1. Equus, or The Revenge of Éomer
The creature struggled inside the enclosure. Jeers and laughter filled the air, accompanied by curses. It was clear that this one was not easy to break, much to the mirth of the onlookers.
"He's got spirit, that one."
"At last; one he cannot break!"
A yelp of pain was swiftly cut off.
A Man walked silently across the courtyard, coming over to watch the display. Unnoticed he came to a stop a little behind the group already gathered.
The creature had broken free once more, but could not escape the high fences of the enclosure. It stood panting by the wall as far away from the onlookers as possible. In the middle its would-be tamer lay in the dirt, winded for the moment. It paced a bit, and then seemed to make up its mind. It charged.
It was there, trying to kick and trample its tormentor, almost before the warnings sounded. But the other was quicker, rolling away and onto his feet. A whip cracked, and it was driven back.
"Get out of there before he kills you!"
The other spoke with dark determination. The spectators fell silent as he closed the distance, sensing that this time he would succeed, or break himself.
The Man stood silent as well, unnoticed. He watched the strong being struggling inside the enclosure. Its black hair was dark with sweat. He could see how it strove to break free, frightened and angry. His own face darkened in a frown. This was not right!
A burst of strength, and a body flew though the air. It fell on its back and lay still, completely winded. Dark hair blended with the dirt and stars danced before grey eyes. He could hardly hear the calls from the sideline.
His brother's voice penetrated the haze. It sounded urgent.
Three of the spectators were over the fence in no time. Elrohir tried to get up, but was still too stunned to move. That last fall had hurt more than his pride. His brother knelt down beside him while the two other, Aragorn and Faramir, went to keep off the horse that had thrown him.
"Are you well?" Elladan asked.
Elrohir only nodded, still trying to catch his breath.
"How is he?" Aragorn called, not daring to take his eyes off the stallion that walked back and forth, nickering and pawing the ground, just waiting for the moment to attack.
"Only winded I think," Elladan answered. "Nothing broken, except his pride." He grinned at his twin. "Now, mighty horseman; fancy another try?"
Elrohir grimaced and tried to rise, but fell back.
"Brother?" Elladan's voice was suddenly concerned.
Elrohir had no breath to answer with. Trying to breathe hurt. His twin was wrong; he definitely had broken more than this pride.
"Get out of here!"
Aragorn barely had time to shout out the warning before the horse attacked again. He and Faramir had tried to corner it, but it had turned its hindquarters towards them and kicked. The Men fell back to avoid the hooves and the stallion, his way now cleared, ran straight at the brothers. Elladan managed to roll out of the way, taking his twin with him. Ignoring any protest his brother might have made – if he'd had any breath left with which to voice any protests – he picked up Elrohir and carried him. The two Men hurriedly moved to cut off the horse again and keep it away. Elladan caught a glimpse of yellow-golden hair and nodded to the Man that opened the gate for him. Seeing that he had picked up a rope, Elladan called: "Get the rope to Aragorn. But stay away from the horse; he's a Balrog if ever I saw one!"
"You have never seen a Balrog," Elrohir stated calmly. As calmly as one that has just caught enough air to speak can sound. "Put me down; I am perfectly able to walk by myself."
"I am not satisfied of that, brother dear."
The Man paid no more attention to the brothers, all his attention focused on the stallion. Quickly he shut the gate behind him. Moving to the middle of the round enclosure he loosened the coil of rope in his hands.
"Leave now, my lords. The sons of Elrond are safe."
The horse chose that moment to repeat its former tactic and turned to lash out with its hind-quarters. The two Men ran out of the way again, but did not try to get out of the enclosure. He called again.
"Get out now! You are of not more help!"
The sharp voice startled Aragorn. He started to turn and almost got hit as the horse kicked once more. Faramir decided that enough was enough. Even if Aragorn wanted to get himself killed, Faramir did not. He quickly took hold of Aragorn and dragged his protesting king over the fence; out of reach of the flailing hooves.
"You would leave him alone in there with that demon?" Aragorn asked. He tried to shake off Faramir's grip but the other would not let go. "Are you..."
"He is one of the Rohirrim, my lord," Faramir answered calmly. "He knows the danger better then we. I am surprised that you would not trust him with a horse. Or did you not see who came to our aid?"
Aragorn paused at that. His mind had been on the horse and his foster-brother and he had not seen the Rider that had joined them. Now his breath stilled; he knew the Man.
"Normally I would," he smiled. "Normally I would, Lord Steward. But that is no normal horse." And turning to the Horselord he called:
"Do you require assistance, Éomer King?"
Éomer's answer was short. He needed his attention on the horse.
"Very well," Aragorn said. "But you should know that the horse was captured after the battle at the Black Gate. We don't know how or whom it served, but it fights like a demon. Not even the Elves can reach him."
"Then it is a good thing I am no Elf. Now be quiet and don't distract me!"
The sons of Elrond had been arguing about the extent of Elrohir's injuries, but the turn of events sidetracked Elladan and he forgot his insistence that this brother should see a healer right now. Elrohir was not about to remind him. They joined the two Men by the fence.
"Aragorn," Elladan said. "Do you intend to let him alone in there with that demon?"
At that Aragorn laughed. "As Lord Faramir reminded me; he is a Horselord. He knows the danger, and of Men there are few I would trust with a horse as I do him. Quiet now. But be prepared all the same," he added. "I may trust him, but I do not trust the horse."
"If you all were silent, my task would be easier," Éomer called to them. "He is insecure and frightened, that is all."
"He is a bully," Elrohir shot back; he found that his pride was hurt more than his body.
"That is what I said."
The clipped answer made it clear that Éomer would have no more interruptions. They fell silent, watching.
The Horselord held the coil of rope in one hand, leaving one end loose in the other. The horse had stopped fighting as soon as the others had left the enclosure and was now facing his new opponent, head high and snorting. The young king stood still for a moment, observing, then started to move towards the horse. He bowed his head, looking down and away from the horse, not approaching in a straight line, but rather moving in curves. He walked calmly, coming ever closer. The horse waited, seemingly unsure of what to do. But as Éomer closed in, it attacked once more, head stretched out to bite, ears flat against its head. Straight away Éomer reacted.
Up went his head, his eyes staring directly at the horse. He turned his chest towards the animal, his teeth bared. Up flew his hands, his fingers curled like claws and hissing like a cat he hurled the end of the rope towards the horse.
"That is not allowed!"
The stallion whirled around, running away from the danger. The spectators were nearly as shocked, but they stayed, intrigued.
"You want to run? Run then."
Éomer drove the horse around and around in the enclosure, never leaving the middle himself. His eyes bored into the horse, driving it on. Occasionally he spurred it on by shaking the rope, but mostly he just walked calmly in a small circle, keeping himself on a line slightly behind the horse's shoulder.
The horse ran; its head high, its eyes wild. Whenever it made any sign of slowing down, its opponent drove it on.
After a while curiosity got the better of Aragorn.
"What are you doing, Horsemaster?" he called. "Do you think you can tire him?"
"No," the answer came, "he is too strong-willed for that. I merely await his request."
"His request for what?"
A truce, Elrohir thought. That demon of a horse will never stop fighting, let alone ask for a truce. Breathing still hurt a bit too much for speech though and he held his peace.
The horse had completed several rounds. Though running as hard as before, its eyes had calmed somewhat and after a couple of rounds more, the head began to drop. Éomer stilled his movements, letting his arms fall to his side and his eyes trail from the horse's head to the hindquarters. The horse slowed its pace and Éomer smiled, but then its head shot up. Immediately the Horselord shifted his gaze again, looking straight into the horse's eye. It quickened its pace, running as fast as it could once more. Soon the head lowered once more and he let it slow down. Trotting slowly now, its nose trailed the ground while it chewed and licked its lips.
Quickly the young king stepped out of his circle, moving ahead of the horse as if to cut it off. Only two steps were needed for him to get the desired effect; the horse turned and began to run the other way. It picked up speed and broke into a canter; it did not have the space to gallop. The process repeated itself, but it seemed to Aragorn that it took less time before Éomer let the horse slow down. In the end its nose was trailing the ground, almost like a hound hot on the scent. It was licking its lips and chewing again.
Éomer stopped. He turned his back to the horse, his head bowed and face turned away. His arms hung relaxed by his sides and he had bent one foot, taking all his weight on the other.
The horse stopped.
It looked at the Man standing in the middle. The Man did not move. It took a hesitant step towards him. He stood still. It took another.
The Man did not move.
Éomer had to fight the urge to look at what was happening behind him, straining his senses to see if he could feel movement. He forced his body to relax, but could not relax the tension knotting his stomach. Breathe he told himself. Breathe and wait. You know these moments. He did. They were always the same.
He felt hot breath at the nape of his neck. Don't turn. Don't turn yet. Some of the inward tension left, though little difference was seen outward. The horse snorted softly. He smiled. It saw. They always did.
He risked a glance out of the corner of his eye. The horse lifted its head and he quickly withdrew it. The horse relaxed again and stayed. Éomer felt it, and he started to slowly move around the enclosure, head turned away. The horse followed him around until they again stood in the middle. Head still down, the Man turned slowly, his movements soft and even.
The horse stayed.
Smiling, the young king stretched out a hand and gently touched its neck, low on the withers. He gently stroked the neck, working his way upward until it allowed him to touch the head.
"Freod, cniht. Þæt wes ne ?geslic, nic? God Cniht."
The horse closed its eyes, evidently enjoying the soft caresses. Keeping his movements steady and smooth the Horselord began to straighten out the harness. The reins, that luckily had been entangled in the saddle-harness and not fallen down for the horse to step on, were gently loosened. Softly he undid the chinstrap and the nose-rein, lifted the reins to the poll and removed the bridle. The horse shook its head and yawned. The Man laughed softly.
"Þæt ys riht, freond min. Ðu dest na-wiht, riht? Ha! Leásettan ðu, búte næing geliefan ðu."
He removed the saddle, making sure that no pieces were loose and could by mistake hit the horse. Then he laid all the tack on the ground. The horse had not moved the whole time. Keeping his attention on the horse, he called softly to those standing outside the fence.
"Could one of you fetch me a halter and lead-rope, please? I think he should have the rest of the day off now."
He waited for a moment, but still only silence. Slowly he turned. For once the sons of Elrond looked more surprised than the Men.
"How?" Elrohir asked.
Éomer smiled. "I talked to him."
"So did I. At first."
"Perhaps you used to wrong language."
"Are you telling me that it understands Rohirric but not Elvish? I do not believe that!"
"I did not speak my own language," the Horselord said. "I spoke his."
Freod, cniht. Þæt wes ne ?geslic, nic? God Cniht. Peace, boy. That was not too bad, was it? Good Boy.
Þæt ys riht, freond min. Ðu dest na-wiht, riht? Ha! Leásettan ðu, búte næing geliefan ðu. That is right, my friend. You don't care a bit, do you? Ha! You can pretend, but none believes you.
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.