Chapter one: Things so precious
She was staring out into nothing, her stare blank and empty and if anyone had seen her they would have been shocked by her pained expression. But there was nobody in her chambers, only her husband slept peacefully by her side and she let her hand slide slowly through his long silky locks. She loved him so much, and she loved their people and their city too, with the fierce protectiveness of a she-wolf. She had protected their realm for millennia and yet it would come to an end, she saw that now. Nothing lasts forever and it would all be lost, everything would perish and become mere memories. She gasped and clutched her sheets in a desperate grip, almost in denial. She saw it all, how the oath would ruin it all, how her husband’s pride would bring great grief. It was as if she heard others laugh, taunt her for having chosen to bond with a mere elf, she was a maia, she was so much more than these first born children of the one.
She had made her choice, to love and learn and with that she had also chosen the bitter agony of possible separation and loss. She had always known it would end, but the end had always been so far away, like a ghost of a dream once dreamt. Now she wasn’t so sure anymore, it was creeping nearer all the time and she could not stop it. Not without losing it all in an even worse manner, she had seen so many possible outcomes and they all were horrible, the sons of Fëanor were relentless and ruthless and they would never give up, neither would Morgoth. So what could be done to ensure that their legacy lasted? That their names lived on?
She closed her eyes, her breath slow and steady even after such a powerful vision and she forced herself to think. She had seen things she knew had to happen, but right now some things just didn’t make sense. She smiled, a wry little grin, yes, she had seen them, and seen them bring at least some of the glory that was their realm with them to safety. Her husband would be very pleased if he knew that his relative would survive and live on. It was the one possible future which did bring at least a sliver of hope, the only one she could accept.
But he was as block headed and stubborn as his uncle, and way too chivalrous. She had to do something about it, speed things up. It would benefit them all in the end and she took a deep breath and made a decision. Yes, she knew what to do. Nothing is sweeter than the things you thought were lost to you and it would tell both of them the truth. If it didn’t show those two silly elves where they did belong and with whom then nothing would.
She got out of the bed silently, walked over to her dresser and stared at the mirror on top of it. She hadn’t changed at all on the outside but these elves had taught her so much about life and feelings and she was forever grateful. Perhaps it was time to do something active to ensure that at least some got away, yes! It would be dangerous for sure but he was strong, he would survive and perhaps learn a little humbleness too. It wouldn’t hurt for sure, the young warrior was way too haughty. A little cold bath wouldn’t be bad, it would shake him into reality and awaken him to the truth about his feelings regarding that lovely noldorin elleth. He tried to deny his interest but to a maia such things are impossible to hide. She closed her eyes for a second, a glow seemed to cover her for a few seconds and then it was done, her eyes glittered. This could be interesting indeed, yes, very interesting! This would be the ultimate test of his strength and devotion, of his will to do what was right.
He was tired, and he was angry with himself as he rode slowly along the familiar path. He had agreed upon taking some young soldiers to the borders of the realm and he had in reality done something stupid. They had to take a detour because of swollen rivers and it had turned out to be a very long journey and the soldiers had barely come of age and were inexperienced and not quite ready for this. Some shouldn’t have left their mother’s skirts yet, they were not ready to serve at all. He had been on his way for over a week, barely any sleep, just field rations to eat and way too much to do. But now he was heading back to the caves and the normally luxurious life he preferred.
He was humming softly as he rode, eyes half closed and his hands holding the reins in a gentle manner, he was looking forward to a night in a good bed and some decent food and wine, ah wine. He would get royally drunk while Mablung that poor soul was still out there trying to teach those morons what they needed to know to stay alive. Well, better Mablung than himself, that was for sure. The marchwarden had patience, Celeborn had owned little of that lately. Some said his mood had been relatively bad of late and they were right too, he was grumpy and impatient and his normal charm was sorely missed by many. He could deny it to the end of the world but a certain golden haired noldorin elleth was the cause for it, he had never felt thus about a female before and yet he didn’t dare to approach her, not the way he wanted to. Oh he was polite and nice and showered her with attention but he couldn’t tell her the truth, that he in fact was hopelessly in love with her and convinced that she was his one, that she would make him complete. And she was a noldo, that was rather bad. Thingol had almost banished her and everybody else of that tribe from the realm when he heard the truth of the exodus from Valinor and only his friendship with her grandfather had prevented Celeborn from losing her completely. He just had to convince his uncle and everyone else of her worthiness.
He sighed and let the mare he rode dictate the speed, the mare was his favorite and a very brave and fast horse he was fond of. She would find her way back home easily and he allowed himself to doze off. He could sleep in the saddle just as easily as any other warrior and there were no dangers here, he was inside of the girdle and safe. The mare trotted on, she knew her way and knew that the stable waited for her with fresh hay and oats. Rochiril knew her master was tired and she was a very smart animal who knew he wanted to get back home as fast as possible so she didn’t stop to eat or anything. She knew her master hadn’t managed to sleep for days due to the noise from those young elves, some had been snoring and others had been complaining about almost everything and to top it all off there had been some nasty thunderstorms. The summer heat was intense now and it had been bone dry for weeks but that had changed when the group left the caves, several showers of hot summer rain had drenched everything and everyone and even a horse can complain about the weather.
Celeborn suddenly awoke from a pleasant dream about a time when he had watched Artanis dance with some other maidens, Rochiril had stopped. He opened his eyes and blinked, what was this? She was usually very obedient and he gasped when he saw the cause of the abrupt stop, the air in front of them seemed to shimmer, it looked like the surface of a pond and he just had time to wonder what this was before the glittering surface sort of surged forth. He yelped and Rochiril neighed and he closed his eyes on sheer impulse and reached for his blades. There was a feeling of falling and then a burst of ice cold wind almost knocked the air out of his lungs and he opened his eyes with a frightened yell. What he saw almost made him pass out from sheer shock, they had gone from summer to winter in a few seconds. The ground around them was covered with snow, more than three feet of it and it was dark and terribly cold. Then he noticed that this wasn’t the forest he knew at all, the trees were not as large and they were some sort of pine and firs. He gasped for air, turned around, there was nothing behind them, just more snow and deep darkness. What had happened?!
Rochiril neighed and stomped, the snow reached her belly and she shook herself, the cold was seeping into her body and Celeborn felt it too. He wore only a thin tunic and a pair of loose pants and he didn’t even have a decent cloak, just a thin flimsy thing. Artanis had told them all of the Helcaraxe, of the terrible cold which had killed even elves and he tried to get a grip and think in a logical manner. There had to be something he could do? He had no idea of where he was and everything looked very alien to him, he didn’t recognize the species of trees nor the constellations up above. The stars weren’t as shiny as those he was used to and before he really could control himself he let out a whimper and felt terribly lost and alone. Think! He was a noble of Doriath, a skilled warrior, there had to be some sort of shelter to be found somewhere, he couldn’t just give up. He urged the mare forward and found that the landscape was tilting downwards, good, that could perhaps lead them to a lower region, where there could be shelter or even people. He was shivering already and he was sure he heard trees crack from the intense cold.
The mare pushed her way through the deep snow and it went forth slowly, the forest was not very dense but very diverse and he did see tracks which had to have been made from some sort of large deer. This place did contain life then, not just trees and he tried to remain optimistic but he was scared to the bone. What had happened? Where was he? Was this some mischief of Morgoth? Then he did encounter something odd, a long line of tall poles and between them some sort of string hung, he had never seen anything like it and he thought he could hear a faint humming sound from them. What was this? But the line was heading down the hills and now he saw some sort of light upon the horizon too, it was very bright though and he frowned and didn’t understand. What could make such strong light? A city? Even a large city wouldn’t cause such strong light, a huge fire? It wasn’t flickering and he saw no smoke.
They rode around a cliff and then he stared down at a huge flat area, and at the end of it there was a myriad of strong lights, as if the stars themselves had landed upon the land and he stared in awe and confusion. Glowing lines of light was leading towards the gathering of lights and he saw several smaller clusters too around the great one. It was a city but what manner of lighting was this? There had to be people living in this place, but what sort of people? The horse had started to shiver too now and he felt frozen to the core. Eru it was so cold! Elves are supposed to be immune to the cold but this was just too much even for a firstborn. The mare walked on, she was strong and stubborn and suddenly they reached some sort of road but it wasn’t like any road Celeborn had seen before. It was cleared of the snow but in the middle there were two metal pieces which seemed to stretch out for the entire length of the open area with a fixed distance between them.
There were such naked poles there too, and lines hanging over the odd metal rails and he had no idea of what this was supposed to be. He could only compare it with what he had heard of the naugrim and their contraptions. They said the sons of stone used some sort of carts attached to rails to transport ore and metal from the mines and perhaps this was something similar. But the road or whatever it was could be ridden on and he urged the mare forth, it had to lead somewhere. The path was leading down the hill in a very smooth descent and he saw that there were more of those lights now, the entire valley seemed to be filled with them and he realized that the lights were houses, homes. There had to be a huge group of people living there. But even the closest seemed to be far away and he started to fear for his horse.
He tried to keep his mind occupied, there were roads and homes and a city and maybe he could find help if these people weren’t hostile? He could only hope they weren’t orcs, then he would stand no chance. That thought made his throat close up and tears swell in his eyes, no, he couldn’t give up. He had to see them all again, and her in special. If he got back alive he would most certainly tell her the truth of his feelings. Then she would be the judge of his fate, if she rejected him he would fade for sure. He was deep within his own thoughts when the mare whinnied and he heard a distant sound. It was getting stronger fast and the metal railings made an odd sound. Celeborn didn’t know what to do, what this was. Suddenly a strong light appeared ahead of them and it brought with it a terrible noise and it moved so fast, faster than anything he had ever seen. He froze, terrified. What sort of creature of Morgoth was this? The sound was deafening and they were in its way! Rochiril let out a thin wailing sound and shivered and Celeborn just stared, wide eyed at the terrible bright light. Then they heard a shrieking sound and Rochiril snapped out of her trance, the mare jumped to the side and into the snow and the thunder reached a level that made Celeborn’s ears ache and the ground shook and something enormous rushed by them, lights slid over them at a horrible speed and he clung to the saddle and felt that he had pissed himself like a terrified elfling. The thing seemed to be extremely long and the noise was making him press his hands against his ears in agony. What sort of horror was this?!
Then suddenly it ended and the end of the thing disappeared behind another turn and Celeborn was about to take a breath of relief when Rochiril broke out into a gallop. The mare was terrified and in spite of her good training her instincts overtook her and she ran in blind panic. She had the bit between her teeth, Celeborn could only cling to the saddle as the horse ran through the thick snow, gasping. He tried to stop her, afraid she would run herself to death but the brave mare had experienced something she just couldn’t handle and her instinct was to flee. The wind tore at the elf on her back and he tried to talk to the animal to calm her but to no prevail, the mare ran for what seemed like an eternity and luckily she ran downhill, towards the lights. They reached a flat area, a clearing in the woods and Rochiril shot out into the open land like an arrow from a strong bow. She was running as fast as she could now and Celeborn let out a shout when he spotted a dark line in the snow ahead, it appeared to be steaming? Oh Eru no, it was an open river! He tried to pull the horse to the side but she didn’t respond, she just ran and suddenly the ground gave way under her hooves and the mare screamed. A horrible high pitched sound of which Celeborn never had heard the like, it was just horrible.
Ice cold water splashed up around the kicking mare and Celeborn gasped as he too was submerged in it, it was not a river but a lake, hidden by ice and the open area had to be a spot where strong currents prevented the ice from forming even in this cold. For a terrifying second he lost his sense of up and down but then he reached air again and gasped for it, it stung his lungs like thousands of ice needles and he coughed and tried to cling onto the edge of the ice. The mare was rolling her eyes, she did reach bottom but only barely and he knew she would drown if he didn’t get her up right away. The ice wasn’t that thick there, just an inch or so and he felt that the water on his body froze almost immediately, his hands felt stiff and numb already and he felt dizzy. The shock had been just too much.
He forced himself to act, he reached for his saddle and luckily his axe still hung on it, it hadn’t fallen off. He started hacking away at the ice, towards what had to be the shore. The mare was getting weaker by the minute, she had been warm from her running and the cold water had drained her of strength fast. He tried to talk to her, to encourage her as he hacked and fought the cold water and the freezing wind with all his determination. Luckily the current weren’t that strong, it didn’t drag them under. The ice got thicker but the axe was a good one and desperation drove him, he did manage to get through it with some good whacks and made a path for the mare. The bottom of the lake was mud and silt and slick plants and he stumbled and cursed and dragged the horse behind him. The mare could barely stand, her legs were shivering and she was gasping for air. Steam rose from the body and he knew she would freeze to death soon, and so would he. It was not the way he had imagined that he would go, if he ever was to die he had thought he would die in battle, fighting orcs.
He supported the mare, waddling through the snow and it reached his waist, oh Eru it was so cold, so cold! He was shivering uncontrollably by now and so was the horse and there had to be shelter somewhere, if not they were doomed. He found a way between the trees, and he started to feel drowsy, that was a very bad sign indeed. Artanis had told them how elves who froze to death had felt warm before their final moments and he tried to do something to stay alert, and awake. He had to think of Rochiril, he had to save her to save himself and he felt like a beast but forced the poor animal forth. She was wobbling and her eyes told him she was close to giving up. If she fell he wouldn’t be able to get her back onto her feet, no way. He whimpered prayers, tried to sing, forced himself to stay active. He was no longer feeling the cold, but he was stiff, and slow and everything hurt even if he was numb. The snow did look very soft and inviting, no! He couldn’t think like that, resting now was death!
Then a new road appeared in front of him and this was without the rails, and there were hoofprints in the snow, of shoed horses. Up ahead he was sure he could see lights and he grasped the mare by the halter and pulled her along, gasping. “See? There is light, and horses have been here, a little more my girl, just a little more!”
The road was well maintained and smooth and there was some sort of wheel tracks with odd patterns in them and many hoof prints too. He kept his eyes fixed on the light ahead, it was one of those unnatural bright ones but he had to get there, it was hope, the only hope he had left. He waddled on for what seemed like an eternity, then the forest opened up and revealed some buildings built around an open square and several paddocks and some odd looking things which had to be vehicles of some sort. The light came from a sort of glowing orb attached to the wall of one of the largest buildings and the light was so strong, how could it be made? Was this some sort of magic? It had to be, for there was no heat coming from it and he had never seen anything like it at all. He whimpered, the buildings were not like any he had seen before, with huge windows and odd colors and there was no light in any of them. But the hoof tracks did disappear into the huge building with the light on it and he could smell horse. It had to be a stable. He forced Rochiril forward, the mare was groaning and she was leaning onto him, barely able to stay upright. The tracks disappeared through what had to be a door of some sorts but he didn’t understand how he opened it until he gave it a shove and it slid to the side. It didn’t make much sound and immediately a light came on and bathed the room in cold brightness that made him shield his eyes.
He blinked and stared, it was a stable but not like any he had seen before, first of all the room was painted in a very bright pale ochre color and it was so clean, and the design was alien too. Four horses stood in separate rooms along a central corridor and he had to stare at them, he had never seen horses like these. Three of them were dun, stocky and short legged with an upright mane and a black stripe running through that and along their backs and tails. It had to be a sort of breed special for this place. The fourth horse was in a room on the opposite side of the corridor and it was the most gorgeous beast he had ever seen, extremely tall with long legs and a flowing mane and it was pitch black. It was a stallion for sure and it looked at Rochiril with interest. There was an unoccupied room there and he sort of slid the door shut behind him and managed to open the box door, it too slid sideways and it was an ingenious way of saving space. The floor of the room was filled with a layer of sawdust and it was rather warm in this stable, he could feel it. He was trembling all over but managed to get the saddle of Rochiril, then he removed the halter and the bit and the mare sort of moaned and he knew he had to get the heat back into her somehow. He wondered at the light which had come on when he entered the room but he didn’t bother with it, what mattered was to save the mare.
He saw that there was a lot of hay stored in the neighbor room and also some weird sacks which seemed to contain oats and there was water in some barrels under a sort of sink? It was made from a shiny metal and there was some sort of contraption above it and it was dripping water from it? He touched it, hesitantly. There seemed to be some sort of things which were meant to be turned around? He tried and water started to flow from the metal tube into the sink. It was ingenious. He tried the other one and even more water came pouring and this was hot. Oh Eru, hot water! He grasped a piece of cloth which lay in a bucket near by and drenched it with hot water, then he ran over and started rubbing the shivering mare with it. He even filled a bucket with the hot water and poured it over her and the water disappeared into the floor somehow, there had to be a sort of drainage system hidden in the floors. He continued pouring and rubbing until all the frozen mud was gone and the mare steamed yet again, she was getting warm. He found some oats in a container and got some of it into one of the strange buckets before adding water and hay and then he found flour too in a barrel and added some of it, making a sort of slurry for her to eat.
The mare didn’t want it at first, then she sort of gave in and started eating and he could have wept with relief. She would be okay, if she didn’t get pneumonia that was. Now he started to feel his own discomfort again, he was aching all over and he was so tired, and so cold. There were horse blankets hanging on one of the walls and he threw one over Rochiril. He had no idea of what it was made from but it was obviously very warm and fitted the mare well even if it was a bit small. He took the saddle and the saddle blanket and the halter and hung it from a rack seemed to be made for saddles and he just hoped that the owners of this place didn’t mind. He was shivering still and realized that he had to get rid of the wet clothes. They were dripping with stinking muddy water and he stripped down to his bare skin and hung the clothes up next to his saddle. Then he took another blanket and wrapped that around himself. He rubbed his arms and legs with hot water and wondered how anyone could have so much warm water and where it came from and how it was heated up? He needed to rest, to recover his strength. He put his blades and axe into the room next to where the mare was and looked for a place to lay down. There was a sort of staircase leading up to a loft and he opened the hatch curiously. It was a hay loft, filled with bales of hay and also some loose hay in a huge pile. It smelled of summer and it was relatively warm too. The heat from the animals down below did rise and he made a decision there and then. He climbed up into the hayloft wearing only the blanket and sort of dug himself into the hay. He would heat up again, rest a little and then he would be out of there before the morning came, hopefully able to find a way back home.
He closed his eyes, the pain was still bad as his limbs started to thaw but he had survived pain before and his fatigue sort of overwhelmed him. He didn’t want to sleep but his body was too weak to fight it and before long he was asleep, hoping he would be able to see Artanis again, if only once. Under the blanket and the thick layer of hay his body temperature did rise but slowly, very slowly and he hadn’t really noticed how weakened he had become. Even the strength of the eldar has a limit and his had been reached that night, and broken. His body was starting to shut down, just his own bodyheat would not be enough to save him.
She woke up with a start, staring into the wall, not really sure what had awakened her. She blinked, took a look at the clock next to the bed. 3:15 in the morning, wonderful! Just what she needed, another sleepless night. She yawned and then she did notice the odd light on the wall next to the bed, light that wasn’t supposed to be there. She was out of the bed within the blink of an eye, peeked out through the curtains. The lights in the stable were on, but she had made sure they were off when she left after having given the horses their last meal of the day. She did have an automatic light switch though, if the door was opened it would come on and this could only mean that there was someone in the stable. Shit! There had been some cases of theft in this area the last months, people driving around in old vans, stealing anything of value and tack and saddles were expensive. A neighbor had lost a very expensive western saddle and she was afraid that this was thieves.
She grasped the cell phone from the table, staring out at the yard. There was no cars to be seen but the door had to have been opened. She dialed her brother’s number, he lived a few miles down the road and she knew she could call him anytime. His farm was much larger than this little place and he was a dairy farmer and used to getting up early in the morning. She had to wait for a few minutes before she heard her brother’s voice in the other end, he was yawning “Yes?”
She tried to remain calm, but she was worried about the horses, there were perverts who liked to harm animals and she didn’t want anything to happen to her darlings. “Vidar, it is me, Johanna. There is somebody in the stable”
His voice suddenly got sharp. “You are sure?”
She swallowed. “Yes, the lights are on. But I see no car though”
She could hear him move. “Alright, I will come in five, and I will park the tractor across the road just in case. Do not enter until I get there, do you understand?”
She felt her voice shiver ever so slightly. “Yes”
He answered and hung up. “Great”
She started getting dressed, got on her warmest clothes and then a thermosuit op top of it, and gloves and a thick cap too. It was minus twenty five degrees centigrade outside and that was just normal in January. She was pulling her boots on when her daughter appeared in the doorway. “Mom? What is going on?”
She sort of hushed at the girl. “I think someone is in the stable, you stay here okay, just in case”
Kirsten suddenly looked a bit nervous and Johanna knew she would obey the order, she was a very smart girl and very mature for her age. She opened the front door, peeked outside. No wheel tracks, no car in sight. Could it be an electrical problem? But Vidar was coming and he would sort it out for sure. She felt her heart race though, she had heard a lot of horror stories of people breaking into stables and barns, torturing the animals or even stealing them. But you couldn’t sell a horse to slaughter anymore without the proper papers and those were locked away safely in her safe, still some people, foreigners in special, didn’t know of the strict rules made by the authorities. Vidar probably parked his huge John Deere tractor across the road to block it if anyone had hidden a car somewhere, there was just one way out of this system of backroads with many small side roads and the owners often had the snow removed from them since they lead to cabins which were used in the weekends. There were some local farmers who made good money doing that job.
Before long she saw the lights from a car in the distance and Vidar turned off the engine and just let the car roll the last hundred meters, he parked so he blocked the entrance to the yard and he had chosen the huge pickup, you couldn’t push that car out of the road unless your last name was superman. For the moment the flatbed was filled with two round bales of ensilage and they weighed at least a ton each. Vidar stepped out of the car, he was a huge guy, standing 6 foot 4 and he did look like he was trying to get a role in the tv show Vikings since he had a huge beard and if you put some old fashioned clothing onto him he would look just right. Right now he wore a worn leather jacket and he had brought his shot gun too. Johanna knew it probably wasn’t loaded but the mere sight ought to make any criminal think twice before he started any sort of trouble. Vidar nodded at her. “ I have the sheriffs private phone number on my cell, and I know he is at home tonight, there is a small party being thrown at the local pub and he wants to keep an eye on certain individuals.”
Johanna knew there were a couple of kids in the area who were a bit difficult and loved to cause disturbances of every kind, the sheriff had often said he would have put them over his knee and given them a proper spanking if that had been legal. Johanna walked towards the stable with silent steps, Vidar was right behind her and she nodded slowly, the door had been opened. The snow which had blown up against it had been pushed aside but the odd thing was that there were hoof tracks outside of the door and some sort of boot prints too. And brown spots in the snow too, like some sort of dirty liquid had been spilled onto the ground. Vidar bent down and picket up some of it, sniffed it. “This is frozen bog water? What the hell?!”
Johanna got a sinking feeling in her gut, maybe this wasn’t what they first believed it to be. Everybody knew of this farm and its huge stable and if someone had had an accident this would be the natural place to go to. There were several bogs and ponds in the area and some were hidden by the snow, but who would ride out into the woods now in this cold? There were several girls on the nearby farms and in the city nearby who loved to go riding out in the moonlight, following the many open roads but it was just too cold for that now and no moon? But if someone were stupid enough to do go for a ride and the horse got spooked?
She had been riding out on Wotan once and the equipage had suddenly stood face to face with a very huge bull moose, the stallion had just spun around and ran off and Johanna hadn’t been able to stop him until they almost reached the main road. She had never been that scared before. She slowly opened the door, made sure it didn’t make much noise and thanked her own devotion to oiling it, she did that at least twice a week or else it would make a shrieking sound that made the horses go haywire. The three fjords raised their heads and neighed with perked ears, what was this? Extra snack? Wotan pawed at the ground and the stallion snorted and swung his head up and down, she whispered to him to prevent him from whinnying. Then she saw it, the box which was number three in the row, one box away from Wotan was taken. A tall dark grey mare stood in it, covered with a blanket and looked miserable.
Johanna swore, had someone abandoned their horse there? Vidar stepped forth and he looked a bit worried. “This is no old nag, look at her. I have never seen such lines before, this is some sort of thoroughbred for sure, she is probably a horse in the one hundred grand class or even more”
Johanna agreed, the mare was gorgeous and someone had tried to take care of her for sure. The sawdust was wet and it was obvious that the owner had tried to wash her, but why hadn’t they used the washroom? There was a huge special made shower stall at the back of the stable with heating lamps and even a massage shower for sore horses. Johanna wanted to create a spa for horses and she wanted to install a swimming pool too but that would have to wait until she could afford it. She saw that the person had taken a horse blanket but it wasn’t one of the very warm ones, he or she had just grasped the first and the best one. Vidar sniffed. “She has been in the pond, I am dead sure. I can recognize that smell anytime, it stinks!”
Johanna nodded. “ I agree, well done getting her this far, the poor thing must have been close to collapsing with fatigue and cold.”
Vidar opened the box door and the mare didn’t respond, she just stood there with her head hanging low and she was shivering a bit. “ I will put her under the heating lamps, help me out”
Johanna nodded and found a halter, the mare accepted it and darn she was tall, at least eighteen hands. Johanna was just a little over 5 foot 4 and she struggled but the mare didn’t resist at all. Vidar looked at the bucket which stood on the ground. “Whoever got her here have given her some porridge but she needs something stronger, way stronger.”
Johanna wondered where the owner was, could it be that some kid had borrowed this beauty, had an accident and been too afraid to wake up her or Kirsten and run off to avoid being caught? Or was the person perhaps out there somewhere, trying to get cell phone reception? This area was infamous for its bad conditions unless you used a special phone company which had erected some extra transponder masts. Vidar supported the mare out of the door and she wobbled and moaned but moved, she had to be horribly sore and Johanna helped him getting the animal into the washing box. They removed the blanket and tied her up and then Vidar put on the water on full force, 45 degrees Centigrade and the heating lamps on full force too. It ought to bring some heat back into her bones. The mare closed her eyes and sighed, it had to feel divine. The shower was made from two lengths of pipe with several shower heads placed one after the other and it was the length of a horse’s body and aimed downwards at an angle and you could move them independently of each other.
Now Vidar set the showers to stay above the mare and a little from the side and he went to the small office in the corner behind the tack room and put on the coffee maker. He was brewing a very strong coffee and Johanna knew he was following their father’s advice. He had often used a local trick when some horse needed to be re-heated and had used it with success on several horses and some cows too. You took a bucket and put a coin at the bottom, then you filled it with strong coffee until you couldn’t see the coin and added moonshine until you could see the coin once more, they called it “coffee doctor”.
Johanna just hope that there weren’t more people out there, perhaps the one bringing the mare into her stable had returned to help someone else and were out there, freezing to death? The night temperature had dropped below thirty for a few nights now and being outside wet and cold was a death sentence. Then she started clearing away the wet sawdust and then she saw the unfamiliar saddle on the rack. She frowned, the saddle looked like the ones she had seen at renaissance fairs and it was very well made but dripping with water and it looked rather ruined. A halter with a bit hung there too and some sort of rags? She stepped forth and touched the saddle. The thing had to have been handmade and it was exquisite, the embroideries on the sides just gorgeous and it was made from very fine leather and some sort of thick solid velvet. The thing was worn, had to have been used a lot and the stirrups were not bought in any shop, they had to have been forged by a very skilled blacksmith. Vidar returned from the office with several liters of the strong concoction and mixed it with molasses and glucose and some crushed dried herbs too. He put a hose down the mare’s throat and made her swallow the entire bucket. She coughed and rolled her eyes but was too weak to put up a fight and he petted her head lovingly. “There gorgeous, this will do you good”
Johanna gestured. “Vidar, take a look at this?”
He came over and stared at the saddle, his jaw almost dropped. “Oh heck, I haven’t seen something like that. And that bit? It is all handmade?”
Johanna touched the wet rags and it was a pair of thin linen pants and a sort of tunic with nice embroideries and what had to be a sort of loincloth. A set of very wet boots stood on the floor underneath it and everything looked medieval. Vidar frowned and touched the fabric with a strange expression on his face. “This method of weaving linen haven’t been used for centuries, it is too time consuming but the result is of course very nice. What is this?”
The clothes were most certainly summer clothing and she found a sort of cloak hanging at the back of the box too. She shrugged. “I have no idea, maybe someone have been having a sort of live role play out in the woods?”
Vidar snorted. “Well, then they are mad, and these clothes cannot keep anyone warm, heck, even my summer clothes are warmer than these.”
Johanna nodded slowly. “But there has to be someone here who have brought that poor thing in here? If that person wore only that then…”
Vidar shook his head. “You wouldn’t survive for ten minutes outside wearing only that, not even if it is dry! It is too cold, and the wind adds so much more cold to the air I bet it is below fifty in the gusts.”
Johanna touched the pants, they were rather long and told her that the person who had been wearing them had to be a male and very tall too. “But if that someone wore more than this then where is he?”
Vidar made a grimace. “He has to be here somewhere, there were no foot prints leaving the stable. “
Johanna looked up, the hatch to the hay loft was ajar. She nodded. “Up there Vidar”
Her brother swore and walked over to the ladder, climbed up and lifted the hatch, took a look around and seemed to freeze. “Johanna, get up here!”
She hurried up and climbed through the opening next to him. The huge pile of hay had an inhabitant. In the middle she could see the upper torso of someone sticking out from the hay, covered with yet another blanket. The person lay with his back towards them and appeared to have very long silvery blonde hair. Vidar swore and got over to the person in a flash, grasped him by the shoulder and turned him over. Johanna gasped, had an angel descended from heaven? She had never seen a more beautiful man before and Vidar just blinked. The guy was obviously naked and much taller than even him, the face looked very young and Johanna saw that he was blue around the lips and eyes and was he breathing at all?
Vidar had worked as a paramedic for a while and he felt the guys pulse and swore so bad Johanna was afraid the hay would catch fire. “This guy is in serious trouble, I don’t like that heart beat at all. He has got severe hypothermia”
Johanna swallowed. “But he is alive?”
Vidar nodded. “For now yes, darn, help me unwrap him, I need to check for injuries before I call for an ambulance”
Johanna blushed but hurried, they removed the hay and the blanket and Vidar just stared at the naked man. Johanna knew that no supermodel nor moviestar would look that perfect, he was flawless, and very muscular too. This was a body used to being used properly, not only trained in a gym. The hair was very long indeed, it had to reach his hips and Vidar knelt down and pulled it back to feel the man’s jugular again, he froze again and Johanna saw why. The man had pointy ears. Vidar touched the ear gently, it didn’t come off and it was rather cold like the rest of him. Johanna could only stare. “ What the hell?”
Vidar swallowed hard, his eyes were distant. “Johanna, I don’t think he is human”
She just stood there, like in a trance. “What? Why?”
Vidar turned his head, stared at her. “He should have been dead, heck, he should have frozen to death just minutes after getting into the water or the bog or wherever they were. And look at the ears! And the saddle, and the odd clothing, he isn’t from around here sister”
Johanna just had to blink, she felt a bit hysterical. “Are you trying to tell me that he is an alien?”
Vidar rolled his eyes. “He has to have come from somewhere and that is not this place for sure, perhaps he has travelled through time, or come from another dimension or something but that matters not. We cannot call an ambulance, they will treat him like a guinea pig for sure”
Johanna understood, if he had survived a cold bath now he was tougher than a human for sure, many would want to know what made him so strong. She bit her lower lip. “So what do we do?”
Vidar grasped onto the man by the shoulders. “We have to get him back inside the house, find the wheel barrel and some extra blankets, and run inside and ask Kirsten to start pouring a hot bath, we need to reheat him. He is in serious trouble whatever or whoever he is”
Johanna did skid down the ladder and found the huge flat wheel barrel and some blankets. Then she ran inside and Kirsten sat by the kitchen table, she looked very confused. “Mom, what is going on?”
Johanna tried to smile. “Listen, someone has been riding in the woods and have gone through the ice, there is a very cold unconscious man in the stable and we need to heat him back up again, go to the guest bathroom and start filling the bathtub with hot water”
Kirsten gasped and ran off and Johanna ran back to the stable. Vidar had put the mare back into the box, she looked a lot better and he had put a heating blanket onto her and turned it on full. Johanna helped Vidar pull the man down the ladder, he was so long and very heavy and she was blushing like mad the whole time. There was no doubt about the gender of this person and he was no doubt blessed in many ways. But he did look angelic and she wondered what he was, she had never heard of people with pointy ears.
They got him onto the barrel and covered him with blankets and then they pulled him to the house, running to avoid him getting even colder. Vidar grasped the upper torso and Johanna the legs and they sort of manhandled the poor person in through the door and into the house. They carried him down the corridor and into the huge guest room at the back of the first floor, it had its own bathroom and Kirsten waited by the tub. She had done what Johanna had said and the tub was half full already. Vidar pulled the blankets off the man and Kirsten let out a shriek and then she giggled hysterical. Johanna felt a bit guilty but Vidar just rolled his eyes. “She is sixteen, I bet she has seen naked men before, if not it is about time”
Kirsten giggled even more and Johanna grasped a towel and covered the man’s midsection, just to protect his modesty. She didn’t want to give her daughter ideas or false expectations, few males were that well shaped. Vidar hauled the man into the tub and the long hair looked like a halo around his head as he was put into a stabile position where he couldn’t slide down and drown. Kirsten stared at him, her eyes got wide. “Mom? What the heck is an elf doing on our farm?”
Johanna frowned and Vidar raised an eyebrow. “Elf?”
Kirsten made a gesture. “ Yeah? Are you daft? Have you never read fantasy books? Have you never played WOW? Hello? Pointy ears? Gorgeous? Tall? He is an elf”
Vidar and Johanna just stared at each other, at least they now knew what their mysterious guest was, at least that was something.