Disclaimer: Nope don't own anything. *sigh* Wish I did, but I don't. I do own Kaia, Morroch, Haiawen, Edinon, Ethon, Edonar and Lohinon.
A/N ~ Just in case anyone is wondering...Morroch is pronounced "More-r-och". Haiawen is "Hi-yuh-win". Lohinon is "Low-hinon". Ethon is pronounced with a short "e", not like Ethan with a long "e".
Mind-speech is bold.
Reviad ~ Flight
Kaia woke to the now familiar noises of the camp, the smell of dissipating smoke and Ethon shaking her shoulder firmly. Blue eyes blinked open to look into dark brown and the man smiled, ruffling her already wild hair. "Wake up, Kaia. We must be going." The young woman glared through one eye at his retreating back, but yawned and stretch, waking fully. She sat up and ran a hand through her stubborn red hair before simply grabbing it all and tying it back with a piece of fabric coming off her tunic. Kaia stood and started rolling up her bedroll before it occurred to her that something was wrong.
She looked up and around, eyes growing wide, though, she didn't exactly feel worried. Where was Morroch?
Edonar glanced at his sister and simply spoke evenly on his way to his own steed as he passed her. "He went for a run." Kaia breathed a small sigh of relief and smiled at him in thanks before going back to her task. It didn't feel strange to her that she should take the stallion's habits and wanderings in a stride. She wasn't sure what it was that seemed to tell her when Morroch was all right and when he wasn't. The horse seemed to feel it, too. All the young woman knew was that Morroch had become part of her in a way she'd never thought possible and the bond appeared to be only growing in unexpected ways.
The sound of a familiar snort made her smile before she'd even turned around and the stallion butted her back gently. "Why you humans insist on bringing so much with you, I will never understand." Kaia chuckled and turned, rubbing his nose and the white smudge there. "I'm afraid it's going to remain a mystery for I cannot explain it to you. We simply can't survive like you can."
Morroch conceded to the small pack and rolled bedroll Kaia placed on his back only after much protesting. The young woman was frustrated by the end of the argument, though, she had won it and Lohinon was ready to double over with laughter. The blond man appeared to have accepted the odd talking-horse after a night of sleeping on it and had watched his sister argue with the stallion with great amusement. He patted the head of his own horse, Briyn, fondly. "Makes me grateful you cannot speak." The gelding just shook his mane out.
"Can we run yet?"
Kaia sighed and frowned at the ear cocked back toward her for an answer. Morroch was by no means a patient animal, that she was learning, and the young woman was about ready to turn him loose and walk he was annoying her so much. She blinked as he turned his head slightly to look at her with one startled gold eye and raised her own brow in clear question. Had she said something aloud?
"I'm sorry. I did not realize I was irritating you." The stallion shook his mane and eying the other horses around them and the young woman's family, spoke quietly. "I just don't like to be crowded. This...is new to me." He wasn't trying to upset his rider, but Morroch wasn't even a true horse. He wasn't bred for this, hadn't been raised to tolerate humans...the fact that he had a bond with Kaia was startling enough even to him. He side-stepped in agitation as Lohinon and Briyn sidled too close for comfort and snorted warningly. The man gave Kaia a small smile of amusement before urging his gelding further ahead where Edinon rode.
"I'm sorry, too. I know this is stressful for you. Everyone is feeling the strain of the Shadow. That's why I'm stalling on the run. I don't want to worry my father and brothers."
"And if you had company?" The question came from a third party and both Kaia and Morroch looked over at Haiawen sharply to the see the black-haired woman smiling as she rode over on a black mare with a white star on her forehead by the name of Eryaelen. Blended black-green eyes looked at the two with both a bit of hesitation and warmth. "Would your family let you run ahead with company?" she asked again. Kaia smiled back, but looked at Ethon who'd been glancing over. The man chuckled, but nodded.
Morroch gave a neigh, soft but happy as the ground beneath him raced on by. His feet created a soothing sound as they hit the earth in a steady rhythm. Muscles stretched and coiled, moving with fluidity and speed, showing no signs of strain. Black ears were poised forward, then flicking to the side and back, listening for a threat, though, he didn't expect one. Morroch also didn't truly expect the laughter that made him take on a new burst of speed. Kaia was happy as the wind whipped her red hair into a tangle and tore at her clothes. The tingle in his mind seemed to explode and suddenly the stallion wasn't feeling his own contentment...but something entirely different.
Freedom such as he'd never experienced or appreciated. A joy of feeling the speed by which he passed everything by. These were not his emotions. Morroch heard a shout and finally started to slow, letting Haiawen and Eryaelen catch up to them. He was almost glad for the excuse as the slower speed gave him a safe opportunity to look back at his rider. Kaia had gone quiet, her face thoughtful and her blue eyes met his gold.
The world seemed to still and Kaia barely noticed when Morroch's feet really did stop and the stallion stood frozen, looking back at her. Small whisperings started in her ears...but no, her ears really did not seem to be hearing anything at all. She vaguely heard Haiawen questioning them, the rustle of the wind through the yellowing grass, the distant noises of the Rohirrim behind them...but none of registered. Nothing but the growing whispers in her mind. They brushed against her efforts to understand them teasingly, never quite letting her grasp the meaning of their presence. Kaia could have growled in frustration, but realized that Morroch was already snorting his.
"So we are both hearing things..."
Something seemed to sear with heat in both their minds and both horse and human cried out, startling Haiawen so that she dismounted and tried to approach them. Morroch sidled, pinning his ears warningly and she stopped, face and eyes showing indecision. The black-haired woman looked back toward the Rohirrim to see her husband and one of Kaia's brother's approaching swiftly. Haiawen glanced at the horse and rider who seemed to be oblivious to anything but what was going on inside them both.
Pain. Why did it hurt so much? It was the thought of both individuals, but neither had an answer, neither was sure what was happening to begin with. All they knew was that the whispers had grown to an unbearable volume...and were only slowly quieting down to something tolerable. Kaia slumped down on Morroch's back, holding her head as it throbbed. The stallion's own head hung low as he, too, felt like he might collapse.
Kaia's voice...and yet not a voice caused Morroch to pin his ears back hard, pressing them to his skull as they echoed in his mind, unfamiliar and for the moment, unwelcome. "Don't do that!" His own command, louder then he'd intended, made his rider's head flare with sharp pain and Kaia clutched her head tighter, groaning. What was going on?
"I don't know." The reply was quieter this time, barely a whisper as Morroch suddenly began to grasp the first inkling of what they were doing, why it hurt. His ears heard nothing but Haiawen's worried muttering and the pounding of nearing hooves, but his MIND was hearing so much more...it was hearing Kaia's mind, thoughts, her voice. No wonder his skull hurt. It was being invaded and was invading.
Kaia sat up slowly and looked into the gold eye watching her. "I didn't say anything." She looked startled and touched her lips. They hadn't moved, hadn't uttered a sound and yet Morroch was looking at her with understanding in his horse expression. The stallion nodded slowly. "I know, but I can still hear you."
The two held each others eyes for a moment more before being jolted back into reality...where Legolas and Ethon were both looking at them with different degrees of worry. Haiawen appeared relieved that they looked to be coming back from the stupor they'd been in, but the males were not yet ready to let it go. The elf started to move Arod forward, but stopped as Ethon urged his own horse toward his sister first. Nithin didn't want to be near the other stallion, but though he champed at the bit, he obeyed reluctantly and stood still as his rider leaned over and felt Kaia's forehead. The young woman batted the hand away with a frown.
"I'm fine. Stop it. I think...I think the stress just got to me is all. I'm fine." She was immensely relieved to hear sound flowing from her own mouth, but wasn't happy that it had to be a lie. She could tell her family many things, but this...telling them that she could suddenly mind-speak to a horse that could already talk with the tongue of men? Not something she was willing to test just yet. It was not something the young woman was sure SHE was all right with...
That thought brought a flick of Morroch's ears, but the stallion didn't comment, simply, and wonderingly, wanting to get back to the other humans so that they could move at a slower pace...and so there would be less questioning. Both his and Kaia's heads still hurt. The horse foresaw many headaches in the future... Kaia hid a grimace, hearing that encouraging thought as they started back toward the Rohirrim. Ethon watched her like a hawk, unwilling to believe the lie and Legolas and Haiawen hung back a bit, talking in low voices.
Neither Morroch or Kaia cared as their three companions were quiet.
The rest of the cloudy afternoon was spent riding silently...at least to the ones around them. Inside their own minds, both Morroch and Kaia were testing and stretching their limits. Both didn't want to admit to the headache it gave them, determined to work through it and understand what it was exactly that they'd been gifted with here. It was strange being able to hear the thoughts of the other person periodically, to be able to question each other without anyone around them the wiser.
"We need to establish boundaries, Morroch. I don't want you reading my every thought, to be honest."
Black ears flicked back toward her. "I cannot hear half of them anyway." the horse pointed out.
"True, but we're getting better. You couldn't hear most of them only an hour ago. With use, I think this strange talent could get easier. I just think we should make the rules now." Much as she was beginning to grow accustomed to Morroch's presence in her head, she didn't want him seeing some of the things there. Her mind was her own...or had been. It didn't seem right to have someone invade that private place. The stallion nickered softly, suddenly understanding as the emotions and thoughts flowed through his own mind gently.
"We must first learn how to block each other from certain places within each of us."
Kaia started to nod, but glancing around at the people riding near her, simply smiled and patted his neck.
That night brought with it a thin blanket of mist, sore heads, tired limbs...and company once more. With the exception of Gimli, who still didn't want to be around Morroch, the two remaining members of the Fellowship, plus one woman, joined Morroch and Kaia by their fire again. Conversation was light and rarely strayed into anything serious or deep, much to Kaia's relief. She found herself smiling and laughing softly, warming to these people as they told their stories and asked for hers.
It was apparent now to both Morroch and the young woman where each of them stood in their view of the people before them. Morroch liked Aragorn. It was not something he could explain, it just was. It turned out that Kaia did as well, instinctively just trusting the ranger. The stallion didn't really care about Haiawen all that much. She posed no threat to him that he could sense, but she also wasn't interesting in his opinion. He was willing to be polite, though, for his rider's sake. She was warming to the other female and Haiawen seemed to know that the red-haired young woman needed that time, taking no offense.
Gimli was a sore spot on both their lists. Morroch didn't like him at all at this point and the horse stubbornly refused to believe there could be a time when he did like the short being, though, Legolas hinted at the fact, much to Aragorn's amusement. Kaia was a bit more reserved in her judgment, balancing out her stallion's hasty decision. She hadn't liked the dwarf's initial greeting, but first impressions weren't always the best thing to go by when getting to know a person. Legolas just confused both of them for reasons they didn't understand. He still smelled strange to Morroch and yet familiar at the same time, it was odd. The young woman wanted to say that she was fine with the elf, but as warm as he was, she couldn't help but feel that he was just as puzzled as they were, trying to figure them out as they did him.
The two fell asleep pondering their new friends and wondering how in the world they'd managed to get involved with such a group...
Next day, afternoon...
"War! War! We're under attack!"
The words, uttered by Aragorn, caused a stirring panic in the woman and children around Morroch and Kaia. The young woman felt like panicking herself when she saw her father and brothers starting to ride away. Edinon looked back at his daughter. "Stay! Go with the woman!" He gave her a last, lingering look before riding after the other men. Kaia sat frozen atop Morroch, unable to get her mind to function at the moment.
Just this morning she'd had a light conversation with her father. What if it was the last memory she'd have of him? What of her brothers? What would she do if she lost one or more of them? The thought was one filled with fear and grief...and Morroch responded with anger. The stallion reared, pawing the air against a threat that wasn't there but he sensed. Something was coming to hurt those close to his rider and, therefore, something was coming to hurt Kaia. He wouldn't let it happen. The stallion sprang forward, heading up the rise and toward the sound of battle, heedless and deaf to the young woman's protests and curses as instinct overrode all else.
Kaia wished at that moment that she had reigns to haul back on, but she didn't. All she could do as the black horse gained on the riders ahead of him was hang on to the black mane that stung her face. She didn't want to fight! She'd never spilled blood or taken a life before! The stallion under her was unresponsive and going much too fast for her to safely leap off his back. Besides, the wargs had appeared over the next hill...and she knew it would be safer on Morroch than off of him at this point. Kaia had barely remembered and managed to pull her sword out, clumsily, forgetting any training in her fear, before the two sides clashed with shrill neighs, shouts and snarls.
Morroch squealed his own challenge at a warg, striking out at the large creature with hard hooves. The orc's eyes were for Kaia, though, and she felt her heart stop and her throat go dry in terror and adrenaline as it brought its blade down over her head. Training and survival instinct kicked in and she brought her own blade up to ring with the sound of scraping steel against the orc's sword. Kaia stared for but a moment at her enemy before executing a move she'd been taught by Edonar. The orc's head rolled from its shoulders and the young woman thought she might be sick. It wasn't to happen, though, as her attention was drawn to the warg, now riderless, who was going for Morroch.
Anger replaced the sick feeling as her sword came down once more, cutting into the creature's shoulder enough to injure and distract it, but not enough to kill it. Kaia screamed as it leaped, but Morroch's hooves were nothing to be ignored and with a buck that had the young woman hanging on for dear life to his mane, he crushed the warg's head in before leaping nimbly away. The stallion's gold eyes searched for another challenge, barely noticing the rider on his back except when the need to protect her arose. He could feel a strange desire to kill welling in him and while the feeling was strange, it wasn't unwelcome or entirely foreign to him in a weird way. So busy was he fighting that Morroch failed to truly heed the extraordinary thing taking place on the inside and outside of him.
Kaia was the one who noticed it, even as she stabbed another orc. It was hard not to notice a pair of wings growing under her legs or soft, leathery scales brushing against her hands. The young woman's blue eyes grew to twice their normal size as she looked down. Not only was she much farther from the ground then normal, now she wasn't even seated on a horse. Under her legs, alive and growing very warm, was a black dragon.
"Morroch?" It was whispered and the only answer she received was a brief glance from familiar gold eyes. Kaia looked down once more, vaguely noticing that the wargs and orcs were retreating from the sharp claws and teeth now unleashed on them. The Rohirrim were staring in a mixture of horror and awe, none having noticed her on the dragon's back. The young woman's blood-covered hands felt the soft leathery scales under her fingers and a sense of wonder went through her.
It was short-lived.
A roar of pain shattered the small amount of peace Kaia had managed to find. Morroch's body convulsed once beneath her and she saw red on his scales; blood dripping down his shoulder. An arrow had been fired and hit the dragon right beside his wing-joint where it met his shoulder. He roared again and Kaia screamed into the sound, feeling the pain in his mind as his body sent it along. Morroch growled with pain, but leaped. His wings beat the air, each stroke bringing flaring fire, but he started to lift off the ground. The last thing Kaia saw before they'd gone too high was the face of her brother Ethon and her father looking up at her with shock.
Ah, she'd finally been noticed.
Kaia clung to Morroch's neck with all that she was worth, eyes squeezed shut as cold air stung her face and numbed her ears, her arms. Her hands and legs, stomach were all surprisingly warm due to the heat the dragon produced. She trembled with fear, but also with pain. Each wing-beat yielded flaring agony through the dragon's shoulder and Kaia felt every message sent to his brain. Morroch seemed not to be in his right mind, lost within the predator he'd become. She no longer recognized the mind that was partially in her own. It was wild and cared not for logic or reason.
The young woman finally sat up, realizing that they were traveling farther and farther away from where they needed to be...and Morroch wasn't going to come back to himself by himself. She didn't know what to do, but gaining her own courage and bearings might be best before she tried to reason with the creature under her legs. Kaia made herself look down, fully realize how high off the ground she was. To her surprise, it wasn't as terrifying as she'd thought it would be. That was one relief. The second was that, though she was covered in black, pungent blood of orcs and wargs, her only injury was a shallow cut to her arm and a small nick on her cheek.
She took a breath, finding it a bit harder up here where the air was apparently thinner, and placed her palm on the dragon's soft scales. "Morroch?" No response, not even a growl of acknowledgment. She frowned. "Morroch!" The reaction to intruding on his mind was instant and Kaia found herself ducking with an instinct she wasn't aware she possessed as a long black tail whipped over her head, intending to strike her off. Anger came now, hot and justified, and the young woman thumped the hide under her hand with her fist.
"Stop it! You know me. It's Kaia, Morroch! You need to land! You're bleeding!"
A rumbling, but loud growl was all the warning she got before the black dragon plummeted, spiraling as he attempted to rid himself of the pest on his back. Kaia clamped her legs tightly, hands gripping the small ridges on his neck as she gritted her teeth. Talking was not going to work. She needed to be as wild as he was. It appeared it was time to test their wills against each other.
Morroch wasn't sure what hit him...or if he'd been physically hit at all, but the dragon's flight became jerky and sporadic for a brief moment as he felt another will impress on his own. He growled, lashing out at the other mind. It seemed to recoil and pause for a moment before coming back with more determination and even savageness of its own. The dragon snapped and snarled, trying to gain dominance over the intruder, but while the other person couldn't best him, he couldn't best the other, either.
The mind battle continued until both started to tire, but with the tiredness came clarity for the dragon. As his head had to focus on fighting Kaia's mind, the instinct he'd listened to faded into the background. Morroch suddenly stopped, his wing-beats slowing as he realized who it was that was on his back. Kaia screamed in a short burst as he started plummeting again and the dragon snapped his wings open. The action caused his shoulder to flare with fiery pain and he gave a small roar.
"You need to land. Now." Kaia wasn't positive that Morroch was in his right mind, but she had to try. The young woman could have cried in relief when Morroch started to descend at a steady rate and finally landed on the plains, stumbling in an ungraceful manner. Kaia tumbled from his back in much the same way, landing on her feet and then crumpling to the ground. She was trembling and couldn't seem to stop. Morroch brought his great head around to touch her with his nose, which interestingly enough, was still adorned with a white smudge on the black. Kaia didn't hesitate to bring her hands up to press against the warm scales, tears running down her face slowly, mixing with the splatters of black blood. He'd tried to kill her, knock her out of the air, but he was still Morroch and despite the danger that was now apparently present, she still trusted him.
The dragon rumbled in apology and finally spoke, his voice deep. "I'm sorry."
Kaia sniffed and sat back, taking a shuddering breath. "I know. Let me see your shoulder." She stood shakily and went to his side, hands running along his scales until she came to the arrow. It was embedded deeply, halfway up the shaft. The young woman bit her lip. She knew how to care for wounds, but this...and on a dragon...without supplies... "I don't think I can do anything for it right now, mellenig." she whispered, blue eyes looking up into gold. Morroch whined faintly, but nodded. Both just stayed there for a moment, unsure how to proceed.
Morroch finally broke the silence. "We need to get back. Your family will be worried." Kaia looked at him in disbelief. "You can't go like this! They'll kill you!" How was she to explain this! Her horse could talk...and now change into a dragon. Or was it her dragon could change into a horse? She didn't even know at this point...
"Morroch, can you...become a horse...again?"
The dragon looked surprised by the question, but nodded slowly after a moment, after some careful thought. "I think that might be possible. I think I can almost feel another...instinct in me. I think it is horse-like." He folded his wings with a whine of pain, but looked at Kaia with some hope, now unsure. "Do you think that is possible?"
Kaia looked up from examining the arrow wound once more and her blue eyes met his gold with a small smile. The young woman walked to the dragon's head and pressed her own forehead against his large nose, his warm scales. Her voice was soft. "I believe that you will do whatever it takes to get us home. I think it possible...though, I do not know how I can help you in this." She stepped back as the dragon rumbled quietly, watching as Morroch closed his great gold eyes, concentrating. She could feel his mind sharpen, edges of thought growing distinct as he focused on something she couldn't quite see.
Her blue eyes didn't at first take in what they were seeing, but they widened with amazement when they finally did. The dragon before her was shrinking, changing - though if asked she wouldn't have been able to tell you exactly what changed or when - and soon she was looking at the stallion she loved so much. The arrow was still in his shoulder, blood running sluggishly, but the horse appeared as surprised and pleased as she did when he opened his eyes once more.
Kaia looked down at the arrow again, biting her lip. Morroch was starting to limp slightly and the young woman knew it wouldn't be long before he couldn't walk at all, but the stallion kept pushing onwards, following his nose and her vague sense of direction. They both knew they needed to get to Helm's Deep before nightfall. Kaia smiled when the found the river, though, they could not yet get to it for the cliff. The pair followed its winding path, knowing it would take them where they needed to go.
Morroch grunted in pain as the day wore on and the terrain became rockier before it once again became grassland. He sniffed the air once more, scenting horse on the wind. Black ears pricked forward. This was only one unique scent of horse...and something else that he knew he should be able to place...river? No, not just river...human... He tossed his head as they came over the next rise, stopping and glad for the break. His shoulder burned with every stride he took. The stallion scanned the land below him and it wasn't hard to spot the slumped rider on the dark stallion.
"That's Aragorn!" Kaia stared. "Why is he here?" She resisted the urge to spur Morroch forward as the horse began down the hill. To Morroch's credit, he did try to hurry, his own curiosity stirred. The two made their way to Aragorn and the man finally looked up, seeming to force himself to do so. His face registered shock and Kaia smiled a bit sheepishly for a reason she wasn't sure of. The ranger blinked and the young woman could see and hear the weariness in his face and voice when he spoke hoarsely.
"What are you doing here?"
"It's a strange story. I could ask you the same."
The man offered a weak smile. "I fell into the river and Brego found me."
"Morroch changed into a dragon on me."
Aragorn blinked once more, looking at the black stallion who gazed back at him calmly, bit with pain in his eyes. "I think it is a story for another time, human. Right now we must reach this fortress before dark." The two humans looked toward the mountains in the distance and nodded. One urged his horse forward and the other rested a comforting hand on her own steed as he gave a heavy sigh, following.
"Stay down." The command was whispered softly, but harshly and Kaia laid across Morroch's back as the horse stilled, hearing the sound like thunder over the rise Aragorn had already viewed. They edged forward to see what had him agitated. The ranger's expression had been one of surprise, but now was grim, his eyes hard and lips thinned. He edged Brego backwards and motioned for the black stallion and the young woman to follow him quickly. Morroch's shoulder was killing him, but adrenaline hit as the Uruk-kai came into his sight and he galloped after the dark brown stallion without hesitation.
Kaia's white face and wide blue eyes met Aragorn's own hard eyes and the two shared a silent message. They had to warn the people awaiting this coming army. She hated to do it, but Morroch understood as she urged him faster, asking the impossible of him. The stallion snorted with determination and rose to the challenge, lengthening his strides despite the pain. Lives were at stake and as much as he didn't care for the humans, he knew it would hurt Kaia to abandon them without any sort of fight.
Aragorn glanced over at his companion as they rode, his quick eyes traveling over Morroch, noting how fast the horse was tiring. Or was he a dragon? The ranger shook his head, feeling the weariness in his own limbs. Dragon or not, he hoped the horse made it. He already sensed the unique connection between the young red-head and the stallion. He looked over at Kaia again and his eyes widened. The wind whipped her hair back in a fiery tangle...revealing her ears.
It shocked him to realize they were that of an elf's, delicately pointed near the top.
The ranger looked ahead again, shaking his head once more. That was unexpected, but suddenly some things were starting to make sense to him... He didn't have time to dwell on it, however, as the drums and thundering footsteps behind them reminded Aragorn of the peril they faced. Kaia's past, interesting as it was, would have to wait.