The Voice of a Fallen Horse
For complete disclaimer and rating please see chapter one
This is the second part and the end of this fic. I hope you enjoyed it. Please make sure to read the author's notes at the end of my tale.
The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears. ~Arabian Proverb
"Hold him. He must not hurt himself with all the trashing. Estel, try and feed him the rest of this tea. I will bring another cup with a different medicine that might help break his fever." Lord Elrond of Imladris and his three sons had a hard time holding the blonde Sinda on the bed.
Surely, the ellon was very ill, but none the less fighting them with what looked like desperate strength. With combined effort, Elladan and Elrohir held the younger Elf down while their brother tried to get the hot healing tea into him. Their friend lingered on the very edge of consciousness, they could feel it. But the fever he had developed after such a grave injury was still high, dangerously high. On one of the working tables in Imladris' Healing Ward, Lord Elrond was mincing dried waterhemp, thyme, narrowleaf and barberry. He could have asked another healer to prepare the fever reducing tea, but wanted to make sure that exactly the right amount of each herb was in the draught. He filled the chopped herbs into a cup, took the kettle of steaming water from the ward's oven and poured hot water on the dried leaves. He closed his eyes for a moment, being reminiscent of all the places in his realm where he had found each and every one of the herbs. A clean, fresh flavor began to fill the room; a flavor carrying the scent of green summer fields, of crystal blue ponds and mellow grass. But outside, there was no such sign of the warm season: darkness was falling and thick and heavy snowflakes were dancing through an icy cold winter breeze. The whole valley, the woods and rocks, the fields and river banks - everything had since long been hidden under a thick blanket of pure, white snow.
Elrond took the steaming cup and returned to the bed where his sons had managed to calm the awakening Elf. It was well the ellon was finally opening his eyes. The four healers had been very worried about him from the moment he had been brought back to Imladris.
"Let me go....please....let me go...." came his voice, a cracked whisper, sounding as small as an elfling's plea. Slowly, the twins stopped holding the young Elf's arms and legs and the Lord of Imladris sat on the bed.
"Legolas. It is about time you came back to us. You must drink this, young one, you are very ill and we want you to get better. Your fever would not break for days."
The ellon, clad only in a white linen tunic that would be given to all patients of Imladris' Healing Ward, furrowed his brow. His eyes burned and felt as if they had been closed for a long, long time. His head hurt terribly and he could not, would not trust his voice. He felt some stitches in his right shoulder, in his right leg also, perhaps in the right part of his lower back, he could not tell.
Slowly, he let the others feed him the very hot tea, the bitter taste of thyme prominent on his tongue. His mind could not sort through the memories that suddenly assaulted him. But then, there was a proud grey horse galloping through his remembrances, the eyes wide with fear, nostrils trembling.
"Asfaloth!" Legolas suddenly screamed, the desperate voice of the fallen horse in his ears. Even in his weakened state he mustered hidden powers and tried to get up. He may have succeeded, were it not for three Elves and one Man firmly holding him in place, soothing him. Calming words in clear and flawless Sindarin reached his ears while white, hot tears were already streaming down his fever-flushed cheeks. Oh, how he hated being in this position!
"All is well, young one, you need not fear. Asfaloth is in the barn, most likely eating his hay. And happy to be eating, since this one is always hungry, I might add, " Elrond said, while he set about wetting a new cloth to put it on Legolas' hot forehead. The older Elf smiled and Legolas tried to concentrate on the voice which was like an anchor in his world full of fever, pain and memories. Memories that seemed like riddles to him. Every time he tried to remember, his mind was like a dark tower, surrounded by a never ending black wall.
"Hush, young one. Calm down. I will tell you all I know, but promise me not to struggle again. Take deep breaths, relax. Feel my strength and be still." His long, elegant fingers caressed Legolas' wet cheek, and the ellon indeed relaxed. The Elf Lord began to talk.
"When Lord Glorfindel came into the barn to care for one of the younger mares three days ago, a filly actually that had hurt her leg, he was most displeased to see that his precious horse had gone. Ithil was already shining from the skies, the night owls were calling and our dear Glorfindel suspected that one of the stable hands had left both the barn and the stall door open so Asfaloth could indeed have left the stables on his own. As it was already after nightfall, Winter Solstice none the less, he chose to let it be and trust his horse to find his way back, him being a proud and prudent steed."
Legolas felt hot and cold the same moment. It was hard concentrating on Lord Elrond's voice. His fever-blurred mind tried to throw the curtain of unconsciousness back over him. But he had to hear the end of this tale.
"Well, Asfaloth returned the following morning, galloping into the courtyard and calling out in that loud and imperious voice of his. And so, my dear prince, Glorfindel's clever steed woke the whole household. You were on his back, more dead than alive, I might add. It looked as if you had an encounter with a whole pack of wolves, as far as I can tell from your injuries, elfling." Legolas did not know if it was his fever playing tricks on him or if Lord Elrond's voice indeed was tinged with humor. Was there a twinkle in his eye?
"Oh, Legolas, you should have seen Lord Glorfindel! He ran down the stairs in his nightshirt.....ah....never mind.....in his white robes and he almost fell to his knees, thankful his beloved horse had returned," Elladan said from behind his father's shoulder, grinning.
"Actually, my dear brother, I think he was not able to go to sleep the whole night because he indeed feared for his proudly-cherished steed. Asfaloth had never done anything like this before and you know that the two of them are very close," Aragorn objected.
Elrohir was shaking his head, grinning as well. "Well, I guess our Lord Glorfindel was in a sour mood anyway. You know, it being the night of Winter Solstice and all and he could not even sit with Asfaloth. That must have been such a terrible, terrible feeling. Usually, I've seen him disappear into the barn each and every year that night."
All of them were silent for a while and Legolas closed his eyes.
"Was that..............all?" it took some effort speaking the words out loud. But he had to know, he wanted an answer. "Was Asfaloth......was he all right when he came back? No injuries?"
Aragorn caught his friends very obvious dilemma and sat on the bed with the young Elf, taking his left hand into his own. He sighed. "You were very ill, Legolas, you still are. And no, if you indeed need to know: Asfaloth was unscathed. All the blood we found on his grey fur, well, it was your blood and yours alone, my friend. He seemed aghast, terrified and bewildered, but in one piece. Lord Glorfindel stayed with him for the rest of the day. He cleaned his fur, brushed him and put a rug over his back. He fed him and sang to him, he sat with him and he talked to him, told him that he did well in bringing you here. That is all we know, Legolas. We would really like to learn how and where the great warhorse found you and how you got on his back. We were indeed expecting you, but not exactly in that way."
Legolas' lips twitched and he managed a weak smile. "He saved my life. Asfaloth saved me that night, Aragorn. But, it might have been different as well, you know. Maybe I saved him? Who knows? My memories are.......incomplete. It hurts to think. And now, I believe I am going to....sleep. But Aragorn, tell me, my horse..." The young Elf felt his consciousness slipping away like a newborn butterfly leaving the empty cocoon that had once hosted it. He tried to hold on a little longer, he wanted to ask how his own horse fared, but did not succeed. When he fell silent and Lord Elrond's fingertips moved to search for the ellon's pulse, there was still an almost subtle smile on Legolas' bruised lips, where two deep cuts, inflicted by claws and teeth, told of how close it had been this time. Legolas' own horse, they had learned by now, had not survived. A search party, sent by Elrond after the ellon's unexpected arrival, had only found what the hungry wolves had left behind.
A comfortable silence filled the room, a silence almost palpable, comforting and welcome, pleasant and delightful. Neither Elves nor Man felt like adding anything to what had been said. They rejoiced in the quality of the moment.
A few buildings away, in the stables and barns of Rivendell, another peaceful and pleasant feeling filled the heart and feä of another. There was the golden Elf Lord Glorfindel, former Lord of the House of the Golden Flower, sitting cross-legged with his dear horse Asfaloth, the stallion's head on the shoulder of the reborn warrior, silver mane and brilliantly shining hair mingling. And they both did what they could do best: they were talking...whispering ...and listening.
Author's Notes: "And it is said, that in one of the days between Winter Solstice and The Holy Night itself, when the sun sets and the moon ascends, all your beloved animals should have a voice. A voice to tell you about the love and respect that binds them to you as a human. Do not betray that trust. And, if you may, step into the dark barn one of those cold winter nights, on your toe tips, and visit "your" horse, the one belonging to you with all his heart. Maybe, just maybe, if the two of you are close enough, it will tell you about all the times you already had together, about the good days and the bad days, about your mistakes in treating it and about what you did perfectly right. Be patient! You only have to..............listen.................."
My grandfather was the one introducing us children of our old farmer family to this tradition. I was four years old when he told me those words and had already witnessed the birth of "my" horse Ira, a German Halfblood and later a racehorse, one year before. Ira was born exactly in between Solstice and the Holy Night, looking exactly like Black Beauty — black, with a white star and one white hoof. Her date of birth is the 23rd of December. And as I am writing this, it IS her birthday and I had already visited her in the barn to hug her so tightly and cry into her mane. Ira is 27 years old today. We have shared our entire life, she is more to me than only a horse, she is "the one and only horse". Right now, she herself is not healthy, she hurt her tendons last summer and they have not healed until now. Even if you think it silly to include a horse to a prayer — please, feel silly, then, but do it. Do it for me. Thank you very much. Send me an email if you want to see a picture of her. Hopefully, her tendons will heal by spring.
And I want to tell you one thing about this tradition: my grandfather had already learned from his grandfather, that you just have to listen. I can agree. Even if most of this tale is like...fiction...I can tell, that there indeed "is" a voice. Sitting with Ira in her stall, her head on my shoulder, I can hear her thoughts, feel her mood. And right now, she keeps telling me: "Do not cry. My tendons will heal. Maybe slowly and not completely, but they will carry me again. And come spring when we horses will be going back to the fields, I will run like the wind again."
Thanks for reading. Ira is most important and precious to me.
Feedback is appreciated, as always