With legs shaking and strength ebbing I continue to clutch the saddle. I wonder why. Why am I here like this? Time and place are lost in frozen fog. There is an annoying feeling, like flies on a wound, something I should being doing… I don’t…I…
Thorendil bends his great neck and nudges me with his nose. He stamps his off hind leg in impatience, and then gently lowers himself to the ground. As he does so, I find myself collapsing across the saddle. Once he has reached the ground I am lying prone across his broad back. The moment he feels me quiet and in some small balance my great and godly horse rises in a fluid lunge. As I drift into oblivion, my last thought is to wonder where he will take me.
A voice far away and faint wakes me. Whispers pulled away by the wind. Pray Eva, pray. I become aware of movement. A rhythmic jarring that lifts my dangling head with each pulse. Then another sound crawls into the darkness. A sound I know? A hoof pawing on ice? Pray Eva, pray. My drunken mind wonders, who is Eva? I wish she would pray so the voices would be quiet. I long for quiet, for peace and warmth. For comfort. Was I ever warm? Are such things dreams sent by demons to torment? Why would demons torment me? What have I done? Ice shatters and the horse I am on lowers his head to drink. I hear water being pulled into his throat in great shuddering gulps and swallows. His body shivers violently in shock from the icy water. The poor animal needs caring for. Why was he left out to fend for himself in this way? The horse I am on? I realize I am lying across the back of a large horse. He is drinking. I am in pain and cold. I am Eva. Pray Eva, pray!
Thorendil. My horse, my friend. I have come so far from all that I believed myself to be. Salvation is offered only for the asking and yet I have feared to ask. But, I must try; for Thorendil’s sake, if my own life means so little. He has faced every terror I place before him; he has rushed me from clawed dangers and from those within my own mind. And I have forsaken him, left him to hunger and cold and thirst in a savage and unforgiving land too closed within myself to reach out for the comfort I so long for. Oh great gods of this blessed land forgive me. Heal me now that I may show this kind beast the care he shows to me. And warmth flows along my skin. Heal me. Bone marrow too long in the cold begins to thaw. Heal me. Wounds begin to close. Heal me. Strength returns to savaged muscle. Heal me. My mind clears. Heal me!
And, I am whole.
I slide from the saddle in some trepidation, afraid my legs will not hold me, but my gods do not play falsely. I am strong and limber and ready for battle. It is only my mind and will that is weak. It flits over what brought me to this lost life. The message my warrior sent to me in the north; my initial joy, and rushing to his side once more. Then the shock and horror of what followed. No. There is no time for such thoughts now. Not this time. I look around and realize that Thorendil carried me safely to my camp. The gods blessed me indeed the day he was given to me. I wonder if even they knew how much. As my eyes flow over his great body I see he has lost weight. We have wandered many lands these last months, always returning to this northern place of scarcity and solitude. Thorendil is gaunt and hip bones protrude where they should not. His coat is coarse now and long. I reach for his saddle and remove it. He turns his heavy head to nuzzle me in thanks and I slip the bridle from his lowered head. He roughly shakes his whole body and in a groan of pleasure lowers himself to the ground to roll. That such a noble animal can look thusly, legs thrashing in the air and grunting in joy, brings a smile to my crusty lips. I realize that while my eye is no longer swollen it is still glued tight with blood. My gods may have healed me, but it seems they did not see fit to bathe me.
Using the hole in the ice opened by Thorendil I draw water, start a fire and warm it. He is given warmed water to drink and he drinks deeply and long. The two of us dig snow, I shovel it away with frozen hands and Thorendil paws bedside with his great hooves. I gather dried grasses to feed him. In the tent I find grain I do not remember buying, but that too is mixed with warmed water and fed to him. I brush and clean him before myself; I have much to make up for. Then piece by piece my clothing and armour is removed while we both huddle by the crackling fire. In time I am cleaned, my gear is cleaned. We may smell of smoke – the hairs of Thorendil’s fuzzy neck are singed he stands so close to the blaze – but we are clean again. Night begins to close in and Thorendil lowers himself to sleep by the fire with his legs curled under him. I bring my blanket from the tent and lying between the fire and my large warm friend I sleep in comfort and safety beneath the glittering stars of Wolfshead.