After a week, however, Moraenor knew he still had the duty of training her, as Nareandor had instructed. Reluctantly, he mounted his steed, Glathwere, and went to the last place he had seen Laurel: the path to Beilon Forest, less than a mile from Glastor City.
Moraenor arrived at the very center of the forest without so much as a glimpse of the young Elf-maid. The very trees were still; where could she be?
Scanning the woods carefully, Moraenor spotted Laurel's horse, a fine bay mare she called Zarta, which meant Angel. Moraenor slipped from Glathwere's back and approached the mare, stroking its sides.
"Saletaf , [*greetings] Zarta," he murmured gently, "Where is your mistress?"
Zarta picked her head up at his voice.
"Her mistress has a weather eye on you, Elf. Kindly remove your hands from my horse!"
Laurel's voice came from somewhere behind him, but Moraenor could not pinpoint exactly where. He picked up his hands, scanning the trees and the bushes for where Laurel could be hiding. "As kindly as I put them on, I'll remove them," he replied to Laurel. "Where are you, young maid?"
"The name is Laurel, sir, and I am exactly where I want to be in respect to where you are."
Moraenor shook his head, still searching for the evasive young maid. He had narrowed his search to the treetops, but the branches grew so thick it was difficult to see among them. Doubtless, too, Laurel was wearing woods-elf garb, which allowed her to blend in with the foliage.
"Laurel," Moraenor continued, searching carefully and thoroughly as he tried to keep her talking, "Why are you hiding? Your father asked me to protect you, and I can't do that when I can't see you."
"I didn't ask for you to play the nursemaid," Laurel shot back angrily, "I just want to be left alone!"
"If you want to be left alone," Moraenor returned, "then I'll allow you to do it where I can keep an eye on you."
"If you want to keep an eye on me--" Laurel echoed, suddenly dropping from the branch right above the horses--onto Glathwere's back! She grinned over her shoulder at Moraenor. "You're going to have to catch me." She clapped her heels into Glathwere's sides and he sped away, leaving Moraenor with Laurel's mare.
Frustrated with her attitude, Moraenor swung onto Zarta's back and took off after her.
She rode so fast he did not even see her till he reached the edge of Beilon Forest. She was only a speck some miles distant, dwarfed by the massive rocks of Belanta Valley. There, halfway between Mt. Horbaroth and the valley, however, she seemed to be having some trouble with the horse.
Moraenor grinned. Prodding Zarta up to the edge of Belanta Valley, he concealed then both from view and, still mounted, whistled for Glathwere.
Moraenor heard the horse neigh at the sound of his master, and within minutes, the swift horse had covered the distance between them. As Glathwere neared the rocks without seeing his master, the stallion stopped in evident confusion. Moraenor knew he was safe from immediate detection, the stones of Belanta being so rugged as to afford many nooks small and large with only one entrance, hard to find.
"If you want to steal an elf's horse, maiden," he teased her, "'Twere best you knew the master."
He heard Laurel hiss in annoyance, but in the next moment, Zarta suddenly reared under him, tossing him out of the cave and down the grassy slope. Zarta charged out after him, her doe eyes rolling with fright.
Laurel bent over Glathwere's neck, laughing heartily as Moraenor picked himself up and brushed the grass off his clothes.
"If you would ride another's horse, good sir," she served in her turn, "'twere best you knew the horse. What you no doubt took for an expression of my chagrin, Zarta took for her mortal enemy, the serpentine valith. Thus I have unhorsed you, and so I declare myself the victor!"
No sooner had she finished, then Moraenor whistled sharp and low, and immediately Glathwere reared, sending Laurel tumbling off his back. Moraenor grabbed the stallion's reins and easily swung into the saddle, choosing this vantage point from which to gloat over the saucy young maid.
"Here now is your lesson, my pupil," he told her. "To be a proper victor, one must not merely unhorse one's opponent, but must do so while maintaining--or reclaiming--one's own mount. Hence I am the victor, as I am now seated on my own horse, while yours waits yonder."
He pointed to where Zarta stood, a few dozen yards distant, tossing her head and nickering.
Laurel frowned, but her mysterious marbled eyes sparkled as she conceded and went after her horse.