By the Grey Light of Dawn

By Nieriel Raina


Morning was soon upon them, but it was yet dark, though the night had been far from peaceful. Sounds from the courtyard and house had carried to the stable as they had for many nights prior. Raised voices could be heard for hours. Several of the horses stomped and snorted, feeling the tension in the air, as well as the fear and despair that mounted with each moment.


In his roomy box stall, Rochallor had slept fitfully, uncaring of what did not concern him. He could also feel the upset, the grief, anguish and terror; he just did not care what caused it. So long as he had good hay, clean water and a decent helping of crunchy grain, he was happy, or at least content. Happiness would be to roam free with his band of mares rather than being cooped up in a stall unable to feel the wind in his mane.


The sound of the stable door slamming open was what awakened him. He cracked one eye open at the intruding light that cast a golden glow first upon the stable aisle, then into his stall, seeping in through the cracks between the wooden slats and causing the pale straw to glint up at him from the floor. But it was not just the light that disturbed him. His ears flicked in annoyance at the loud voices, pleading with someone to change their mind, to not do this hasty thing. The commotion irritated Rochallor and he wished they would just return to their places and leave him in peace to sleep.


The sound of firm, forceful sound of footsteps accompanied by the clink of armor piqued his interest, however. He recognized that sound! He opened his other eye and sucked in a deep breath, letting it out through loose lips that made a rumbling sound. His master liked that noise and laughed at him when he did that. With his peaceful sleep disrupted, and from the sounds of it, having no hope of resuming such rest any time soon, Rochallor pricked his ears and listened for the sounds his master made. He had suspected it, after all; had known he would be needed. It was only if his master had use of him that he was penned rather than allowed to run with his mares.


Not that Rochallor could have enjoyed them. The air had smelled strange for many days due to the foul smoke pouring into the sky from the north. The ground had rumbled, and everywhere people scurried about, frantically doing this or that. All the activity upset the mares, causing them to pace restlessly along the fence line, their heads raised and tails billowing enticingly. But they had no interest in him amid such chaos. Too much happened elsewhere that demanded the attention of their masters. Too many emotions charged the once peaceful domain of his master.


And so he had been brought in until he was needed, and he ate and drank in peace, ignoring the other stallions and geldings. He was king here, after all, and they were of no interest to him.


The footsteps drew nearer. His master had come.


The pleading voices grew louder as well, and the other horses grew more restless, snorting and neighing, some pawing at their bedding in fear and distress. Rochallor glanced half-heartedly at the stall beside him when the sound of hooves cracked against the wooden boards. He only waited, not bothering to expend unnecessary energy at the mere sound of ceaseless talking.


“Silence!” a mighty voice bellowed, the deep sound of it reverberating off the rafters. Rochallor’s ears pricked forward at that voice. “I shall go, and none shall restrain me! Cease your useless blabbering.”


Rochallor snorted in approval as the ruckus died down, leaving only the sound of jingling tack being prepared. Lifting his head, Rochallor peered between the slats, catching a glimpse of his master. He trembled with anticipation. He could feel his master’s desire to ride from this place like the wind. Some great thing had happened, something that had caused the fear and despair to overtake even the mighty among them. Until now he had not cared, for it did not concern him. But this night, Rochallor could feel the burning need for vengeance in his rider, and he echoed it dutifully.


Come, he neighed, his voice resounding in the stall. I will carry you to exact this thing upon whomever has caused such anguish to fester in your heart.


The stall door was thrown open, and his master stood in the doorway. They regarded each other for several moments, and Rochallor could see the change in his master. Instead of cool and determined, his spirit burned like a flame within him, and anger sparked in those usually calm eyes. This was more than just a desire for vengeance, Rochallor perceived. Justice needed to be dealt. He tossed his head, letting the glow of rage fill his own heart. Come dawn’s light, they would outrun the wind. They would fight until the end and emerge victorious!


Fingolfin entered the stall, and Rochallor nickered, reaching for the hands that usually rubbed the star on his forehead and caressed his ears. He would go wherever he was required. His love for his master would carry them there, no matter how far. Fingolfin’s fire would be his own.


“Come,” Fingolfin called to him, turning back into the light cast from the lamp hanging from a hook in the stable aisle.


Rochallor stepped from his stall into the circle of light, his head raised high. Those gathered murmured at the sight of him, and Rochallor gazed down on them as subjects revering a king. He shook himself, sending his mane flying, then lowered his head to nuzzle his master before accepting the armor that would protect him in the upcoming battle.


Many times they had gone out together, he and his master. This time, he sensed would be different. Something drove his master that he did not understand, yet he hearkened to the emotion, letting it fill him until his hooves danced upon the packed dirt aisle. He had no need to understand anything except his master’s need to go, to fight!


Rochallor welcomed the saddle, tossing his head as the girth was drawn tight. His armor clinked as he pranced, and he knew he showed off his magnificence to those who watched with wide eyes as they prepared to depart. None were worthy of him except his master; none would dare mount him but the mighty Fingolfin!


He craned his head around to look at the tall form clad in black armor. Soon they would be as one, those long legs wrapped around his girth. Together they could fly over the ground like the eagles sailed upon the winds.


“Come,” Fingolfin said again, leading him through the hushed whispers of those gathered, their pleading eyes begging for him to change his mind, though they dared not speak out again, not risking furthering their lord’s ire.


Rochallor followed eagerly, blowing out through flared nostrils at the people as he passed. Did they not understand? Could they not see their lord’s rage? Did they not know that he must do this thing? He pushed past them, his hooves determined in their steps as he pranced into the courtyard. In the east the sky had lightened, the black of night making way for the grey light of dawn. His flesh trembled as he waited for his master to mount.


“Wait!” a desperate voice called, and Rochallor neighed as another person pushed through the crowds. “Father! Wait!”


Rochollar tossed his head and snorted, stamping a foot on the cobblestones. So the colt would come forward and plead as well? He should be riding out with his father, rather than letting him go alone. Insolent colt!


“Father, you cannot do this!” Fingon cried out. “You go to your death!”


“We have already had this discussion,” Fingolfin answered. He turned and faced his son, who had come to stand before him. “I shall go.” Rochallor’s gaze swept over the growing crowd along with his master’s. “Shall any go forth with me?”


But none came forward, and Fingon stepped back, shaking his head sadly.


Not even the colt understood the fire that burned in his master’s soul, Rochallor realized. So be it. He knew, he saw, he understood and would go! He neighed again, craning his neck so that his nose nearly touched his chest. Come, let us be off!


The glow in his master’s eyes grew to as a bright flame. Those gathered flinched back from the light. Then Fingolfin turned and swung himself up into the saddle. Rochallor pranced in place for a moment, his tail whisking about him and his eyes kindling into hot coals of their own.


Then without a word, for it was not needed, nor a backwards glance, for the goal was before them not behind, Rochallor bolted forward into the graying light of dawn.


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