Disclaimer: I don't own anything that belongs to Tolkien! I do however own Kaia, Morroch, Edinon, Ethon, Edonar and Lohinon.
A/N ~ Welcome back to anyone one who is still reading!
Gonathrad ~ Entanglement
Kaia shivered in the cold night air. Her worried blue eyes scanned the distant hills lit up by the three-quarter moon over-head. Where was he? She'd kept coming out, even after the talk with Ethon. The stallion need not even call her anymore as she was always awake when he came in the dark. Why, she didn't know, but the young woman seemed to sense his presence like a bee knows flowers are nearby.
She worried her lip. Tonight, he wasn't here. Kaia wasn't sure when she'd started thinking of the black horse as hers, but he was. He came back to the house, to the world of men for her. She never saw hide nor hair of the stallion during the day when her father or brothers were around, but come dark and cold, silence...he would come. Morroch, her darkhorse. He didn't completely trust her, but Kaia didn't mind. She didn't completely trust the wildness about him, but together they'd both been slowly gaining at least a measure of respect for one another. That's as far as she'd thought the growing bond had gotten.
It appeared that wasn't true for her heart was heavy with a strange worry and her blue eyes sought out the stallion with fast movements. Where was he? Had he gotten hurt? Been captured? A pang of fear ran through her. He was a black horse...Rohan was so short on black horses... Eru, please let him be safe...
A soft whinny caught her ears and Kaia's face broke into a smile at the dark shape coming over the next rise. The stallion came to a quiet, but snorting stop a little ways in front of her and the young woman stayed still as was their way and routine.
The black horse looked at her out of one eye and the expression there was clearly amusement as he tossed his head. He arched his neck, prancing slightly as he came to his full height. This she-human wasn't his master. He would come or go as he pleased and his attitude delivered the message.
"You worried me." Kaia almost thought it strange that she should be so comfortable talking this way with an animal, like he understood, but with this horse...the young woman would have bet everything she possessed that he did. There was a certain brightness to his eyes, a gleam of strong intelligence. The way he behaved was reason enough to suspect he was something entirely different then what he seemed. The thought didn't scare her.
The stallion seemed to deflate, whether out of surprise or something else was hard to tell. This she-human had been worried about him? The fact caused the horse to pause, studying her once more. What WAS it that drew him here night after night, that drove him crazy during the day with a strange longing to gallop back to the house? Why did this fragile human invoke such a feeling of...loyalty and peace within him? And now she was worried, waiting for him to come to her just as much as he waited for night to fall so he could come. He blew gently and finally came forward. A small shiver raced under his skin when her hand made contact with his hide. The warmth he'd grown to love ran through him gently and the horse relaxed.
A small tingle always accompanied the warmth, but it went immediately to the place right behind his ears and then seemed to seep into his skull. That's when he usually pulled back, unsure about what would happen if he didn't. Today, though, something had changed, and as the strange, but not unpleasant feeling sank deeper into him, the horse realized what it was.
Trust. He'd made the choice to trust this she-human.
Gold eyes met Kaia's blue and the young woman wasn't sure what the emotion was she saw behind them, but it made her smile. Her hands and fingers moved gently along the stallion's neck and then toward his back as her body moved slowly closer. The horse didn't move and the fact gave her courage. A light touch ran over his back and while the black horse's skin twitched and jerked, he still didn't move. It was the most progress she'd seen in three weeks. Kaia cautiously leaned against his shoulder and an ear flicked back at her as a gold eye did the same along with a black head. The look he gave her made the young woman giggle softly.
"It just had to be on your time, didn't it, Morroch?" She rubbed the nose the bumped her stomach. "You're going to be stubborn about everything, aren't you?" The stallion snorted and gold eyes gave her a look that clearly said yes. Kaia grunted. "Thought so."
Kaia could never remember feeling more tired and yet more happy then she did those following six days. She couldn't stop herself from constantly yawning and sometimes it seemed the she dozed on and off all day only to come awake at night. Her father was worried, but he never questioned her. Kaia was sure Ethon had something to do with that as the older man frequently gave the younger looks when she displayed how tired she actually was.
To the young woman, the lack of sleep was worth it. The stallion had grown accustomed to her touch on his legs, hooves, back, head and ears. A brush was no longer an enemy, nor was a pick. The moment she had tried to introduce a halter, though, he'd taken off for the night. Kaia didn't attempt that experiment again. However, the night before he had accepted a weighted sack on his back, puzzling her. She still couldn't bring herself to think of him as more then 'the stallion' or 'the horse'. He wasn't hers yet, not in the way that she could rely on him. The stallion still was elusive during the day...
A small shriek and a loud thump. Kaia looked up from the ground, squinting against the sun and small cloud of dust starting to settle around her. Her father stood on the other side of the fence she'd been sitting precariously on...and had fallen off of. "Father! You scared me!"
Edinon chuckled, looking at his daughter's startled expression whist leaning on the fence with his arms. "So I see. What were you thinking so hard about that you didn't hear me coming?" He watched as she swept her wavy, but tangled red hair back over one shoulder, always subconsciously careful with how she arranged it around her head. The young woman's expression closed off a little as she stood.
"Nothing terribly important. Just about a horse."
"Any horse in particular? You know you can have your pick of any of them, Kaia."
The young woman shook her head. "No...I don't want any of the tamed horses. I...want to tame my own." She glanced over at her father, expecting to see amusement or maybe a frown, but she saw neither. Instead the man looked thoughtful. Finally he nodded. "If that's what you want...you're old enough to try at least. Do you already have one in mind or do you want to try with the next herd?"
Kaia blinked before smiling. She hugged her father over the fence rail, surprising, but pleasing the man. "Thank you! I already have one. I hope to show you soon."
He paced, sometimes back and forth and sometimes in circles. The stallion would start off and then dart back, his mind fighting an even deeper instinct that he was slowly trying to understand. The sun shown bright in a cloudless sky, drying out the grass and the very air. Heat rippled off his black body and the wind was warm. The heat didn't bother him, the sun did because it signified day...and he shouldn't want to go to the house this strongly during the day.
The stallion reared angrily before coming back down to the earth hard, pawing nervously. Something was wrong, not right, different. He just didn't know what it was. The pull to go to the she-human was strong, though, stronger then he'd ever felt before. Four days ago he'd accepted a weighted sack on his back, knowing logically what it would lead to. It had been an act of pure instinct and some trust on his part. What had surprised him was the fact that the she-human didn't press him further then that in the days after. His trust and respect had grown...and her mood had fallen.
She'd become sadder, agitated and last night had cried quietly. It had confused him, but he still hadn't visited her during the day when the other humans were there. Now, though, he was worried. She'd never acted that way before and now the urge to see her was almost overwhelming. The stallion tossed his head once more before stilling and looking in the direction he knew the she-human to be.
His feet were moving before his mind had caught up to them and this time he didn't stop himself.
Kaia couldn't help looking back once more. They were leaving. Messages had come from Edoras, frightening news of war. Saruman had betrayed them, turning to Sauron and was even now, sending enemies against them. They were far from Isengard, but Rohan needed as many fighting men as they could muster and her father and brothers were determined to help. If they did not win this fight, their home would be lost anyway.
While that sat in her mind like a dark cloud, the young woman found herself more saddened by the thought of who she was leaving behind then why she had to leave. Her stallion. She was leaving her Morroch. The sorrel gelding beneath her walked docilely behind the herd, merely following quietly. His name was Bran and he was as different from her black horse as water was from fire.
Kaia felt tears welling and blinked them away. He hadn't truly been hers anyway. She had to remind herself that. There had been hope, yes, but maybe this was better. He was still free, he could run far and fast, escape the war and death to come. Still, she couldn't keep the call of her heart quiet. She would miss him. The young woman took a steadying breath and turned her attention back to the herd ahead of her. It was her job and Lohinon's to keep the horses they were taking to Helm's Deep together and walking. It was done at a surprisingly fast pace, her family having been doing this for years.
It was about three miles later that she heard it, a loud and clearly angry neigh on the warm breeze. Red hair obscured her view as the wind blew it into her eyes as she turned her head, but it was swiftly pushed back. The sight that greeted Kaia was eerily familiar and yet very different. The stallion was once again charging for her, ears pinned and eyes blazing, but this time his target was not the humans, but HER HORSE.
Bran whinnied in fright at another trumpet from the black horse bearing down on him and the gelding reared and bolted. Kaia screamed, more in surprise then anything and barely managed to hang on. She looked over her shoulder to see the herd scattering halfheartedly, skittish and being gathered in by her family. But that wasn't what really caught her attention because the stallion was following Bran, looking just as angry and gaining quickly.
The terrified gelding veered to the right, desperate to escape and was promptly bit back into his straight path by the black horse. The stallion neighed again shrilly. How DARE this animal bear HIS human! The black horse had arrived at the she-human's house to find it abandoned, but the trail still fresh. He'd followed it only to come upon the sight of her on another horse, leaving him. It had sparked a well of rage and possessiveness in him. The stallion now bit the gelding again hard causing the horse to pull up sharply with another rear and neigh of fright. The she-human went tumbling off with a shriek.
The stallion didn't let Bran even attempt to stay, chasing him away viciously before stopping with an angry, but satisfied snort and toss of his head. Now that the stupid animal was taken care of... Gold eyes looked at the still figure lying on the ground with a shock of fear and worry. In his rampage he hadn't thought about how fragile humans were or that she could be hurt. He approached slowly, nudging the she-human with his nose, sniffing her. A soft whinny escaped his mouth.
Kaia groaned, turning over and looking up at the worried gold eyes that looked down at her. She glared and coughed, sitting up slowly. "You crazed cow! You could have killed me!" The horse snorted and side-stepped away at her tone, but didn't leave. The young woman continued to glare as she checked her sore body over for injuries before standing. She looked back the way they'd come to see a rider approaching quickly. The stallion saw it, too and looked like he might dart away at any moment. Kaia sighed.
"Don't you dare! This is YOUR fault." She wasn't really surprised when the stallion stilled, looking reluctant. Kaia walked away from him as the rider pulled up, her brother Edonar. The man didn't immediately dismount, looking her over, though, his skin was much paler then it should have been. He took in the stallion and Bran, finally having stopped, keeping a safe distance away from them.
"Are you well? No injuries?"
Kaia shook her head with a sigh. "No, but can you get Bran for me? I don't think he'll let me get near him."
Edonar looked at the black horse who stood stiffly, but refused to leave. He thought about what they'd witnessed and nodded. "I would have to agree. I will get him." He kicked his own horse after the tired and scared gelding, leaving Kaia to sort out the black menace.
"Well? What now? You don't want me riding another horse, that much is clear."
The stallion snorted and tossed his head nervously. He hadn't really thought that far ahead, but now could see the sense in the she-human's words. He DIDN'T want her riding another horse, but she apparently needed to so her family wouldn't leave her behind. He regarded the female for a long moment and she in turn glared at him with those sky-blue eyes, arms crossed. Her hair blew in the warm breeze and the stallion noticed something he hadn't before, though, it didn't matter overmuch to him.
He blew in agitation, thinking hard and quickly. The black horse barely twitched when her hand came to rest on his neck, stroking soothingly. The familiar warmth flowed as she spoke quietly. "I grew on you, didn't I? Well, you grew on me, too. I don't want to leave you behind."
It was in that moment, as her words and the tingle sank into his mind that the stallion understood. He moved smoothly, slowly, sure of what he did until his back was in front of her. The she-human merely blinked, surprise written on her face clearly as she looked at him.
Kaia didn't know what shocked her more: Her own suddenly uncertain feelings about this or his offer. The stallion snorted, his eyes almost dancing in amusement and surprised her yet again as he lowered his knees and laid down. A soft whinny seemed to ask her what more she needed. Was this not confirmation enough for what he wanted? Kaia shook her head in disbelief, but a smile was growing on her face and she stepped forward. Watching him carefully, she slid her leg over his back and then settled her weight firmly. The horse hadn't moved, waiting patiently. Now he stood, making her lurch forward and then back before evening out.
The young woman looked down and then between his ears, flicked back to hear her, and grinned. She was on his back and had yet to meet the ground! A laugh bubbled in her chest and spilled out of her mouth. An amused whinny answered her and Kaia held on tightly to his mane as the horse side-stepped, experimenting.
He'd never done this before, but nothing had ever felt more right either. The stallion looked back at the she-human on his back and for the first time thought of her name. Kaia. The humans called her Kaia. And she was his. He had never thought to have a master and he still didn't want one, but with Kaia it was different. She treated him almost as an equal. She wasn't his master, she was his friend and now his rider. The horse thought he could live with that.
Kaia looked over when the horse beneath her tensed and saw Edonar approaching with Bran tied securely to his saddle-horn. The poor gelding looked petrified of the stallion, pulling against the reign and trying to press close to Edonar's own mare Frenya. The roan wasn't exactly happy with the intrusion to her personal space, but she listened to her master and didn't put up too much of a fuss as they came closer to the black horse.
"So this is why you've been so tired." It didn't really surprise the man to see his sister astride the black horse. Something, clues and intuition had told him that this had to have been the cause of her interrupted sleep. The young woman grinned and patted the black neck comfortingly.
"Yes. This is Morroch."
Her brother nodded. "I think we should get back to the others now." He spurred Frenya into an easy gallop back toward their father and brothers. Kaia watched and looked into the gold eye that looked back at her. "I'd be pleased if you would follow and not throw me off while doing so." The horse she know firmly thought of as Morroch snorted and sprang smoothly into a ground-eating gallop that had him easily catching up and passing the mare and gelding.
Kaia couldn't help smiling the whole time.
Morroch couldn't say he was unhappy, but he couldn't say he was comfortable yet, either. They'd joined the King and the other fleeing villagers two days back and the stallion wasn't sure he was all right with being around so many people. Humans that gave him curious looks for his color and children that wanted to pet him all the time. It took everything in him, plus Kaia's death-glare and threats to keep him from snapping in warning at the small faces and hands. He wouldn't have hurt them, but scaring them enough to make them leave him alone was not beneath him.
He loved running with Kaia and being near her, but those two things were not something he got to do as often as he wanted. Running ahead or beside the congregation was not encouraged and he was required to stay with the other horses when they stopped. It was something he only tolerated for her sake. The stallion snorted, looking toward the camp before going back to the eating the grass under his nose. It was dry and brittle, much like the state of the climate and people right now. The weather was turning colder, the humans wrapping up to stay warm as the night approached and their nerves were frayed with the fear of the approaching enemy.
Morroch couldn't stop himself from looking up once more as he felt a small, but insistent tug, a familiar tug. That was something that he wanted to understand badly. For a few days now he'd been feeling like he was supposed to do something. The stallion just couldn't figure out what it was. The feeling always got stronger the more time he spent around Kaia, the more she talked. It was almost as if he were supposed to respond in some way...
The tug pulled again sharply and this time he didn't pause to answer it, galloping for the camp. Humans either scattered or looked at him in surprise, well, the females did. The males made attempts to catch a halter that wasn't there before he swept past. The stallion extended his nose, looking for the scent he cared about. Gold eyes snapped to a golden-haired figure with confusion. What? This wasn't Kaia, but the scent...was shockingly similar... Blue eyes looked at him in some surprise before his nose caught the stronger scent of Kaia. Morroch gave the male a puzzled snort before moving on, toward his rider.
He found Kaia on the other side of the camp...alone except for a strange man he didn't like the smell of with her. It appeared she'd gone to get water from the small river they were passing and had gotten caught alone with the male. Judging from the smell of fear on his rider, she didn't want this human's attention. The tug pulled sharply, almost painfully and the stallion let out an enraged, shrill neigh. The man had grabbed Kaia's wrist and she was now trying to fight him off.
Morroch barely registered the shocked look on the man's face as charged forward with another squeal of anger. The man let go of Kaia abruptly and started to scramble away. It was only Kaia's sharp, if trembling voice that brought the furious stallion to a halt in front of her, keeping him from killing the male. The stallion reared, trumpeting loudly with threat. His ears were pinned and his teeth bared when he came down, pawing the earth.
Kaia leaned against the horse's side, shaking as she watched the man run off back into camp. Several men ran after him. They'd acquired a crowd of confused and worried people, Morroch's protecting having been anything but quiet. The young woman blushed an almost scarlet color, seeing some of the King's companions in the group of Rohirric men, women and children. She hid her face in the stallion's black mane, feeling the comfort and power that came off him in waves. It was a relief when she heard her father's voice calling her. The man ran forward, simply batting Morroch's nose away when the stallion pinned his ears.
"Are you well? What happened!" Edinon's worry grew a notch as his daughter didn't answer, but simply wrapped her arms around him, trembling. He looked at Ethon as his son came over and the younger man nodded, replacing his father as the young woman's support. The older man strode over to the men who were holding one firmly, leading him out of the camp. Kaia looked up at Ethon at seeing the male. "He grabbed me. I don't...I didn't want to hurt him. I thought he might be drunk..." Her brother nodded.
"Let's get you back to our fire." was the soft reply. The young woman nodded, but pulled away. She mounted Morroch, feeling safer astride him. The stallion didn't wait for a que before side-stepping away from Ethon and then springing away. He leaped the small river, his rider sure upon his back. Kaia didn't want to stay right now. She wanted space to sort through her emotions and thoughts. How he knew this, Morroch didn't know, but it was as clear in his mind as clean water.
Kaia finally sat up, tears drying. She wasn't sure why she had cried, but she felt better for having done so and Morroch had walked smoothly and slowly while she did. The young woman sniffed, her nose clogged and wiped her wet eyes. They were probably red, but she didn't care. No one was here to see her anyway. She sighed and patted the stallion's neck. "Thanks. I don't know how you always seem to know what I need."
"I understand you."
She froze. The voice had been deep, definitely male...and had come from close by. It had sounded like it came from the horse she rode. Kaia reacted swiftly, sliding off the stallion and stepping close to look him in the eye. "What did you say?" the young woman whispered. She'd been hearing things. She'd been scared enough that she'd imagined Morroch talking. She just needed sleep. She could NOT have just heard...
"I said, I understand you, Kaia." Gold eyes regarded her calmly and with some amusement as her jaw dropped. The stallion didn't understand how he was talking or even why. All he knew was that the words had suddenly come, the tingle in his mind flaring before settling like a calm buzz once again in the back of his head. He'd wanted to speak to her and so he had. Logically, Morroch knew he shouldn't have been able to, but horses were supposed to be able to think like he did, either. He watched Kaia stare at him, felt her grasp his mane tightly as she swayed.
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know! You're speaking to me! How can you not know why?"
The black horse snorted and butted her stomach gently. "Stop yelling. I don't know how I can do this. I just can. Is that not good enough?"
Kaia felt the frustration go out of her and shook her head slowly. "This is just...strange. That's all. How long have you been able to do this?"
"Do what? Think or just speak what I am thinking?"
"Both, I think."
Morroch tilted his face as Kaia's fingers rubbed gently. She'd started doing it without thought and he wasn't about to stop her. "I've been able to think logically since I was young. Speaking has only come...now."
Kaia shook her head again, but a smile had appeared on her face. "I always knew you could understand me." This was strange, yes, but since when had things been normal in their partnership?