"Kaia, where are you?"
Kaia looked down from her high place on the gentle, grassy hill when a male voice called from the direction of the barn. The young women sighed as she stood, making her way from her spot on the hill to the wooden structure of the horse barn down on flatter ground. She had lived here for as long as she could remember. She wasn't a child by blood, but a child taken in by a simple family in Rohan. Kaia knew she had come from somewhere else, but the knowledge had never bothered her overmuch. Her Rohirrim family was her only family and they were a good family. Having no sisters, she'd learned much more from her brothers then a normal girl would. Kaia had learned to wield a sword rather well, though, daggers were hers to master. Horse-riding was almost required in Rohan, and treating the wounded, both human and animal, was a useful skill. Though, she wasn't as apt as she'd have liked to have been in that area. But along with knowing how to survive, these were all things she tried not to take for granted.
Here the young women paused in her thinking. She had to learn how to go though life being different from those around her, without female company and sometimes feeling very alone since her Rohirrim mother had died. Her family lived close to the Anduin River on the Northern side of Rohan, a place called The Wold. They were as far from Edoras as they could get, though not on purpose, and while their business brought them people, it also only brought people of the male kind. There were very few opportunities for Kaia to engage in female company.
Kaia didn't realize she'd slowed in her walking significantly until her brother called again. She was reminded that she really did need to go and help her family with the new herd coming in today. Looking at the distant, shimmering river one last time and calling back to her brother to let him know she'd heard him, Kaia ran toward the barn.
The young women saw her eldest brother Ethon waiting for her when she arrived at the barn. The place never failed to make her happy with its rich smells and fun memories. As Kaia came closer she could make out the male's features in the darker light of the building; he was a tall man of twenty-eight years with dark gold hair, worn just below his shoulders in the style of the Rohirrim, dark brown eyes that when directed at her were usually filled with teasing and mischief and tanned skin that bespoke of many days spent in the sun. He looked very much like their father and her second older brother Edonar, a man of twenty-six.
"Where were you?"
Kaia smiled at him and looked back toward the hill. "Watching the river. I love to watch the water shimmer in the distant light. It calls to me sometimes. I don't know why, but the water, it's almost like it pulls at me." She looked back at her brother, but didn't truly pay attention to his reaction as she grabbed a coil of rope on a hook. "Never mind that, though. We need to get to work. Have Edonar, Lohinon and father returned with the wild horses yet?"
"Yes, they're in the corrals right now." Ethon got a mischievous look on his face after he'd finished. He was almost thirty, but had never seemed to lose that child-like streak of fun and being with his younger sister always brought it out. "I'll beat you there!" he challenged racing off.
Kaia gave a shout of surprise and an exclamation of him being unfair as she sprang after him. Soon they were side-by-side, running towards the fences and laughing as they raced through the tall, golden grass they'd both grown up on.
Edinon, their father, saw his oldest and youngest children coming towards him and grinned from his position astride a fence rail. His grin soon faded a bit, however, as he focused on his youngest child, the girl he thought of as his own daughter. Kaia had been growing more and more distant and complicated the older she got. The young woman wasn't rebellious or demanding, but it was harder to understand why she did the things she did, what went on in her head. It had been easier when Threasa, his wife, was around and Kaia was younger. Threasa was the care-giver; she seemed to understand Kaia better than any of the males ever had. Since his wife died he hadn't known how to act around his daughter. How did one understand a young woman?
Edinon sighed and turned back to look at the herd of horses milling about in the corral. He really didn't know what to do here. Threasa would have, but he just didn't. Kaia was getting older, more independent. There were times he just wanted to have her become a little girl again. When would she want others to notice how adult she was becoming? Right now Kaia was happy being the youngest, the baby, but when would that change? Edinon had to wonder if she'd leave when the time came. The man sighed and shook his head. Putting a smile back on his face, he called out to Kaia and Ethon. "Come on you two, get over here and help us!"
Ethon smiled and ran towards his younger brothers, ready to help separate the male and female horses into different corrals, but Kaia stopped and looked at the horses her brothers and father had captured. As always there were dozens of bays and roans, a few sorrels and whites and even a couple buckskins, but no blacks. The girl felt a small, but deep anger swirl through her chest as she slowly walked forward. Years ago Sauron's servants had stolen the majority of black horses in the land, taking them to serve as mounts for his Nāzgul. It was a horrible crime and the land of Rohan was now sorely lacking in black equine. It always hurt the young woman to never see a black hide among the many colors. She didn't understand why, though.
Kaia sighed again and shook her head to clear the unpleasant emotion away. She didn't want to worry her family over something they couldn't fix and she really didn't want to feel this way right now. The young woman walked over to her father to help.
Two weeks later a group of Riders from Edoras, under orders from the King, came to The Wold for a new herd of horses to take back to the Capitol city. A message had been sent to Edoras telling …omer that Edinon had a group of newly tamed horses ready to be ridden and bought. The small family couldn't have known that their message had never reached …omer, but Grķma Wormtongue instead.
Kaia smiled as she saw the riders approaching. She loved when they visited, always having news of the outside world and the rest of Rohan. Today, though, they already seemed unusually quiet as they rode closer and the young woman looked side-long at her brother in question. He shook his head slightly, unsure. Could something be amiss?
"Hail Ethon, son of Edinon. How goes the horse training?" called a man, the leader of the group, as they approached the two riders waiting for them not far from the house, barn and the corralled fields beyond.
Ethon bowed his head in respect. Keeping his horse still with a gentle hand and replied in a clear voice. "It goes well Lord Bruma. The horses are ready for you and your companions. Please follow us."
As the men followed Ethon, Kaia rode up alongside staying close to her brother, but kept her ears open for the news that would surely come. As the men greeted her father and dismounted, her apprehension grew. Something was wrong. These men spoke naught a word about the Kingdom they loved, about Edoras or their King. The Horselords were proud of their country. If they talked of nothing else, they would talk of Rohan. And yet, they remained quiet. The young woman did not think to ask a thing, not with the type of gloom that seemed to sit over them all.
The group soon pulled up at the wooden fence, looking at the docile horses that gazed back at them with curiosity. Kaia smiled a bit and dismounted, ducking into the corral. She knew to stay out of the men's way, but she was more then happy just being with the horses before many of them were taken away for good. The young woman walked through the herd, patting and crooning gently to the equines, but her attention was more focused toward the Horselords. What was going on? Even now they had yet to truly smile, had yet to relax. It was almost as if they expected an attack... Were they going to stay the night like usual? Would they talk then?
Kaia was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she hadn't yet registered that the horses around her had moved away...or that she was being frantically shouted at by her brothers. The young woman blinked and looked toward them finally, only to look behind her as that was where their gaze was directed. She froze, staring at the biggest stallion she'd ever seen. She didn't know where he'd come from for this horse was black, as black as a night sky without stars and would not have been missed by her family had he been in the herd. This all registered fairly quickly in her mind and so did the fact that this horse was angry. Dark gold eyes blazed fury, pinned ears and an outstretched neck spoke of a deadly intention to harm.
And she was directly in the path of that danger as the horse aimed for the men behind her...or was he aiming for her?
Strangely, she felt no fear and no urge to move. Was it shock or something else? Would her legs just not obey her command? Kaia was vaguely aware of her brothers jumping the fence and starting to run over, but she really didn't feel concerned. Coming out of her stupor or maybe just surrendering to it, Kaia lifted her hand, palm outward, and commanded in a quiet, but firm voice, "Dįro Morroch!" Her brothers shouted at her again, but Kaia didn't move as her eyes met the stallion's.
The horse skidded to a stop, appearing startled and snorted, shaking his head in an agitated fashion. Never before had he been given a command and yet he understood and obeyed. Why? He knew he didn't have to. These humans had taken his herd, his family and it would be more then easy to ignore this she-human...so why couldn't he summon up the will to do it? The black horse quieted slowly, but while his gold eyes met the young woman's, studying her, he didn't approach.
She was tall, but not as tall as the males with wavy, red hair like fire and eyes as blue as a cloudless sky. Her skin was light and when he inhaled, the horse smelled grain and wild grass. He watched as the she-human looked at him, seemingly just as startled as he was.
Kaia shook her head to clear it, not truly believing what was happening. She'd commanded the stallion to stop and he had. And she'd done it in a language she didn't know. The young woman swallowed and glanced at her brothers who had stopped and were now watching with concern. The Horselords were tense, but appeared interested. She turned her attention back to the large horse still in front of her. What was she to do now? The stallion didn't look like he would attack again, but he didn't look like he would let her approach either...and something deep within her didn't want the men even attempting to try it. Taking a quiet, but deep breath Kaia took two cautious steps toward him speaking soothingly in a low voice. A part of her mind noted what she hadn't seen before. He wasn't all black, for a small white smudge adorned his nose.
The horse looked at the she-human with something akin to a human's disbelief as he laid his ears back and danced away with a toss of his head. He gave the men a flick of his tail but though he now had the female out of the way, didn't go for them. Instead, headed back toward the fence he'd jumped over earlier. The desire to hurt the humans had left him, strange as that was. He didn't understand it, but that didn't matter. The stallion looked back at the red-haired she-human before snorting and leaping the fence. His powerful legs and quick hooves soon had him out of sight.
Kaia merely watched, wondering at the small pang of something within her. The young woman jumped slightly as a hand descended to rest gently on her shoulder.
"Are you well?" queried Edonar, always the first to ask practical questions. He wasn't necessarily close to Kaia and didn't really show affection to her or his brothers in big ways. But a simple hug, a touch on the shoulder, or even a glance could convey just how much he did care. His siblings had learned to know his body-language and to hear the things he didn't say. Kaia nodded, finally tearing her blue eyes away from the golden, rolling hills and back to the people around her.
"That was dangerous, Kaia. You should pay better attention to your surroundings." reprimanded Lohinon gently. Out of all the siblings he was the one most like his mother. He had her light brown hair, blue eyes and slim build. His countenance was similar to hers as well. He was soft spoken, but firm. At twenty-four he was the care-taker of the family as his mother was before him. He often worried for his siblings and tried to look after them. Admittedly, he was the one most shaken-up about what had just happened and his blue eyes flickered from Kaia to the hills.
Kaia gave him a small smile, a bit jittery herself and took a breath. "I'm fine. He didn't hurt me, as you saw. I'll take better care in the future though. I don't think I want to do that again." she pointed out with a nervous chuckle. When Ethon wrapped an arm about her shoulders and all three of her brothers stayed with her as they left the corral and went to the house, Kaia didn't complain.
It was only later that night that she had a chance to truly think about what had happened. The Horselords had stayed for dinner and while they hadn't opened up much, they did bring some news of the rest of Rohan. She and family had listened eagerly, but the siblings had let their father do most of the talking and when her brother's talked, she didn't. Kaia would much rather hear the answers then ask the questions. After the men had gone to bed, she'd then talked some with her father. She found that they didn't spend as much time together as they once had and when Edinon had asked that she stay up for a time with him, the young woman had readily agreed.
She now lay in her bed, a simple straw-mattress, feather-stuffed pillow and blankets. It wasn't anything fancy or rich, but it suited her life and taste just fine. Kaia had her own small room, something she was grateful for. Much as she loved her brothers, a young woman needed a private place of her own sometimes. The young woman now lay on her back, looking out the small window at the stars.
Why couldn't she get the stallion out of her head? He hadn't invaded her thoughts during dinner or her time with her father. Why now, when everything was quiet and her tired body pleaded for sleep, did her mind bring up the black horse? Kaia sighed, turning over and closing her eyes. She must have stayed that way for a time and dozed off, because she woke later in the night to a neigh. She blinked sleep from her eyes, pushing unruly hair away from her face. A neigh? Why would she wake for such a common sound? Kaia got up, not quite understanding why, but feeling an urge to do so. She slipped on her shoes and grabbed a blanket, wrapping it around her shoulders. A dagger was taken as an afterthought, just in case.
The stallion watched the small house. His ears swiveled in different directions slowly, hearing the sounds of the horses close by, the song of the crickets, the chilled wind in the grass...and the sound of soft movement from the human dwelling. The horse pawed the earth in agitation, shaking his mane gently. Why was he here? Like a moth drawn to a flame, he'd come back and he couldn't figure out why.
It wasn't for his herd. They didn't even accept him, but he'd still felt the need to at least try to help them. It had been halfhearted at best, though. He was different. He didn't think like a horse, didn't entirely act like a horse, though the humans he'd seen hadn't noticed. The stallion could reason, could think and use logic. Oh yes, there was instinct and a lot of it, but when something happened that the herd didn't understand, he usually did...because he had the ability to reason it out. The other horses knew there was something off about him, just as he knew it about himself. He wasn't one of them, not being born into the herd and simply not acting correctly and so they shunned him. But despite that, they never could get him to travel too far away. There was safety in numbers as they all knew.
Now, though, the horses had been taken in by man and he was alone...and standing on a hill, waiting for a she-human to come out of her home.
The stallion danced in place nervously, not understanding his own mind, the pull that had brought him back here. He'd left with the intention of never coming back, never looking back...and yet here he was. Black ears pricked as a figure exited the house. The wind carried the scent of the she-human to him and the black horse stilled, merely watching, but unsure what to do.
Kaia wrapped her blanket more tightly around her frame as the wind blew past, tangling her already wild hair further. It would be more then difficult to brush out in the morning... The young woman looked around carefully in the dark, using the little moonlight there was to look for odd shapes that shouldn't be there. Her blue eyes found a big one immediately. A spot on the hill that seemed to suck in light, but not give it back. She moved forward cautiously, dagger held tightly, but stopped short as the figure snorted and the distinct sound of a hoof striking the earth in impatience or maybe anger reached her ears.
The young woman felt some tension drain out of her body. This wasn't an enemy...but what was going on? She moved forward again, steps light and advanced up the hill. Details could be made out as she crept forward and Kaia felt a small smile start to form on her face. It was him! A powerful body, blacker then the night stood before her and gleaming, dark eyes she knew to be gold in the day watched her warily. Kaia stilled again, now about four feet away and took a slow breath. What now? She'd tried approaching before with no success...
The stallion seemed to be just as undecided as she was, edging back, but then stopping and perking his ears. This she-human...interested him. He just didn't know why. There was nothing remarkable special about her as far as he could tell. Her form and voice were like many other humans, though, admittedly her steps were lighter and he'd never seen a human with red hair in this land. The horse snorted again softly, but took a step forward against his better judgment. Then again, his judgment didn't seem to be what was pulling him right now. He laid his ears back slightly, keeping eye-contact with the she-human as he took yet another dancing step forward and then another. This was insane! What was he doing?
And yet he couldn't seem to stop.
The young woman seemed to watch him as warily and with as much interest as he was giving her. Kaia took a slow step forward, but stopped as the black horse stepped back again. So it would seem she had to wait for him. She was all right with that. She smiled and spoke softly, watching the stallion's ears come forward swiftly at her voice. "You look as confused as I feel. Why are you here? I don't think you want to be, strange as that sounds. I couldn't sleep for thought of you and then you woke me." She had kept her body relaxed and her voice soft, watching the horse as he slowly crept forward.
The nose that bumped her arm before pulling away swiftly almost startled her. Kaia stayed still, looking into cautious gold eyes with her own amused blue. "I'm not going to hurt you, Morroch."
He stilled. Morroch. It was the second time she had called him that. Darkhorse. The horse made a noise between a sigh and snort as he stretched his nose out again toward the she-human. It was his turn to feel startled at the hand that reached out to meet him half-way. The stallion jerked back, but as the hand made no move to follow or retreat, he came forward again, gold eyes always on the young woman.
Kaia's smile widened as her fingers ran gently over the black muzzle under her hand. Warmth spread from her fingers right up her arm and then seemed to engulf her body before fading. The stallion appeared to have felt something as well because the tension had drained out of his stance, gold eyes glazing slightly before he raised his head once more, backing away. The young woman had to wonder at the pang of loss as she watched the horse gallop off into the darkness once more.
"Kaia, are you well?"
The young woman started, looking up from the rope she'd been braiding...or had thought she was braiding...to see her brother's concerned dark brown eyes looking at her. Ethon had been watching his youngest sibling for a few minutes now, nay a few days, and he couldn't help but notice the dark rings under her eyes or the way she seemed to have little energy about her. Yawns were frequently puncturing her activities. Now Kaia blinked at him and seemed to come back from wherever her mind had wandered.
A small smile. "I'm fine. Just tired."
"So I've noticed. What I'm interested in is why."
Kaia's blue eyes flickered out to the plains and gentle rolling hills. The sun was starting to set, making the grass turn a brilliant gold, warmth bathing the earth in light before the coming night. The young woman leaned back against the barn wall and looked over at her eldest brother. She told him almost everything, but could she trust him with this? Could she trust him to be her friend at this moment and not her over-protective brother? Ethon smiled and nudged her shoulder with his own as he sat.
"What's on your mind, Kaia?"
"The stallion, the black one...he keeps visiting, coming in the night. I always wake up. I always hear his call."
"Call?" She heard the worry in the question, the surprise.
"Well, it seems like a call to me. I always feel...a pull, a desire to go meet him." Kaia studied her brother. "Is...should I be alarmed?" She never felt any danger or fear, but was she merely not seeing the harm in this?
Ethon seemed to think hard on the question, his brown eyes tracing the familiar land around them, his fingers twitching with the circles of his thoughts. Finally the man spoke. "Kaia, you're almost twenty-two years of age. You're not a child anymore and so it is nigh time I stopped treating you as one, me and father both." The young woman listened quietly, feeling some surprise but also warmth as he continued.
"I cannot say that I understand your interest in this stallion, but if your heart bids you do this then I will not hinder you. Nor will I tell father or our brothers about this. I leave that up to you."
Warnings: This is not a Legomance. There is some mild romance, but I don't write heavy stuff. There is no slash or hint of slash. This is a mild Mary Sue and a tad (small) AU, however it is not a "Girl falls into Middle-earth". It is a partial "Tenth Walker", though.
Author's Chapter Notes:
I will do my best to keep canon characters "in character", spell correctly and just be a decent writer. I accept critique, but not criticism.
Chapter End Notes:
I sure hope you like it and that I uploaded this correctly...