The Rider sat by the fire, a tankard between his feet and a long stick in his hand. He held the stick in the hottest part of the flames for a moment, then pulled it out and waved it in small circles, tracing glowing red shapes in the dark and trailing smoke into the night. She didn't love him.
He admitted to himself that he had probably known that before. The very endearments she had always whispered seemed now, under cold reflection, to be indicative of how little she truly knew about him. She admired him for his rank, his reputation, and his family, and knew precious little else about him.
But it was only fair. He most admired her for her face, her bosom, and her waist, probably in that order. True love it was not, he had to admit. He could marry her. He was old enough to marry now. And it would be a grand occasion. He would certainly get a promotion soon, and come into his inheritance. A wife would round things out nicely.
She had spent the entire evening saying the most absurdly stupid things. She had little wit and less understanding, with little common sense besides. He had to admit that she had always said things like that, but he had simply never noticed what a fool she sounded. While he was admitting things to himself, he had better admit that he was more interested in finding out more about what was between her legs than what was between her ears. She wouldn't make much of a wife, and she wasn't much interested in being anything else. He was too honorable anyway.
No, if he married her he'd soon regret it. She was not the woman for him. Marriage was an endurance race, and the enduring things he remembered from his father and mother seemed to have little to do with rank and face, and much to do with conversation and agreeability. As the contents of the tankard spread from his belly through his veins, he ruminated glumly on the thought that there was little to recommend her conversation or agreeability once he discounted the agreeability imparted by the low necklines of her dresses. That wouldn't do much good in the long run: just as the novelty would wear off his dashing reputation and she'd most likely find him irritatingly reckless, so would hher face get wrinkled and her bosom sag and her waist thicken. He shuddered to think what he'd think of her then.
No. He sighed. So much for first love. Looked like he was lonesome again.
Feet shuffled softly, muffled in the dirt behind him, and their owner sighed. The Rider sighed in return, not turning his eyes from contemplation of the sinking flames. In a moment he felt a tap on his back, a gentle push.
He turned, and reached up to thump his companion. "I know what you want," he laughed, and dumped what remained of the contents of his tankard into the bucket that stood beside him. His companion grunted, and moved forward to put his nose into the bucket.
"Shameless beggar," the Rider said, listening to the wet noises as the horse licked the last of the beer out of the bottom of the bucket. The horse raised his head and snuffled at the Rider's face, wiggling his lips and leaving a trail of drool across his chest.
"Thanks," the Rider said, rubbing his face with his hand.
The horse lowered his head and rubbed his ear against the Rider's shoulder, knocking him backward. He laughed and scrambled to his feet, shoving the horse's neck playfully. Unperturbed, the animal snorted and stepped back a pace.
The Rider sighed and fondly scratched the horse's ears. "Well," he said, "I've got you." It was as much as he'd ever had, and as the horse sneezed beery snot on his legs, he reflected that it was plenty.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.