Far Over the Fields

by Nefertiti

Rating: G

Pairing: Gandalf/Frodo (established relationship), Gandalf/Shadowfax (NOT sexual, but a love story of sorts)

Summary: Gandalf tells Frodo how he gained Shadowfax's trust.

Author's note: Book canon. The frame story at Rivendell is set in early November of 3018 TA. The events Gandalf relates take place on August 21 to 23 of that year, after the wizard had been rescued from Orthanc by Gwaihir and taken to Rohan. There Theoden had told Gandalf to leave the country immediately.

This story is based on the chronology in Appendix B and on Gandalf's account during the Council of Elrond. It takes place in the same universe as my Thrice Returned series. (It also takes its inspiration to some extent from the wonderful story, "The Quest of Erebor," cut from the Appendices of LotR and only published for the first time in its entirety in the second edition of The Annotated Hobbit; there Gandalf relates to a similar group why he sent Bilbo along with the Dwarves to regain the Lonely Mountain from Smaug.)

"Far over the Fields" barely qualifies as slash, but Kristina has kept after me to do a story about Gandalf and Shadowfax. This is for her. Thanks to Elanor for the beta.

On a late afternoon several days after the Council of Elrond, a convivial group was seated on a west-facing porch at Rivendell, enjoying the warm rays of the sun as it dipped toward the horizon. The smokers staying in the house tended to gather in various combinations to share their pleasure in this habit, and on this occasion Merry, Frodo, Gimli, and Gandalf were present. Such sessions often included tales, usually from the wizard, as the master story-teller filled them in on events that had led to their current situation. Now Frodo, cuddled against his lover's side, suddenly asked, "Gandalf, you said that you managed to tame Shadowfax. If he was so proud and would let no one ride him, how did you do that?"

Gandalf chuckled. "Well, in some ways that is one of the more pleasant series of events that I have experienced lately. To be sure, the process was most frustrating at first, but the outcome was gratifying indeed. I should mention to you, Merry, since you missed my tale of Saruman's betrayal, that my visit to the court of Rohan, begging for help, led to a heated exchange with the King. He bade me, 'Take any horse, but be gone ere tomorrow is old!' I interpreted his statement quite literally, and I think that he came to regret his sweeping offer.

"I had never been so angry! Well, no, I should say that I had seldom been so angry. Clearly Theoden was not himself, having been driven toward decrepitude and despair by Saruman's minion, that wretched Grima. I suppose that I should have been grateful, being at last free from Saruman's long imprisonment. Indeed, I was grateful-to Gwaihir, but certainly not to Theoden.

"The master of the King's horses, obviously having been ordered to speed me on my way, took me out of the city to show me a selection of fine steeds. We walked through the meadow where they were grazing, near the gate of the city. How to choose? They were all beautiful and powerful, and yet . . . 'Wait a moment!' I thought. 'That one! Down by the pond. Proud and strong, large and graceful, intelligent and swift. Yes, that one.' I turned to the master and pointed at the great silver horse.

"The master blanched when he saw which animal I was indicating. Quickly he shook his head and explained that that horse was the lord of the Mearas, the most splendid one foaled in centuries, the apple of the King's eye, the one horse that I could not borrow. Theoden, however, had said 'Take any horse,' and I ignored the master, beginning to walk toward the one I had chosen. 'Not Shadowfax!' the man called after me. 'Yes, Shadowfax,' my heart told me, but I did not speak the thought aloud.

"As I walked nearer, Shadowfax noticed me and stood alert, eying me while seeming not to. When I invaded the invisible barrier of distance that he had erected around himself, he began to walk away. I tried calling to him, but he did not react. I sped up a little. He sped up a little. I stopped, wondering if this beast was worth the time it would take to win him over. Looking around, I realized that three or four of the other horses were actually following me. I do tend to be good with animals, especially horses, and they usually like me. Clearly any of these would be willing to bear me. For a moment I was tempted simply to accept one of them. After all, you were in terrible danger, my sweet Frodo, and any delay could be catastrophic. On the other hand, Shadowfax could carry me to Hobbiton so swiftly!

"He had stopped when I did but did not resume grazing. I walked toward him again. Cheekily, he stood waiting until I passed that implicit boundary again, then suddenly raced away until he was but a small silver speck in the distance. His amazing speed and grace made up my mind for me, and I resigned myself to a battle of wills. I turned and waved to the horse-master-and to the other horses-and set out to follow the steed who, though he did not yet realize it, would carry me back to the Ringbearer. Glancing back, I saw the master shake his head and make a small gesture of dismissal. Clearly he believed that I was in for a long and fruitless chase. Why worry about some daft old wizard who thought that he could charm the King's favorite horse, I'm sure he reassured himself. Well, let him think that, I mused. Let Shadowfax think that he can discourage me. I walked on.

"There is no doubt that Shadowfax is stubborn. I followed him for a full day after sleeping in the fields for the night. By the end of the morning I caught up with him again-nearly-but he continued to maintain that certain distance between us. I walked, he walked. I paused, he paused. Never, however, did he simply race away and disappear for good, as he could so easily have done. He wanted me to follow him. Perhaps he is just curious, I thought, but that is a start.

"I trudged on, sometimes losing sight of him as he capered tauntingly far ahead, and yet as I continued on, discouraged, I would come over a rise and find him cropping the grass and looking up as if surprised to see me. It was only pretense, for how could he possibly doubt that I would eventually appear? And each time I caught him up, I was allowed just a little closer, until eventually I could see details: the tiny gold flecks of light in his dark brown eyes, the delicate flair of his nostrils as he kept track of every scent around him-especially mine.

"Now that I was allowed close enough to talk to him without shouting in an undignified and tiring way, I spoke long with him, trying to reassure and sooth him. He pretended not to listen, staring off into the distance. His ears, though, were turned toward me most of the time. I found his little attempt at deception charming-or would have, had I not been in such a desperate hurry.

"I had expected to have broken his resistance by now, and at moments I regretted not having settled for one of the other horses. Yes, Shadowfax was stubborn, but was I being a bit too stubborn as well, I wondered. Did I long to prove my persuasive powers by mastering this proud, powerful creature? As I thought a little wistfully about those marvelously docile and well-trained steeds that I had left so far behind by now, I felt my feet growing heavier with each passing hour. I had made my choice, and I had to abide by it. I stopped talking to Shadowfax, for by now my throat was sore. Soon night came again, and I rolled myself in my blanket and fell into an exhausted sleep.

"I awoke abruptly at dawn, and my heart skipped a beat as I felt hot breath tickling my cheek and neck. Realizing what was happening, I managed not to start and lay unmoving as if still asleep, allowing him to examine me, his great, snuffling nostrils passing along my beard and down to my hands. At last I rolled and sat up, speaking soft words of greeting and reassurance to him. Instantly he retreated, but only a few steps, and his ears flicked towards me. Some barrier had fallen. He was finally deigning to face me and consider what I was telling him-of my desperate need, of my great admiration for him, of my faith in his ability to help my friend who was in such terrible danger. Slowly I took a step towards him. He began to walk-not away this time, but only to circle me. I pivoted, watching intently. Would he reply to me this time-finally?

"Shadowfax stopped, facing me. I knew better than to approach him at that point. He was close enough for the conversation to continue, if he wished it. We stared into each other's eyes for awhile. My heart was beating fast as I waited. At last he spoke. He told me of his trust and of his willingness to help me. There were rules, though. He had never felt the tack that ordinary horses wear when they are ridden, and he refused ever to do so. I smiled and spread my arms, showing him my empty hands. We were in the midst of vast, unpeopled plains, I pointed out, with no stable or smithy within reach. He hesitated still, then asked for my promise that I would never try to outfit him with saddle or bridle, for he was quite capable of keeping me on his back without the need for such things. I gave him my word.

"Now that things were settled, there came the tricky moment when I would actually have to get onto his back. I would have been able simply to leap up, but Shadowfax had never borne a man before. I did not want to startle him and risk having him change his mind. We wandered on a bit until we found a suitable rock. He stood by it, nervous for once, now that he had given in to me-willingly, of course, and yet it must have seemed so strange to him. I climbed onto the rock and stroked his back, then placed my hands flat on his gleaming silver coat and leaned gradually, putting more and more weight on him. At last he told me to sit astride him, and gently I slipped onto his broad back.

"At once it felt right. This was the horse I needed to get me back to Hobbiton. His power obviously went far beyond that of any other steed I had ever ridden in my long centuries in Middle-earth. He took a few tentative steps, but soon he seemed to feel confident. I asked him to carry me as swiftly as possible to my imperiled friend and pointed out the direction in which we had to travel. With astonishing suddenness and smoothness we were flying across the plain. For the first instant I felt as though I might topple off backwards at the abrupt launching of that great body into a gallop, but somehow Shadowfax kept me balanced. Quickly I adjusted to this novel way of riding, for he made it easy for me. It thrilled me to be moving so rapidly, and I sighed with relief at finally making some progress toward Frodo-though of course you, my pet, left Bag End that very night.

"The days passed, and the trust between Shadowfax and me grew. We made astonishing progress, and I lost any lingering doubt about my decision not to settle for one of the more tractable horses of Rohan. At times we spoke long. He told me of the slow decline that he had seen in his master in recent years-one reason why Shadowfax was now willing to aid me. With some instinctive insight, he had sensed that eventually I could perhaps aid his master in some way. In turn, I told him tales of the mearas, and he listened with fascination. Like all animals, horses have no sense of their own history. Still, they love such stories, though they soon forget them. As we drew nearer to our goal, I began to regret that eventually I should have to send Shadowfax back to Theoden, and I sensed that a similar reluctance to part was growing in his mind. Certainly I could not keep him for my own. In a sense, Shadowfax has no master. It was his choice to help me in my need. Yet technically he belongs to Theoden, and we both realized that.

"As I settled down to catch a nap during one of our stops, I reflected that I had made a very good friend. I chuckled to think that this horse was a more pleasant companion than many of the people that I have had to deal with: great leaders over the years who have distrusted me and suspected that my efforts to bring the races into alliance are misguided or have some hidden motives. Despite his initial doubts, Shadowfax has given his trust and even, I think, his love, fully and forever. I realized that something good had come from Saruman's betrayal and Theoden's enmity. Although Shadowfax belongs to another, he will always be willing to help me in the grim struggles that lie ahead, even including the war that will inevitably come. As I was about to drift off to sleep, I smiled at the thought that this had been another of those 'chance' meetings that probably are not really chance at all."

Gandalf fell silent and tapped his pipe to empty it of long-cold ashes. As he began to refill it, Frodo stretched up to kiss his cheek lightly. "I hope I shall meet your new friend someday," he murmured. "He must be a very intelligent fellow to trust my wizard so fully and to help bring him back to me."

The end