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8
12 April, Late Morning


The Vales of Anduin, Near the Mirkwood Narrows
Late Morning of 12 April


Felaróf, Father of Horses

Two strangers of my kindred approach!

From past the southern edge of land and sky, beyond my Rider's sight, they gallop towards us.

Their form is superb: lithe of limb, strong of haunch, and sure of foot. So smooth and swift is their gait that their sires must have danced attendance with mine in the trail of Nahar. They carry their Riders proudly and freely.

But what manner of Riders are these, with midnight manes and twilight overskins streaming in the wind? They must be lords of great honour for such noble stallions to willingly bear them.

My Rider tenses.


Elladan

The young lord raises his hand, and the thunder of hoofs fades. We slow our mounts to a walk, showing weaponless hands as we near. He and his second warily ride forwards.

"Hail and well met! We are Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond of Rivendell. We convey greetings from the Lord and Lady of Lórien."

He blinks. "The Sorceress of Dwimordene?" he scoffs. "She is but a children's tale!" His second looks askance at him.

Stunned, I glare; Elrohir's voice turns icy. "She is our grandmother."

His face drains of color as he grasps the depth of his insult.


Eorl, Lord of the Éothéod

"Forgive me, my words were rash!" Each nods, though curtly.

"I am Eorl, lord of these Riders; Éomund here is chief captain. What brings you to these empty vales?"

"We carry tidings of Gondor's war — and offer to join weapons with yours."

"That is... unexpected."

"Elves are said to be fell-handed, Eorl," Éomund mutters in my ear. "For the men's sake, look past your mistrust! 'Twould be folly to spurn such aid."

They glance at one another, feral grins matching. "Indeed," one says. "We have some skill with blade and bow."

The hairs on the back of my neck prickle.


Elrohir, that evening

As we groom our horses, Éomund approaches.

"I hope you will not hold Eorl's tart tongue against him. He is often hasty with words, but great-hearted in deed. His father, Léod, was more horse master than diplomat."

I smile. "Men of the North have ever spoken forthrightly, Captain. Yet we know them to be fierce with foes and welcoming to friends.

Elladan adds, "We bear him no grudge from this morning."

Looking relieved, the captain runs a practiced eye over Suldal and Narothal.

"Your stallions are splendid, more fine-boned than ours but swift as war-hawks. Tell me of their bloodlines...."

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