Disclaimer: Not mine! Don't own anything, but Kaia, Morroch, Haiawen, Edinon, Ethon, Edonar and Lohinon.
A/N ~ Mind-speech is in bold. Elven is explained at the bottom of the chapter.
Tirweg ~ Watchful
Kaia sighed in relief as Helm's Deep came into view, feeling the exhausted stallion beneath her. Morroch's head hung and his breathing came in short bursts. Pain was evident in his gold eyes and the young woman could feel the jagged flares going through his mind through their connection. She rested her hand on his damp neck, glancing over at Aragorn before they all started down the slope toward the fortress. A cry came up from the wall and they rode through the gates. Morroch was too tired to do more than pin his ears as they were surrounded by people and Kaia just wanted to get him to a healer and see her family, let them know she was all right.
She dismounted, looking over at Aragorn with a small smile as he was hugged and yelled at by Gimli. It was almost strange seeing the dwarf showing an emotion other then wariness of them and she was glad for the brief moment she got to see the happiness and relief on his face, the care. News went out quickly among the Rohirrim that two riders had arrived, Lord Aragorn being one and a red-haired woman on a black horse being the other. Kaia wasn't really surprised when, as she was walking Morroch toward the stables, she was swept off her feet into strong arms. Kaia hugged the person back tightly, recognizing instantly the smell of her father.
"Kaia! Little one you scared me!" Edinon set his daughter down and looked her over, noting the dried blood and weariness. "Are you well? What happened?" The last he had seen was her flying away on the back of a black dragon. Kaia opened her mouth to respond, but didn't get the chance as her brothers came running forward and she was picked up and hugged all over again. The young woman couldn't bring herself to complain, too relieved to be back with her family, to know they are all alive. Morroch kept quiet for once, knowing his rider needed this. The horse was about to fall asleep on his feet, though.
The young woman was finally able to get back to the horse's side and she beckoned her family to follow as she resumed her efforts to get to her destination. Edinon and his sons watched the stallion with guarded and yet curious expressions as Kaia bedded him in a stall, kneeling by his head to check the wound on his shoulder once more. It was hot and inflamed from the aggravation the run had caused it, but upon close inspection, she saw that it the arrow was not that of an orc and, therefore, not poisoned. Nor was it a Rohirrim arrow, though... She bit her lip and looked toward Lohinon. He was the healer in their family and the blond man came over slowly, crouching beside her and examining the horse's shoulder himself.
"What happened, Kaia?" It was Ethon and Edonar and her father were both watching her as well over the stall door, awaiting the answer. Kaia sighed, but sat back, letting Lohinon work as she held Morroch's head, petting him comfortingly. He was half-asleep already, exhausted.
"I didn't try to disobey you, father, but...I couldn't control Morroch. He thought I would be safer taking out the enemy then running from them, exposing my back. "
She sighed. "I don't know everything that goes on in his head. I can only tell you what I think is true."
Edinon silenced Ethon with a stern glance. "Continue, Kaia."
The young woman looked back down at the black head she held in her lap, running her fingers along the white smudge on the stallion's nose, thinking about how much bigger that nose had been only a few hours before. "Morroch...changed. We were fighting and...he just changed under me. Into the dragon that carried me away. He doesn't know how he did it and neither do I, but we now know he can change back to a horse."
There was a long pause of silence and Kaia didn't look up, unsure that she wanted to see her family's reaction. Edinon finally spoke. "How did you find your way here?" Kaia glanced at her father with a small smile. "We met Lord Aragorn. He knew the way and led us. We came as fast as we could...the Uruk-hai are not far behind us." she said quietly, before pushing the dark thoughts to the back of her mind once more. She looked at Lohinon's skilled hands as he worked and held on to Morroch's head tightly as his gold eyes snapped open with pain and her own mind felt the agony flare in his. Her brother was handling the shaft the arrow gently, trying to figure out the best way to pull it out while causing the least amount of damage. The stallion snorted, calming slightly as his eyes met Kaia's sky blue, but his body was still tense.
Edonar entered the stall quietly and simply came behind the horse, pressing his knee into Morroch's neck and holding his body still. The stallion attempted to toss his head, but was soothed by his rider's calm voice. "Shh, the arrow needs to come out, Morroch. Edonar is just making sure you don't jerk and hurt yourself further."
"I still don't like it," was the quiet, tired reply and Kaia ran her fingers gently over his forehead. "I know, but be still. It will be over soon." It was with some careful pulling, much of Edonar's weight and Kaia's soothing words as she tried not to wince herself that the arrow was removed and Morroch's shoulder treated. Lohinon briefly suggested cauterizing the wound, but Morroch thrashed and started to put up such a fight, greater than before, that the man abandoned the idea for now. He finally sat back, giving his sister an encouraging smile as her worried eyes met his own blue ones.
"He should be fine, but if the wound starts to fester we'll have to burn it closed." The young woman nodded, looking down at the stallion who was once again drifting off, head in her lap. This time he didn't wake up, sleep claiming him fully as the pain subsided into a dull throb. Kaia looked up as her father and eldest brother finally entered the stall. She watched as her family seated themselves around her with both weariness and contentment. They were together and, for now, safe. That's all she cared about.
Edinon sat next to the child he'd take in years before and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. His dark brown eyes strayed to the horse. "Do you still trust him?" The question surprised Kaia and she looked up at the man before allowing her eyes to settle on Morroch again. Kaia was silent for a minute as she truly thought about the question.
He'd been nothing but strange and sometimes difficult since she'd met him. The stallion was impatient, didn't trust, often rude and he didn't always listen to her as had been shown. And now there was the possibility that he might be anything but a horse, a predator that had tried to kill her twice in the air. Did she trust him? Kaia thought about how close they'd grown, how they'd connected, mind to mind. He was her friend. The young woman looked back at her father and smiled.
"Yes. I trust him. I never stopped."
Kaia woke with a start, her sixth-sense telling her that someone was in the stall, someone that hadn't been there before. Her sky blue eyes snapped up to see Haiawen smiling gently at her before the other woman crouched down. "Mae govannen, Kaia. How did you sleep?" she asked quietly, trying to not wake the stallion who slept deeply, his head resting beside the red-haired young woman in the straw. Both had fallen asleep in the stall and Kaia's family, while wanting to stay, had gone to help prepare for the upcoming battle. Ethon had seen Haiawen on their way out, though, and had asked the woman to check up on his sister when she had the time. Haiawen had readily agreed to do so.
"I'm not sure. I think I rested, but it doesn't truly feel like it." Kaia yawned and sat up, stretching. She grimaced as the dried orc blood cracked on her skin and her wild red hair fell forward, tangled beyond belief and in desperate need of a wash. She knew she wasn't going to get one anytime soon and pulled the mess back, careful to keep her ears hidden as she tied it at the nape of her neck, out of the way. Haiawen smiled in amusement. "I understand that feeling. Many feel that way after their first fight." The black-haired woman sat down with grace and little noise.
"Does it always feel this way? Like you're going to sleep forever?" Kaia looked down at her hands. "I know they are orcs, but...I can't stop thinking about it..."
A gentle hand coming to cover her own bloodstained one surprised the young woman and she looked up into kind black-green eyes. "You should never stop caring, Kaia, but do not mourn those who deserve no such emotion. Orcs are creatures of darkness and cannot change. They hurt for the pleasure of hurting and they kill with no cause. Do not regret protecting those close to you, protecting your people."
Kaia listened to the words, letting them sink into her heart, feeling comforted by them and nodded, breathing a sigh. "I hear you. Le channon." Haiawen looked at her sharply and narrowed her eyes in thought. "Man ebennil?" she asked slowly and to her great surprise as well as Kaia's, the young woman responded in the same language. "Ebennin 'Le channon'." Kaia blinked, touching her own mouth with wide eyes and looking at Haiawen. The other woman nodded slowly.
"Kaia, why do you hide your ears? Why do you hide what you are?"
The young woman looked away, down at Morroch and her fingers started braiding a section of his mane nervously. "I'm...not sure. When I was younger, I didn't want others knowing I wasn't human. I already stood out. I just wanted to be like my family. Now, though...I think it is just a habit." She looked up. "Is it that obvious that I am trying to hide them?"
"Not to all, I think, but to me, yes. I once tried to deny what I was, too. I know the signs to look for."
"What are you?" Kaia blinked and then blushed. "I'm sorry. I should not have asked."
Haiawen chuckled softly. "I am not offended and I do not mind answering. I'm a half-elf, a peredhil."
"Did you live with humans?"
The older woman looked hesitant, but shook her head. "No, but I think that story is for another time, Kaia." The younger woman nodded and looked back down at her moving fingers. "Haiawen...how is it I know your language? I've never even met another elf, much less lived with any."
"I'm not sure. I'm afraid that is something I cannot explain."
Kaia was saved from answering as Morroch's gold eyes blinked open. The horse drew in air deeply, waking and smelling his surroundings. The scent of hay and feed was strong, herbs and Haiawen lingering in his nose, but Kaia's smell was the strongest and it soothed him before he'd even become fully aware of the things going on around him. His rider's mind was the second thing to become clear to him and while he didn't pry into her thoughts, the stallion didn't have to, the strong emotions coming to him unbidden. She was scared, curious and tired. He wasn't sure what the first two emotions were for, but he glared at Haiawen without hesitation. Surely she was the cause...
"Stop it, Morroch. Haiawen's done nothing wrong."
The black horse snorted and the peredhil smiled. "Mae govannen, Morroch. How does your shoulder feel?" Both Kaia and Morroch looked at her sharply, their eyes piercing. "How did you know Morroch was shot?" She knew her family would not have breathed a word to anyone...
"Because it was my husband who shot the dragon. Legolas did not realize who it was he took target at." She looked over to the door, sharp hearing detecting the almost soundless footfall of her spouse. Legolas's sky blue eyes took in the scene...and Morroch glaring at him, with acceptance as he entered the stall. His voice was quite, but even. "I would apologize for my actions against you, Morroch. Had I known who you were I never would have shot you."
Kaia held her tongue. Part of her wanted to laugh at the silliness of it all, but more of her wanted to glare right along with Morroch for the pain he'd suffered. She wisely kept her expression neutral. Morroch had looked like he would start to rant, but it would appear the horse was learning along with his rider and he merely nodded his head curtly. "Accepted." was the sharp reply. Legolas finally smiled, amusement in his expression, but also some relief. He looked at the three on the ground.
"Kaia, they are taking the women into the mountains. Will you be among them?" The elf knew better than to tell his wife to leave the battle. Haiawen and he had been through many fights together. He knew she was capable of handling herself, even if his heart did want to keep her safe and out of harm's way. Legolas would give Kaia the opportunity to make up her own mind in this matter seeing as how Morroch was also involved. After all, the horse would let no one else ride him...
The young woman looked down at Morroch, suddenly unsure. She'd been in her first fight and found it terrifying, even if she had survived. Did she really want to be part of another and with such odds, against such creatures? The stallion looked back at her, his gold eyes holding hers with patience. He had forced Kaia into something she didn't want to do once, he wasn't about to do it again. Kaia sensed this and relaxed slightly, truly letting herself think. Finally she answered.
"I don't yet know."
Legolas and Haiawen had left shortly after the elf's arrival and Morroch and Kaia were left alone to think about the choices ahead of them. The young woman wasn't even sure her father would let her fight. She'd stretched his tolerance and understanding farther then she ever had before. How long before it snapped? Technically she was an adult, but she was also a woman and not given the same rights men were regarding their parents. Morroch had snorted at the thought with disapproval, but hadn't commented. The horse finally sighed after another long few minutes and attempted to stand.
Kaia started, not having expected the movement and looked up as he gained his feet. "What are you doing?" She stood as well and leaned around his neck to look at his shoulder. "You shouldn't be putting weight on it right now." The stallion snorted, pain flaring, but ignoring it. "I want to move. Your thoughts are making me restless." He headed toward the stall opening and Kaia grabbed his mane, pulling back on it. "You can't go out there! You'll be in the way. You're too big."
The horse paused, stomping his good leg in frustration. His mind buzzed in Kaia's angrily and she sighed, hugging his neck gently. He didn't like being confined, didn't like being around people, didn't like being treated like a dumb animal and so far, that's all she'd been able to give him since he chose to stay with her. The horse nickered almost longingly for the open plains he knew, the freedom of the wind. He couldn't be himself here... It was that thought Kaia latched onto as it came through her own head. The young woman blinked and stepped back, studying the stallion...
"Morroch, what are you?"
Gold eyes blinked and he looked confused, eying her. "What?" His rider's mind was carefully blocked like they'd learned to do and his suspicion rose. What was she doing?
"What are you? A horse? A dragon?"
"I don't know. Both. Or maybe neither."
Kaia smiled in a triumphant way. "If you can be both, then why can't you be something else entirely?"
Morroch merely stared at her for a long moment, his mind working through that until something clicked inside him. The stallion blew in surprise and Kaia stepped back further. "At least try." she encouraged. She hoped this worked. If it did, it would afford him a new freedom, one she desperately wanted him to have.
The horse stilled, his eyes closing as he let his mind wander. The strange, different consciousness of the dragon presented itself, but he went past it, searching deeper. What did he want? Something dangerous was a must. Something smaller then a horse. Something able to smell and defend itself and Kaia... The image of a warg came to him, but the horse paused before accepting. He'd been shot at as a dragon. Instinct and logic told him that a warg would get a worse reaction inside this fortress. But the creature did have something that appealed to him...
Kaia watched nervously once more as the horse she'd grown familiar with began to change, shrinking slightly, shifting in body and shape...and mind. The shock of it wasn't so overwhelming this time, feeling the sharp, wild mind of a predator entering her own. It was still Morroch, just a very different version of him. This one knew the desire to hunt, to kill. This mind was ever active, not looking for danger as a herbivore would, but looking at enemies in the way a warrior would. The feral gold eyes of the large black wolf opened to look at her and Kaia didn't move. Last time he had attacked her. What would he do this time?
Morroch sniffed the air, sharp canine nose taking in far more then his equine one had. His eyes went to the only other living creature in the room and in his mind, he knew it was a human, a she-human. He also knew that for some odd reason, he should know this she-human...Kaia. Her name was Kaia... He took a step forward and Kaia didn't move. This pleased him and the wolf circled her, sniffing and finally stood before her again. The voice in his head was both startling and soothing as memory flooded him.
"Morroch? Do you know me?"
Kaia smiled at the rough, but familiar voice that answered her. "I know you, Ainarë." The young woman was still smiling but looked at him with a raised brow as she slowly lowered herself to her knees. "Ainarë?" The wolf's tongue lolled in laughter and she heard it clearly in her head. "Yes. You are a Little Flame, bright in ideas and fiery in temper." She snorted. "And the color of my hair has nothing to do with it, right?" Morroch feigned innocence.
The young woman chuckled and reached out slowly to rub his head, behind his black ears. The wolf had tensed at first, instinct telling him this was bad, but his trust for Kaia won over it and the canine now leaned into the caress, happy to feel it. He looked at her with sharp gold eyes. "Are you all right with this, Kaia?" He watched as the young woman frowned, but slowly nodded. "I think I am, yes. It is strange, but I think it must be stranger for you then me. What does it feel like?"
The wolf laid down, not yet noticing the fluidity of his movements, the absence of pain in his shoulder... "Like slipping into a river when you've never learned to swim. It is scary, but...almost familiar. I can feel my mind changing, melding with the creature I am becoming and each one is different. But, I feel like all of them, the dragon, the horse and now the wolf are all me. They all make up what I am." He stood again, energy almost burning his paws. He wanted to move! Kaia felt the thought, the emotion and stood as well. She froze, however, seeing his shoulder...and no wound.
"Morroch..." She didn't have to complete the sentence, her thoughts were enough for the wolf to figure out what was wrong. He eyed his own shoulder in some surprise. He hadn't even noticed when it had healed during the change, but it had. It seemed wounds could not be transferred over into different shapes. Excited gold eyes met sky blue that were steadily growing happier.
"Well, this is good."
Kaia bit her lip as they exited the stable. Morroch was by her side, sticking close as they both knew his presence would be anything but welcome. Maybe he wouldn't be recognized as the stallion who'd changed into the black dragon, but as a wolf he was just as susceptible to an attack by an ally as he was in his larger, flying form. Morroch was sure to keep his mouth closed and his hackles down as the encountered their first humans, a few women and children heading for the caves. The women's eyes widened with alarm that slowly turned to confusion as they took in Kaia, her hand on the wolf's scruff. The children, young and innocent still, had given a different reaction, some pulling from their mothers to toddle toward the canine. Morroch, aware of the fact that he was being watched closely, lowered his head to sniff at the young humans, letting them grab his fur with patience.
It was just an act at first, but in a short amount of time his tail was wagging with true pleasure and Kaia withheld a grin. She bowed her head slightly to the women, who were now staring in amazement, before the two headed on their way. Kaia was grateful for the minute they'd spent with the children as it had been witnessed by a small group of men down the stone path and even more up on the walls to either side. She could feel eyes burning holes in her head and Morroch could feel the wary gazes on his pelt, but they were not halted, no one called or shot at them...
Still, she was actually grateful to see Gimli's short figure as they neared the gate. He didn't like them much, but at least he was familiar. The dwarf took one look at the black wolf and merely grunted, almost shrugging before he went back to studying the defenses. Kaia smiled slightly, coming forward despite Morroch's whine of reluctance. The young woman looked down at the dwarf and then at the gate itself. "Will it hold, Master Gimli?" She didn't necessarily dislike him anymore and maybe speaking of something he clearly loved would help ease the tension.
Morroch sat, seemingly quiet but for the snort of both doubt and amusement she heard in her mind.
Gimli looked up at the young woman and for a moment, didn't speak. In truth, he really did not have anything bad to say against her. She had proven wise for her years, not judging hastily as he and the horse had, but reprimanding him for his harsh words and now trying to mend the rift between them. The only thing keeping him from accepting the offer was her association with that...wolf? Horse? Dragon?
"Yes, for a time, but it is quickly prepared and the Uruk-hai will breach it." Better to be bluntly honest then give false hope... To his surprise, Kaia accepted the news simply with a nod and her sky blue eyes looked toward the plains, an almost sad, but also determined expression on her face. Gimli didn't think it suited her. A smile would be a better fit. "If my kin were here..." He sighed heavily, not finishing and Kaia glanced down at him.
"I have heard stories of the skill of the Dwarves with stone and jewels. Are they true?"
Gimli seemed to brighten and come alive in a way she'd never seen before and as the dwarf talked about his home and the craft of his kin, she listened quietly, taking in the wonders he'd seen, made. Even Morroch was interested, ears pricked and body still. He couldn't say that he'd forgiven the small figure yet, but Kaia could clearly see that there was hope there between the two. It made her happy to see it.
Kaia and Morroch finally left Gimli, the dwarf viewing them both in a friendlier light, and wandered the fortress. The young woman avoided the armory and battlements, knowing that was where her family probably was. She needed to make a decision, but she couldn't do it with them around. Morroch had finally relaxed a bit despite the suspicious looks he got and the way men touched their weapons almost without thought as he walked by them. It seemed that as long as Kaia was with him, though, his presence would be tolerated. Both the young woman and the wolf were unsure as to why, though... They couldn't have known that Aragorn had talked to the King about Morroch's new gift and Théoden had issued a warning to his men to not harm the creature with the red-haired women.
"Ainarë, do you want to fight in this battle?"
"I don't know. I know that every man is needed, but I am not a man. My place should be with the women and children."
Kaia leaned against the wall, looking down at the wolf who sat before her. "What do you mean?"
"How do you know your place is with the other humans when you are not human?"
The young woman frowned, touching her hair-covered-ear without thought before sighing and sliding down the wall to sit on the hard stone. "That's not relevant, Morroch. I may be an elf, but I have been raised Rohirrim."
"And do not the Rohirrim women fight?"
"Not unless they must."
The canine laid his ears back. "I'm not sure I understand. You have arms and legs, a mind to think and you know how to wield a blade. Why can you not fight?" He cocked his head as Kaia chuckled and ruffled his ears. "It's not that simple, mellenig." The wolf growled in protest, but didn't comment. A comfortable silence came between them as the young woman simply scratched his ears, but Morroch was soon talking again.
"Will you fight?"
"You are not going to stop asking, are you?"
"You shall have to decide soon. The foul creatures will be here by nightfall, you know that."
Kaia sighed, leaning back against the wall again, looking up at the sky. She didn't want to fight. She didn't like taking lives, blood and fear, seeing the death of comrades. She knew that now, but...Rohan needed every soldier, every blade. Every tooth and claw... "Morroch...if I go into the caves...where will you go?" The question was asked sincerely, but the black wolf with a white smudge on his nose looked at her as if she were insane. "I will stay with you! I will not risk you being hurt, Kaia." Sky blue eyes frowned. "I would be safe with the women and children."
Morroch's feral gold eyes pierced her. "For how long? You saw the number of Uruk-hai, Kaia. How long will the men keep them at bay? How long until they come after those who are helpless and trapped in the mountain?" His voice was harsh, blunt, but the fierce baring of his sharp teeth and the growl that rumbled from his chest was all in threat to the enemy and in care for the only two-leg he called friend. "I will not leave you."
A shaky hand reached back slowly to untie red hair. Kaia pushed the tangled mess behind her ears, exposing them with determined movements before tying the locks back once more at her neck. Firm eyes met the canine's. "Nor will I leave you. Rohan needs you, Morroch. A dragon will be worth ten men in this battle. I will fight. I would not be satisfied to sit in the caves anyway."
The first thing Edinon noticed about his daughter were her ears. Kaia never wore her hair back behind them...and yet, there they were for anyone to see. The man couldn't help but feel it was a portent of something to come. The child he had taken in was no longer. The young elf who stood before him was both familiar and strange. His brown eyes looked down at Morroch, but he didn't comment on the form he was in, simply taking in the fact that the horse was now a wolf in a stride. What more could he do at this point?
"Kaia, why are you not with the women and children?" The man watched as her expression changed from that of a child happy to see their parent, to that of an adult who's made a decision she knows will not be accepted without a challenge. The wolf at her side laid his ears back, but sat, not commenting. Edinon was glad for the fact.
"I'm not going with the women and children. Morroch and I are needed here." Her voice was steady, but he could detect the wince in it and so he tried to keep his own voice and reactions tempered.
"It's not your place, Kaia. I would rather you go into the cave with the others. Your...Morroch can stay and fight without you." He glanced down at the canine to see its teeth were bared stubbornly, hackles raising. "I will not leave, Kaia."
Edinon scowled at the creature, but his daughter touched his arm, bringing his attention back to her. "Father, I know you would keep me from harm and if this were any other situation I would listen to your counsel. You know I would. But right now...I am willing to go against you in this if I must. Morroch is needed and I would rather be with him, fighting for my people then waiting for the Uruk-hai to come to me and the women." Kaia's voice was soft as to not be overheard, but Edinon, despite his heart's plea to remain stubborn, knew she was right. It still did not please the man, though, and he shook his head. "I will not bless this decision, Kaia, but know that I am not angry with you. Your heart is brave my daughter."
Kaia smiled, but it was forced as she came forward and hugged the man she thought of as father. "My heart shakes within me, but it bids me fight." she whispered and the man nodded, hugging her back tightly. The night would tell whether or not they saw each other alive in the morning.
Ainarë (Eye-nar-ee) = Little Flame
Mellenig = My friend
Le channon = Thank you
Man ebennil? = What did you say?
Ebennin 'Le channon.' = I said 'thank you'.