Dedicated to Brynhildn – who might very possibly love ponies just as much as I do, if not more.
And, also dedicated to Timothegar who RP’d with me about how our horses complain about their riders on kinchat.
Story by Doviel
Mithien felt her mistress, finally, light off her back and hug her around the neck. ‘I’ll be back for you soon, sweetie!’
Take your time! Mithien thought to herself as she watched her mistress, Doviel, walk into the Pony to waste another evening dancing and playing music. She’d probably be gone half the night or longer, leaving Mithien, once again, by herself in Bree. ‘Fatass elf!’ She whinnied to herself with a toss of her mane.
The stable-hand, who did not speak equine, brought the beautiful light grey filly fresh hay and refilled the common troug shared between several of the open stable stalls. The horses were tied, so they did not wander too far or run from being startled by some foolish musician blowing a pibgorn or squeezing sour notes out of bagpipes, but they were allowed a good measure of freedom and movement in their stable area.
Duststorm looked over the latest arrival and appraised the filly with a snort in her general direction. Not in season, he noticed glumly. An elf’s mare, he had observed and probably as prude as her mistress. All he knew about elves is that they did not seem to do anything except stand around being aloof. Duststorm noticed something else, too. Upon the mare’s parti-colored coup, dyed in green hues, there was an assortment of instruments which the stable-hand had not untied from her back yet.
‘Nice bagpipes!’ The bored stallion taunted the little mare. He was at least 2 hands higher than her, and as light war-steed was not ‘on the market,’ he saw no reason to hold his tongue.
She heard the other horses laughing at her in their quiet way as she stepped back shyly under the covered part of her stall and trod on the hard, compacted dirt floor for a few paces. But, there was no escaping it. She might be stabled here for a while, so she decided to face it down.
Mithien gathered her courage, stepped forward a few steps, and clomped a hoof on the cobblestones as she looked for which horse was teasing her this time. Her mistress always dressed her up in silly outfits and it was a daily torment to be left around new horses. She noticed a tall, white stallion looking her over. Great, she thought, another heavy war-steed. Another great hero! She rolled her eyes, and a bully of a stallion, to boot. Fabulous! She stared him down while the stable-hand finally got around to divesting her of her ‘outfit’ and brushed down her coat.
Suddenly, a gentle nicker drew her attention away as a dappled grey gelding called out to Mithien, ‘Mithy! Is that you? It’s me! Nutmeg!’
Mithien winced, Oh Nutmeg, not in public! I can’t let the other war-steeds know my best friend is a gelding, town horse! She felt she was already suffering enough embarrassment and did not need this, too.
Duststorm puffed up his oversized, barrel chest and snorted loudly with an aggressive shake of his head, and the little grey male shied back. Clearly, the alpha male status had just been established. Duststorm was the biggest and the toughest; there was no contest.
Mithien was not amused, so she called out brightly to Nutmeg, just to spite the pompous stallion, with a little whinny acknowledging him in a friendly way. Nutmeg stepped forward a little more in his stall. ‘Did you have any adventures with mistress, Doviel, Mithy? Did she take you somewhere far?!’ Nutmeg always wanted to hear about adventures.
Mithien shook her head, ‘Mithien, if you please, Nutmeg. You wouldn’t like it if I called you Nutty now, would you?’
Nutmeg pawed the ground with a hoof and exhaled loudly, if he were human, it would have been a chuckle. ‘Aw Mithy, you can call me anything you want, as long as you call me!’
Mithien glared at him. He did not have a snowball’s chance in Mordor with her and they both knew it, but Mithien never flaunted his gelding status in his face. He was her best friend, after all. So, Mithien’s glare softened and she nickered at him playfully. He tossed his mane in response and posed proudly, like a fine steed. Mithien delicately lifted an apple from a pile near her and rolled it towards Nutmeg with her nose, and it wobbly-rolled across the cobblestones towards Nutmeg. He picked it up with his teeth and munched happily.
Duststorm was a little put off. Didn’t that filly know that colt was fixed? He’d already seen him turn about and there wasn’t anything there that she’d need. Not when there was a fine war-steed like him around! *snort* Why was she paying attention to that, that, that town horse!
She heard the clomping of heavy, shod hooves on the cobblestones and heard the somewhat aggressive snort and looked back over at the heavy war-steed. She turned to look at him. ‘What?’ she asked.
Duststorm hesitated for a moment, unsure if he even had to explain his greatness to this gelding and the filly. But, his pride got the better of him and he tossed his mane haughtily and said, ‘That gelding,’ and he drew the word out rudely, ‘is unworthy of you. You should have a mighty companion.’
‘Like who?’ Mithien asked.
‘Like me.’ Duststorm responded boldly. ‘I am, clearly, bigger, faster, and stronger than that dappled grey will ever be.’ He tossed his head with a clear indication across the stable yard towards where Nutmeg was tied. Duststorm wondered how many days it would be before the filly was in season again. It was spring time, after all, and it would be foolish not to establish a possible mating opportunity when the occasion presented itself. The filly would be stabled in Bree again, and so would he as all roads led to Bree. She should recognize a prime candidate when she saw one, he thought to himself.
Mithien neighed and this time there was some anger in her voice, ‘I am Mithien, sired by the noble Hithfaerion, and my dam claims proud lineage from the mare of Elfhild from the free fields of Rohan! I do not consort with common stock!’
Duststorm was deeply insulted, ‘I am not common stock! My lineage can be traced back ten generations in the annals of the horse-lords. You could not find a better sire!’ He bragged.
Mithien and Nutmeg both shared a look which said, can you believe this guy? before Mithien inclined her head towards the stallion respectfully and replied, ‘Well, it looks like you win.’ Nutmeg noted the sarcasm that escaped the heavy war-steed. As Duststorm proudly pranced a step or two, he was interrupted.
‘At losing!’ Nutmeg snickered.
Duststorm was immediately deflated and his ears turned back for a moment. Both grey horses began to dance in their stalls a little, nickering with amusement. It felt good to not be the butt of the stable yard jokes for once, and she was enjoying herself. But, it was at that time that Doviel came out of the inn and saw her two horses acting up.
‘Now, now, settle down. What are you two up to, hmmm?’ She did not understand equine fluently but as an wood-elf, who was accustomed to many of the languages of animals, she had a working knowledge and she knew Nutmeg and Mithien were amused about something. She walked up and patted Nutmeg on the neck. ‘Who is my pretty boy?’ She asked in her sing-song voice.
Nutmeg stood tall and proud at once as he quivered with excitement that his mistress was petting and praising him in front of all the other horses. It was all he could do to keep from nuzzling her hair with his nose, but he maintained his composure and snorted softly. Which, in equine meant, ‘I am!’
‘Yes, you are!’ Doviel smiled and gave him another friendly pat. ‘Do you want to go for a nice walk?’
Walk! he thought. I want to run! I want to run through the hills of Ered Luin and jump off the embankments or race through the pathways of Caras Galadhon! He loved his Elven mistress and how beautiful and green the Elven lands were. His memories of his grim days in Angmar were fading from his memory like a bad dream is shaken off after morning tea.
She spoke softly to him as she untied him from the stable stall, and with no bridle or saddle, as Elves did not ever really need either, she leapt lightly up onto his back. Nutmeg, with his head high and his tail up, pranced proudly through the streets of Bree as Doviel rode her favorite gelding back to Falathlorn.
Mithien was not amused. Not only was she left in the Bree stables, again, until her mistress rode back to the town of Men on rented post horses and came to pick her up, but, it meant she’d have to carry all of her own gear, all of her mistress’s instruments and clothes, and Nutmeg’s tack as well. She muttered to herself again while anticipating the heavy load, ‘fatass elf!’ She was bred for agile speed; she was no pack-mule and resented any burden that slowed her quick pace.
She heard Duststorm snort as he said to her, ‘that slight minstrel is no burden, you silly filly.’ He chewed through a carrot quickly and then continued, ‘try carrying a full grown man. A guardian in full, heavy armor and all of his weapons! And,’ he continued, ‘a master who stops every twenty meters to mine ore nodes. So, not only do I carry my master, his armor, and his assortment of weapons, I have to carry sacks full of rocks!’
Mithien contemplated her usual load of instruments, scholar papers, and clothing. Her mistress usually carried several outfits with her, neatly folded into saddlebags. And there were, of course, the fancy outfits she, herself, had to wear. Still, she was suddenly grateful. It may be embarrassing to be a minstrel’s fancy horse sometimes, but at least her mistress wasn’t a heavily armored human male burdening her with sacks of rocks plus his own gear. She nodded her head towards Duststorm and commiserated with him. Perhaps, she thought, he was not completely awful.
She chewed aimlessly on a bit of hay from the bin in her stall because what else could she do? She might as well eat well and rest while she waited for her mistress’ call. By this time, Duststorm and the other horses had left her alone. Most of them were used to the busy rotation of the Bree stables, as new horses came and went every several minutes, but it was not uncommon for horses to be left with the attendants for a day or two.
Then two new horses arrived at the stable.
One was a flea-bitten old horse, with a coat that might once have been a rich chestnut, but his mane was stringy and tangled and his tail was half lopped off. He looked like he had been ridden hard and put away wet on more than one occasion. His master, a growling southerner, grunted some orders to a stable-hand and wandered into the tavern for a yard of ale. No one asked the horse his name, and the other horses shied away from looking at him to spare him the indignity of their stares. They all knew that he could have been any one of them, under the auspices of an unkind master.
But, the other horse was a tall, black mare with a luxurious ebony hide, a long flowing tail, and a mane styled in flawless hunter’s braids. Duststorm perked up at once, as he caught her scent, raising his head, and standing proudly at his full height before he then inclined his head in a bow of acknowledgement towards the beautiful mare. Midnight Sky took one look at the showy war-stallion and tossed her head derisively. ‘Never going to happen!’ She whinnied and then settled down as the grooms began to brush her.
Mithien, the young filly, tapped a front hoof on the cobblestones in amusement and the other horses laughed in the way horses do.