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The Best Laid Plans by TheFeanarion

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Table of Contents

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Chapter notes:
I finally got a friend of mine to beta!!!

The first chapter takes place a little over five years before "Congratulations"
Six months. Six months since Fëanáro had ridden a cross country course. Six months since he had sat on a four-star horse. He couldn't take it any longer!

He couldn't help but wonder at how unsuited he was for retirement. Couldn't help the slight jab of jealousy that wound through his heart as he paced the barn aisle for the thousandth time, only for his grey eyes to glance across the drive to see his beloved Silmarilli, silver coat ablaze in the sunlight, grazing in her paddock without a care in the world.

How could she be so content with her well-earned leisure when he couldn't take another second of idleness?

Yes, he could agree with Nerdanel that he probably too old to start another one from scratch as he had done with Silmarilli and her mother before her, Palantiri.

But what if he found one that was already almost there? One that was just on the cusp of greatness and needed only him to guide it along the last few steps?

Nerdanel was against it. As worried as she was about him getting hurt while working with one of the homebreds, she was just as worried about him taking an unfamiliar horse out on an upper level course.

Of course her arguments couldn't stand when Fëanáro received a call from the Angband Stud. More precisely, from Melkor himself, pertaining to the upcoming sale of the seven year old Le Lione CCI2** champion, Gothmog.

"I'm putting him on the market in two weeks, but I can hold off if you want to come out and give him a try. I know you're more of a mare kind of person but once you get on him you'll be in love! Oh, why am I selling him? Well you see, Mairon's a good rider and all but nowhere near the caliber that you are, and Gothmog deserves the best! Just imagine, in a year and a half you could be doing a four-star together! An assertive rider like yourself might even be able to aim for another Grand Slam! Now that grey mare of yours, Silmarilli, if you could send her over here I bet I could find a stallion and breed her for you."

Fëanáro sighed in annoyance.

"Winning the Grand Slam is something that can be accomplished but once only. And I will never send Silmarilli anywhere! And besides, she is too old to be carrying her own foals. And for your information I have already gotten several promising offspring from her via embryo transfer, so I have no need of you meddling in my breeding program!"

Having thrown his "protective parent fit" as Nerdanel called it, he got back down to business.

"Now, regarding this horse of yours..."

One week later Fëanáro, along with Maitimo and Makalaure (it was decided that it would be a good experience for them), found themselves in the main barn at Angband, watching as a groom tacked Gothmog up. The glossy black horse seemed intent on trying to eat the groom despite his head being secured in cross ties.

It being November, the barn was mostly enclosed and all of the horses were wearing heavy blankets which covered them from the backs of their ears to their tails. Fëanáro and his sons were likewise bundled up in heavy jackets, Maitimo even had a fur lined cap covering his red hair. Standing next to Fëanáro, was Mairon, Melkor's main rider/boyfriend (weather permitting).

"I started doing dressage in a double bridle since we moved him up to the two-star level, and he goes like a dream in it. But as for jumping I have to keep switching up between a gag and a pellham, with both reins. Keep him guessing, you know."

At this Fëanáro stared at the tall ginger with his most authoritative look.

"What about regular flatwork? And what if I do something below a two-star? How does he go in a loose ring snaffle (a very mild bit)?

Mairon just smirked,

"Just wait till you get on him."

Gothmog was soon tacked up in a jump saddle with a black and orange fleece quarter sheet thrown over his back for warmth and a bridle with one of the suggested bits. Mairon had taken hold of the reins and lead him through the barn to the attached indoor arena.

Mairon was the first to get on him as was customary. Meanwhile, Fëanáro was quietly critiquing his riding to the very amused Maitimo and Makalaure. It was just at that moment when Melkor decided finally come out of his heated office and see how his potential customers were fairing.

"Well what do you think so far?" Melkor asked leaning in towards Fëanáro conspiratorially.

Fëanáro carefully leaned away and said in a decisive tone.

"I am very eager to get on him and feel for myself what he's like."

At that Melkor nodded his head sagely and then catching sight of Maitimo and Makalaure standing warily off to the side.

"Ah! These handsome young men must be your sons!" He said, playing with his long black hair and looking at Maitimo in particular with an almost too friendly expression.

And then as an afterthought, remembering Fëanáro, who was by now glaring daggers at him.

"Although, I had been under the impression that you had more."

"Yes, but Nelyafinwë and Kanafinwë were only ones whom Nerdanel and I thought would benefit from being taken out of school for a week." Fëanáro stressed the "being taken out of school" part.

Thankfully, Mairon had finished up by now and was leading Gothmog over to where Fëanáro was standing.

"There, all yours. Do you want me to set some jumps?" Mairon said in an almost bored tone eyes narrowing as he caught Melkor staring at a bewildered Maitimo, and then. "Shouldn't you be in your office? " he almost shouted at Melkor.

"Wait, why." Melkor looked up with a startled expression.

"I thought you were expecting a call."

"Oh yeah! You're right. Thanks Precious." And to the relief of everyone involved he turned around and strode back to his climate controlled cocoon, but not without winking at Maitimo who was by now paler than usual.

Fëanáro looked at Mairon with grudging admiration as he buckled his helmet on.

"Thank you, but I will have my sons set the jumps." And then turning to them, "just put up what we had discussed earlier. Several warm up fences and nothings over 1.20m".

At that Maitimo and Makalaure almost sprinted out into the arena to begin setting up the jumps. Mairon just sat back and observed.

Fëanáro began by walking the large, coal-black horse around and preforming several lateral movements flawlessly. Being satisfied with that he then asked Gothmog to trot. They trotted around for several minutes before Fëanáro had the horse repeat the lateral movements that he had gone through at the walk, led yields (moving sideways off the riders leg whilst looking away from the direction of travel), shoulders in (moving with the hind legs in a straight line but the front end facing the inside), haunches in (the front end moving in a straight line but the hind end moving on an inside track), and half passes (like a led yield but facing the direction of travel). After running through these to his satisfaction, Fëanáro then asked Gothmog to shorten and lengthen his stride, first in small increments but eventually progressing to the coiled spring of a collected trot and the immense power of the extended trot. Throughout the warm up, Gothmog did as he was told with flawless results, but Fëanáro could feel the energy of a thousand furnaces beneath him, waiting to be kindled.

Having been impressed by his trot work, Fëanáro shifted his outside leg back and lightly squeezed with the inside leg. Gothmog then took the cue and jumped into the canter.

Fëanáro remained sitting in the saddle as he had the horse run through several different patterns that were found in tests as he asked for Gothmog to lengthen and shorten his stride throughout.

Seeing that Maitimo and Makalaure were almost done setting the jumps, he then stood up in the stirrups and allowed Gothmog to have as much of a galloped as was possible in the small area. As he came around a short side, Fëanáro asked him to collect his stride and went to change directions, preforming a lead change. After repeating the exercise going the other direction, Fëanáro walked over to where Mairon was standing, watching Fëanáro with a look of thinly-veiled hero-worship.

"Is there anything I should know before I jump him?"

Mairon gaped at him and then, upon hearing the question, shook himself and answered back.

"Um, I don't think so. He almost never behaves this well with me but just stay on your guard."

"I intend to."

With that, Fëanáro walked out to the center of the arena where Maitimo and Makalaure were standing, jumps having been set.

"What do the two of you think so far?" Fëanáro asked quietly.

Maitimo considered carefully before answering , brows slightly furrowed in concentration.

"He is a nice horse and very talented, although he looks like he would need a firm hand at times."

Fëanáro nodded approvingly before turning to Makalaure, who stood watching Gothmog with rapt attention.

"He's beautiful! If you get him can I flat him? Please Dad!" Makalaure's pleading grey eyes looked up at him.

Fëanáro chuckled. Makalaure was quickly starting to develop a fondness for hotter, more excitable horses as he had a talent for calming them down.

"Let's see how he behaves over fences, then we can talk about it... If you promise to try bulking up a bit." Fëanáro said, glancing dubiously down at Makalaure's wispy figure, black hair in a mess despite being ridiculously straight.

Having gotten their opinions he picked up a collected canter and easily jumped over a small vertical.
He did the vertical several more times and then cantered the other jumps which were set at the same height.

Having jumped the small things (no bigger than 1m), Fëanáro let him walk while the boys put those jumps up.

Fëanáro was very interested to see how Gothmog behaved himself. The horse seemed to obey him without much question, but all the while he felt like a great monster, a will of its own and simply humoring the mere mortal who dared challenge him.

Jumps being put up, Fëanáro brought Gothmog into the canter, he went once around the arena to wake him up and approached the first jump, a 1.10 oxer, and being pleased with that, proceeded to jump different things at random to make a sort of course.

The feeling was incredible! Gothmog flew over the fences with the inevitability of a rocket ship. He snapped his knees up with the speed of a striking snake. And his hind end was like a trebuchet. Every now and then, he would flip his tail or toss his head as though to remind Fëanáro who really had the power here.

Fëanáro was grinning uncontrollably, he was positively elated! He decided that he could live with Gothmog's condescending attitude. And when he walked up to Maitimo and Makalaure, he could tell that they were thinking the same. Makalaure looked like he wanted to run up and hug the horse, but thankfully he restrained himself to giving a more dignified pat on the nose.

Maitimo seemed to be sizing Gothmog up.

"He could probably get the end stall next to Himring and be turned out in the paddock near the house, unless you want him away from the house so that the Ambarussa don't try anything."

Fëanáro smiled at their enthusiasm.

"We can look at paddock arrangements when we get home, but first I need to find a vet to do a pre-purchase exam." And then bending down so that only Maitimo and Makalaure could hear him, "and a blood test".

Two weeks later Gothmog was settling into his stall at Formenos, already terrorizing Himring (the large liver-chestnut was usually pretty territorial, but he seemed to have met his match) to the amusement of everyone but Maitimo who had gone into mother hen mode.
Chapter end notes:
Fëanor is in his early 40s
Maedhros is about to turn 14
And Maglor is 13