The Voice of a Fallen Horse
Standard disclaimer: Middle-Earth is my playground. JRR Tolkien is the genius behind, I am merely his admirer and I don't make any money with this.
Beta: The almighty Fiondil
Author's Notes: See at the end of this fic.
Written for the Leaf and Stone Winter Traditions Fic Challenge issued by Nieriel Raina. The theme this year was, as the challenge said, "traditions". I chose some kind of a "tradition" my family members - horse owners and lovers - really do enjoy.
For the challenge, we had to include the following elements:
- the word 'Estel' - the character, or just the word to mean hope
- a tree
- the colors: RED, BLUE, GREEN, BLACK and GOLD
- an animal of some kind
- a warm drink
- a rock (and here, dear NiRi said: "I don't know why, just include one.")
This is my story. And let me tell you, dear readers, it is a story for the cold season. When the paths are covered with snow and when snowflakes, sent by the Valar themselves, would seek down their way to our very cold and silent earth. I hope this tale finds its way into your heart.
"Long they laboured in the regions of Eä, which are vast beyond the thought of Elves and Men, until in the time appointed was made Arda.........."
— JRR Tolkien, Valaquenta
The silence in the woods was complete, the stillness absolute. Neither deer nor fox could be heard. Even the trees seemed to be frozen in place, unmoving, covered with a thick blanket of glistening snow. There, under their naked branches, a tall and thin figure wandered.
The lone ellon was freezing. He never knew Elves could actually be cold, since he had never felt like this before. At least not as cold as he was at this particular moment. His bare feet left almost invisible marks on top of the deep snow. He was more lurking than walking through the darkening woods, so cold and numb were his feet. If he left a trail, he did not care.
Bare feet? Why was he not wearing his soft, green boots?
Night was falling fast now. The last rays of Anor as she was traveling the skies disappeared with an ominous red and orange gloom on the western horizon, somewhere behind the snow covered trees. The gloom reminded him of something......but the word was slipping away, not ready to be caught.
Dol Guldur. Aye, that was the word. The dark stronghold of Sauron in the southern regions of Mirkwood, where he had dwelt in secret as the Necromancer, until he had been discovered. Aye, now the young Elf remembered the tale: when Sauron had been assaulted, he had withdrawn to Mordor, but the Nazgûl soon returned to reclaim Dol Guldur, this dark place full of black and dangerous shadows and the always burning fires, red and orange, upon the massive walls. He was aware that the knowledge of this place alone hurt the souls of the Sindar and the Silvan folk as well.
Ithil soon took the place of Anor as she went to sleep on this silent, cold night of the Winter Solstice.
It felt strange, aye, so very strange. Being cold was like jumping into a frozen pond, something he had once done when he had been but a little elfling. Almost a whole century must have passed since then. Had it really been that long ago? His mind and feä felt...detached, as if they did not belong together, as if they were not part of his body anymore. The cold led to a disturbing sensation, like pins and needles touching his skin. It was uncomfortable.
The young Elf thought of his usually immaculate appearance — he still knew he was a prince among his people and should therefore be wearing the regalia of his kinsfolk's royalty whilst on the road.
He dropped his gaze to look at himself and held his breath for a moment: he was not clad in green and brown traveling gear, but only in a soft blue, very thin velvet shirt and short pants. Ai!
This was not right, was it? Was he not supposed to be wearing clothes? Shouldn't he have some.....weapons with him in an unfriendly place like this? His prized longbow? The fine chased twin blades which were so dear to him?
His mind felt heavy and uneasy.
How did he get here?
The ellon had neither memory of how he had gotten hither, nor had he any idea of where he was at all. Or whence he came. The trees looked unfamiliar to him as well. They did look estranged, the same way he felt. The naked oaks, beeches and yellow birch trees seemed to dislodge themselves whenever he tried to approach them. Even the evergreen pines appeared foreign and "hollow".
But worst of all: they did not speak to him, as if they were neglecting their duties. Should they not be speaking, calling to him, helping to sort out what was just happening to him?
A hostile wood. That assessment made him feel sad, alone. Forgotten.
He did not know the trail he was wandering or following.
The young one's mind was disturbed, he could not form a plain or explicit thought, could no longer tell why he was walking through this unfamiliar, cold, evening. Soon, night would be upon him. Should he not seek shelter, since the dark and heavy clouds would surely bring more snow that night? The blonde Elf sighed and shook his head. His long tresses, bare of the warrior braids he loved, respected and was so proud of, fell like a golden curtain, obscuring his grave and solemn features.
"Where am I and why am I here?" he spoke aloud into the silence.
His voice sounded unsure, almost desperate. As if he were the small elfling he had once been and he almost dreaded to continue, to put one step after another.
Where was he coming from and what was his destination? Why was he alone in the fast descending, silent winter night? Without weapons, without proper garments?
The woods were getting obscure and frightening as a black threatening darkness crept closer through the branches of the pine trees he had reached only moments ago. He still heard no sounds, neither birds nor other animals, which was indeed....not right. As an Elf, with his superior hearing, shouldn't he be able to track down each and every living being in those woods, even if they were unbeknownst to him ?
He stopped for a short time, trying hard to calm his heavy breathing. Always aware, always listening. He closed his eyes and concentrated. Then, his face brightened: But there were sounds! The warm air leaving his lungs seemed like a fine fog before his very face and he felt his cheeks blushing lightly, both from the cold and from the knowledge that there were some noises here, though, even if he could no longer tell them apart. That conclusion made him shiver.
Were they coming from the trees themselves or from the wild animals following their paths? Perhaps there were Men, Rangers, not far from here? Or there might also be some enemies nearby, Orcs or other dark creatures, chasing him, coming after him.
He could not tell.
Disappointed and a little bit frightened, he sat himself on a small rock that was embedded in the ground underneath an old pine, standing its ground proud and tall. He did not even care to remove the snow from its surface. That very moment, something changed: despite the stillness of all the other trees around, this one seemed to welcome his presence.
When he laid his hand on the tree trunk, hesitating, brushing some snow away with his thumb, seeking....warmth and comfort....the pine suddenly seemed to overwhelm him in its greeting:
"Mae govannen, Legolas Thranduilion. We have been waiting for you."
"Waiting? For me? But....who is 'we'? And, my dear friend, would you not tell me where I am?"
The green needles of the pine seemed to rustle in excited anticipation, as if it, indeed, had been waiting for the golden prince. Around them, the evening was growing gloomier and duskier.
" Oh, one thing at a time, elfling, one thing at a time. First, let me bid you welcome and I want you to meet...my friends."
"Your....friends?" The young elf seemed uneasy. He leapt to his feet again, looking from left to right, bewildered.
The pine patted his back with a snow laden, low hanging branch and Legolas, prince of Eryn Galen, suddenly got snow all over his hair and face. He started coughing.
"Hush, easy, my dear prince. Aye. My friends. You might know that this is the night of Winter Solstice, do you not? A very special night. It has been said that in this night, every creature would and should have a voice."
The blonde's Elf's eyes grew big at that statement.
"A.....a...voice? What are you telling me, my friend? I already do understand you trees. But with....umh....animals, I can only assume what it is they ought to tell us. A voice, you say. Does that mean..."
He became aware that somebody was looking at him and could not finish his sentence. Almost from nowhere, slowly and deliberately, two white bunnies came near, heads bowed. And Legolas could indeed HEAR their unmistakable whisper. He held his breath and stood still. Very still.
"Our regards, my dear prince," said one of the rabbits in a high, but clear voice, his tone courteous and friendly. "We are glad to have you here in such bad times."
Legolas was confused: "Bad times? What is it that makes you feel bad?" Slowly, as if not to frighten the small animals, he sank to his knees.
The two rabbits' dark eyes almost watered: "it is.....winter, you know. No fresh green food here, we have to dig for each and every little herb, for frozen berries or the last almost rotten apples under the snow. Life is never easy this time of year. But even in the thickest wall of winter, my dear prince, is a hole through which you could always see the most beautiful summer. Remember that. Oh, and will you tell your kinsmen that we bunnies indeed value the race of Elves?"
Legolas bowed his head before the two bunnies, he wanted to tell them that he as well thought highly of all the wild animals, but before he could even speak, they had already disappeared into the dark woods again. As if by magic, there were now two magnificent deer standing before his very eyes. The prince of Eryn Galen shivered from the cold and rose again. This time, he spoke first:
"I bid you welcome, my friends. I do feel honored by your presence. Let me tell you that I hold you dear and praise you as the kings and queens of the woods."
One of the whitetails pursed her lips, it looked almost as if a smile were being played upon them, even if they stood in awe. This time, both Prince and animals bowed their heads in a formal gesture, the tall pine watching in contentment that both parties showed deep respect for each other.
The taller whitetail spoke now, its voice possessing a splendid, musical quality, polite and with an almost happy undertone: "It is well, my dear Legolas. Often would my brothers and sisters run away in fear of your elven bows, fear for their lives. But we have learned, have we not, that this is the way of nature, that your folk would mostly hunt only old deer that have already seen too many seasons come and go. Those young and precious to our herds they would leave unscathed and for that, I would like to thank you. Even I will gladly give my life come the day of my demise to sustain and nourish your kin."
By now, Legolas felt the beginning of a slight headache. He adored the deer which had just spoken, but could not answer. He pressed icy cold fingertips against his even colder forehead. As he lifted his head, he saw another animal approaching. The deer were gone and this time — and he did not know how — it was the elegant white stallion belonging to Lord Glorfindel of Imladris. Could it be? Was he himself somewhere near the borders of Lord Elrond's valley?
He could not answer his own question and simply watched as beautiful Asfaloth drew near, proud and tall the great warhorse he was. He walked through the still and silent wood, holding his head high, the warm air leaving his nostrils looking like grey fog on a frozen pond. His mane was made of glistening silver, homespun filaments, clearly visible even in the dark of this early solstice night. Asfaloth's eyes were as an ever burning fire, full of memories and regret, of hope, strength and honour. Asfaloth, Legolas was sure, was equine royalty.
The prince of Eryn Galen inhaled deeply and closed his eyes for a short moment. He was so looking forward to this casual encounter. Learning the thoughts of a horse, his favorite animal.....the shivers that seemed to take hold of his own body, the terrible headache were a small price to pay.
Asfaloth's hooves ate the distance between them in an elegant and almost noble manner. But then, a threatening feeling, as cold as death itself, enveloped Legolas' heart. And his superior eyesight saw what the proud stallion was not able to detect: from behind a group of hazelnut bushes, a mangy wolf was sneaking up. The horse's instincts, his eyes on the young Elf, failed to whisper a warning to him.
But the wolf, his yellow teeth bared, his flanks lean with hunger, was creeping nearer, his deadly gaze burning into the unprotected back of the proud steed. Only seconds and he would be ready to jump.
Legolas' mind was too blank to present a clear thought. Was this the way of nature? Kill and be killed to indeed feed and nourish others? Was this his lesson to be learned?
Without thinking, he ran. And he screamed.
And screamed. And screamed.....his voice echoing in the dark woods, in the cold and almost silent night. Silent save for the desperate voice of a fallen horse and the growling of a hunter at heart.
Legolas screamed with every part of his elven body and feä .
Feedback, anyone? I'd like to hear what you think. This story is completely written und edited, so the update won't take too long.