Dusk was approaching, and the heavy rain hadn’t lessened all day. Haldir huddled under the eaves of the cabin, trying to ignore the steady dribble from a leak in the roof onto his left shoulder and the stares of the Men who were standing guard, and wished he were somewhere else. Somewhere warm, dry and comfortable with a nice dinner and a decent goblet of wine.
It didn’t look like he would get any of that in the foreseeable future, though. By the void, why did he have to volunteer for this miserable task? It had sounded much more exciting when Lord Celeborn had asked him to serve as his bodyguard for a meeting with the new king of Men in the south. He hadn’t travelled beyond the Limlight for centuries and was eager to see the vast plains of Calenardhon again, and the famous horses of the men.
Reality looked much different. It had started to rain at the very moment they left the forest, and the rain hadn’t left off during the whole long ride to this miserable settlement at the northernmost border of this new country, where Lord Celeborn meant to meet Eorl of the Éothéod. Which he did, as soon as they arrived, while Haldir hadn’t even been asked inside, just been pointed towards his current place. Instead of refreshments or any offer of comfort, all he had received all day had been more or less curious stares, some of them bordering on the indecent. Hadn’t they ever seen an elf before? Probably not, he thought, and neither a male with a beardless face or well-developed legs, if he went by where their stares came to rest.
With a sigh, he straightened, shrugging deeper under his hood. No matter his lord’s plans for good neighbourly relations, Haldir didn’t intend to change anyone's perception of elven hardiness and endurance, or aloofness, for that matter, and would never let on how tired, cold or hungry he was.
A soft snort caught his attention. Someone had opened a stable door, and warm light came out from a building much larger and better built than the cabin which obviously was the main lodging of the settlement. Ignoring the looks and questions from the guards - he didn’t understand them anyway, which they knew very well after a day of futile attempts at conversation without a common language - he followed the inviting light.
Inside, quiet activity indicated feeding time, and he noted with pleasure that their own steeds were already fed and well-looked after. Nobody paid him any heed, and he made his way down the aisle, taking in the equine beauties in every stall. He had wanted to see their horses, and horses he did see!
One attracted him particularly, a white stallion, a bit smaller than the others.
“Hello there, proud one,” he said, offering his hand to the stallion’s nose. “You are quite a beauty and you know it, don’t you? Such strong legs, such sleek muscles. I've no doubt you’ll run like the wind.”
Whispering endearments and nonsense in the firm belief that nobody would understand him anyway, he leaned closer to the white horse, caressing the soft nostrils and then letting his hand wander tenderly up the nose and to the mane. He found that particularly itchy spot and scratched it dutifully, earning him a contented snort and puffs in his left ear.
“You have a good eye for horses,” a voice said in broken Sindarin. It took all of Haldir’s self-restraint to not spin around and spook his new friend. Instead, he turned slowly, meeting the eyes of a young man with hair as blond as his own. Haldir inclined his head.
“Your horses are famous, and I was curious to see them for myself,” he said.
The other nodded. “And you chose the noblest among them to befriend.” A smile warmed the bearded face. “Felaróf allows the touch of very few people, and only my father may ride him.”
“Felaróf… then this is the famous progenitor of your - your - how do you call them?”
“Mearas, and yes, he is. But come now, Haldir, our lords have finished their council. It is time to eat and drink!”
The man clapped his arm on Haldir’s shoulder, steering him back towards the cabin.
Haldir heard loud voices as well as laughter, and when they stopped inside, an enticing aroma made his mouth water.
These men weren’t so bad after all, he thought a bit later, sitting with warm feet and filled stomach between his lord and the king’s son. He raised his tankard to be filled again.