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The Road to Mordor: The horse-whisperer


A ragged messenger galloped up to me while I stood hip-deep in the dead, Uruk-hai blood dripping down my greatsword. "For you, ma'am," he said, saluting and riding away.

I unrolled the scroll and quickly scanned its contents. The world around me grew very still for a moment and then resumed its course in the next heartbeat. I sucked my teeth and read it completely, looking for nuance and meaning between each word in the missive. Finally, I tucked it away and whistled for my steed.

"Sorry, Pippin, Merry," I apologized. The Hobbits looked up at me with frantic, bulging eyes, their hands and mouths still bound by their now-deceased captors. "I know your quest is important, but this takes precedence. Fare thee well."

With that I kicked my mount's side and began the thousand-mile trek back to my roots. Back to Combe. Back to a little stable where a lost horsie needed my help.

Oh, yeah. I'm a hero, all right.

The Road to Mordor The horsewhisperer
Adventures in horsesitting

If you haven't figured it out already, this past week I took a look at the "exclusive" content that came with Riders of Rohan's legendary edition. I figure that if I were in the shoes of someone who didn't or couldn't get that edition, then not knowing what content I was missing would gnaw at me. So consider today's column a way to scratch your itch without having to shell out an extra $30.

Upon purchasing Lord of the Rings Online's latest premium expansion edition, I found my bags filled up with all sorts of goodies and the mail icon went off. A letter beckoned me to come to Combe, best known for its slogan, "The speed bump between Archet and Staddle!"

Once I'd arrived, a new horse model in the stable caught my eye. Sure enough, this fine beast was related to the exclusive quest line. The stable boy, exhausted from working in the same exact spot for five straight years now, asked me to take care of the pony. Sure. Why not. I don't have anything better to do, right? Got any poop I can shovel?

Shoe shopping

After performing menial tasks suited to my status as Middle-earth's single greatest warrior (and patting the horse for good measure), I was sent shoe shopping. Horseshoe shopping, that is. "Hey, I have this useless horseshoe in my backpack that Turbine keeps lording over us without telling us what it can do," I said, but the stable boy wasn't having it.

Off to Bree, then. After pestering a few stubborn blacksmiths to make me some horseshoes and pronto, I finally found one up for the task. As is par for the course in these sorts of adventures, the blacksmith was barely capable of functioning as a human being and asked that I help assemble parts to make the horseshoe. Among these parts was "old horseshoe," but I guess my magically ambiguous horseshoe wasn't trash enough.

The Road to Mordor The horsewhisperer
Evil sorcery is afoot

By the time all was said and done, I was well on my way to building up a solid portfolio of work if I ever decided to quit adventuring and become an equine specialist. But then the oddest thing happened: I became a horse.

No, I don't know how it happened. I assume black sorcery or a particularly vile glitch, but suddenly I was Twilight Sparkle, trotting across the Lone-lands. Fun did-you-know fact: Horses have only four skills in life, and two involve kicking you in the face. Now I understand how the other side lives, and I fear horses even more than I did before.

The enchantment -- OK, "session play" -- wore off, and then it was back to scrounging for parts in Bree to make horseshoes. Is this how the real blacksmiths get their materials, or is someone having a laugh at my expense? No matter. What was really sad is that I passed the half-starved horse in Bree and had to tell him that I gave all my oats to that fat pony up the way. When I left him, I thought I heard a sound like a sob mixed with a whinny.

Following the blacksmith's order was a hellish haze of equestrian boot camp. I followed the commands of a horse bully and raced through gates panting, "Why? Why? Why?" I pitched bales of hay for sneering horses that looked down on me as their subject.

The Road to Mordor The horsewhisperer
A date with destiny

Six days later, I felt as though I had sufficiently humbled myself on the altar of horse apples and thus approached the stable dude at the horse-farm. "Listen, buddy," I said, punctuating each word with a finger jab to his chest, "I'm sick of the run-around. I'm taking that horse, see, and we're making a break for freedom, see?"

He looked startled but agreed genially. "Take her with my blessing," he said.

"That's a her? I named her Baxter," I said, smarting at my still-incomplete horse education. "BAXTER! We're going to Rohan!"

Baxter came over, and we went on an epic journey through wilderness, forest, bog, and well-trodden road. All in all, it took 10 seconds for the map to load.

There we saw a familiar figure in the road -- it was Shadowfax! And some other old geezer with him! Shadowfax expressed a slight concern as to the racial purity of my good friend Baxter but ultimately determined that she should be included in all the upcoming festivities.

"And as for you," Shadowfax said to me with an eerie Mr. Ed voice, "you I will grant this skill."

I took it in wonder. "Oh great Shadowfax," I breathed. "Thank you. Thank you. What does it do?"

Shadowfax shrugged the horse equivalent of a shrug. "I don't know. Probably the same thing as that 'magical' horseshoe that I pawned on a dope a while back. Take care!"

When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

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