "My Friend Arod" is how Legolas refers to Arod when the horses return with Gandalf and Shadowfax. It occured to me later that, as a chapter title, it is an obscure nod to that classic of horsey children's literature (and a successful 60's tv show) "My Friend Flicka".