The Rising of the Sun
It was just past dawn on a lovely morning in late spring. The Lord of Imladris stepped out of the courtyard and took the familiar path to the stables as was his wont. He had ever been an early riser, revelling in the freshness of the new morning. He was pleasantly surprised to see his new charge sitting on the paddock fence, watching the mares frolic with the foals. A few had come up to the lad, nuzzling him playfully. He smiled to himself and found that he liked this elfling already. If the horses accepted him so readily, he could trust himself to do the same.
Only yesterday had the child arrived from the Greenwood, as part of a long overdue attempt at reconciliation between the two Elven realms, long sundered over misunderstandings and tragedy that had occurred an age ago. Elrond was to foster the youngest son of Thranduil for a few turns of the sun, in hopes that an alliance might once again bind the elves as the shadow of Darkness grew ever longer over the free lands of Middle Earth.
More than anything, Elrond wanted peace with Thranduil, who had been a dear friend once, long ago. As he gazed upon Thranduil's youngest son, his heart clenched as he remembered sorrows long left undisturbed, yet ever present in the depths of his memory. Scenes from that dreadful battle, where he had lost his mentor and king played themselves over in his mind's eye. The horrors of war had taken their toll on all sides, and Thranduil too had suffered greatly. They had parted on ill terms, with the Woodland elves blaming their Noldor kin for the loss of their king.
Centuries had gone by and though the passing of Time is but a fleeting thing to the elves, Elrond felt ever keenly the loss of those centuries spent in unspoken hostility. Greenleaf, this young one was called. Fitting indeed, for his arrival in the Valley might yet herald the coming of spring for the relationship between the two realms.
He made his steps a little heavier out of courtesy and watched as the golden youth turned to face him and leapt down gracefully from the fence.
"Good morning, my lord. I hope I haven't overstepped the boundaries of your hospitality by coming here. The dawn was so beautiful...I couldn't stay abed a moment longer."
Sapphire eyes gazed up at him in a mixture of awe and youthful anxiety. Elrond chuckled softly.
"My sentiments exactly, penneth. Tell me though, how long have you been here?"
"A few hours."
"My...you certainly rise with the larks."
He was rewarded with a shy smile. Elrond had had little opportunity the previous day to converse with the young elf, but had found him pleasant and unassuming the few times that he did. He had a cheerful, captivating luminosity about him, which was rather the opposite of his sire, who was a proud, regal character and every inch the King that he was. Elrond sensed that the boy took after his mother, both in charming character and fair countenance.
"Your horses are magnificent, my lord. Seldom have I seen animals so well cared for."
"Why thank you. They are my pride and joy."
They spoke a little about horses and other things as they walked around the paddocks leisurely. The Lord of Imladris found himself enchanted by the boy and was thoroughly enjoying the company. The more they spoke, the more the boy relaxed around him and he felt a sense of accomplishment for that. It had been rather long since he felt so enthused by mere conversation with one he considered little more than a child. But the young elf had a passion for learning, for life and Elrond found it rather infectious. Seeing life through young eyes invigorated him with a thrill he relished and his heart softened with simple joy he had not known since his wife had passed to the West.
Not quite a child, but far from grown, Elrond could foresee great things in this princeling's future. Already, his reputation as an archer preceeded him, despite the woeful lack of communication between the two realms. Elladan and Elrohir were definitely looking forward to challenging this young upstart when they returned from their latest orc raid.
Yes, he felt he could grow to like this son of Thranduil very much. The boy carried an innocence about him, yet was mature beyond his years and had a great wit. And he loved horses! Elrond happily noted.
When the decision over fosterage had been announced, Elrond had resolved to try his best to make the young elf feel at home, awkward though the situation may have been. Seeing it from the younger elf's point of view, being told one was to be sent to live with strangers for an undetermined period of time would have been distressing at the very least. Strangers who had been at odds with one's father for far longer than one could remember at that. Yet the boy had made the effort to be pleasant and polite, enthusiastically touring the valley with Glorfindel, tired though he may have been from a long journey over the Hithaeglir. His seneschal had nothing but glowing praise for the young elf too. This was a good start if nothing else.
On the spur of the moment, he turned to the youth standing by his side.
"Come, there is something I would like to show you."
Elrond led the younger elf into the stables.
"We shall be taking a little ride. This surprise lies beyond a reasonable walking distance... That is, if we intend to be punctual for breakfast." They exchanged grins.
They walked their mounts through the stable courtyard and cantered across the valley to an outlying stable where there were more fields of horses grazing the dew-laden grass. Towards the end of a row of large paddocks, there stood a magnificent black stallion. Its sleek, glistening coat shone in the early light, its proud head held high. Powerful muscles rippled as the creature pranced around the paddock. The young elf looked on in wonder.
"Lovely isn't he."
The boy nodded, his wide eyes not leaving the beautiful creature.
"He is also untameable and he heeds no one, not even with Elvish persuasion," sighed Elrond.
"I got him from a trader some months past. Wild Rohirrim stock apparently. They did try to warn me but I just had to have him...he won't let any near him, much less tolerate a rider. I suppose I begin to accept that he will never be ridden. Glorfindel tells me to sell him but I can't bear the thought, useless though he be for anything other than to gaze upon like a painting on the wall."
"But what a painting, my lord!"
Elrond gave a loud, throaty laugh. "Aye, penneth. What a painting indeed."
"Have you named him?"
"They call him Alagos, a Storm of Wind. It is fitting, for one so tempestuous."
"T'is a pity you have given up on him already, my lord."
"So you think he is worth another shot then?"
"Definitely, my lord."
"Ahh. But we have tried everything. Bribes, distractions, every trick known to us and we are hardly lacking in experience."
"Might I try? "
"What makes you certain you will succeed where many others have failed?"
"He will listen if the right words are said."
Elrond raised an eyebrow at the younger elf's soft words, spoken with the blessed surety of youth. That eyebrow had chastised countless misbehaving elflings, silenced elf lords and ended innumerable discussions but the boy merely ducked his head and grinned.
Elrond whispered a quiet prayer to the Valar.
"Are you going to ask that wild beast if you can ride him? Your father will have my head on a platter should anything happen to you." ...*not to mention the tattered remains of a precarious alliance*...
"Adar has never been able to sway my decisions. But he knows I will not do anything I am incapable of. I will be careful, I promise."
Elrond doubled the fervency of his prayers as the boy stepped into the fenced paddock, and walked along the side of the field. He knew he really should stop the child from going any further. But something he could not quite grasp held him back, so enthralled by the child's charm and daring, he stood rooted to the spot, waiting for a miracle.
The horse turned and raised its head to observe the intruder. Horse and boy regarded each other for a few moments. The boy stepped closer to the stallion. Surprisingly, the animal did not shy away as he had done with all the others who had entered his paddock. The boy's bright eyes never left the horses' wary ones. Slowly they circled each other, as if in silent conversation.
The Lord of Imladris looked on in wonder as the boy raised an upturned, open palm to the wild stallion...and the animal actually approached the youth, sniffing the proffered hand and standing calmly before him. The boy then proceeded to stroke the horse affectionately, increasing the contact between the two. By this point, the other grooms had taken notice and there was a small audience gathering around the paddock as word spread of one who had managed to stay in the Ring of Fire without getting burned...yet.
The boy stepped even closer to the horse and began whispering to it, the horse seemed to look at the boy as if in contemplation of a question before making a short whinny. Then to their wonder and amazement, the boy vaulted himself atop the stallion's broad back and began trotting round the paddock, guiding the stallion with his knees alone. All that was heard were the quiet whispers of reassurance and soft petting on the long graceful neck.
When Legolas turned to look at him, a brilliant smile on his face, Elrond could not help but return the gesture. The lad signalled for the gate to be opened and reluctantly, Elrond bade one of the grooms to do it.
"But..." the poor groom began.
"That is an order, Lómir!"
They watched entranced as the boy cantered Alagos out the paddock and broke into a fierce gallop with a shout of triumph. The other horses in the field joined them shortly after. It was a sight to behold, the herd racing across the field, weaving through the apple trees, led by a slender youth riding bareback atop the mighty black stallion.
Finally the boy wheeled the stallion round and approached the small crowd gathered by the paddock fence. Dismounting, he gave the stallion an affectionate hug and turned to flash Elrond a wide grin. He blushed modestly at the cheers and looks of admiration from the grooms. He led Alagos back into his paddock and bid the horse farewell. To the onlookers, the horse seemed almost dejected at his departure.
Silently, the lord and the boy gained their mounts and made to ride back to the house.
"How did you do it?"
"I asked...He answered."
A moment of silence passed between them.
"T'is a rare gift you have, Legolas."
The boy smiled with the radiance of the rising sun. Elrond had this nagging feeling that he had just lost his prize stallion to a princeling barely past his first century. He smiled inwardly at the thought. Glorfindel would never let him hear the end of it, he was quite sure of that! Elrond shook his head in contemplation of his loss but felt a great weight lift off his shoulders. Perhaps there was hope for this alliance after all.
"Well that certainly was something. Come now, lad, we'll be late for breakfast if we don't get a move on. Race you back to the house!"
With a shout of gleeful pleasure, elf lord and elfling spurred their steeds into action, riding towards the sun.