Title: Is that a carrot in your pocket?
Author: dapper scavenger
Rating: PG for now. Will likely increase later.
Disclaimer: Tolkein's & Rowling's. Not mine.
Author's Notes: Bit of a filler, but a necessary one. Now, as to the question of Harry's height: he isn't completely tiny - he's just particularly short compared to the men of Rohan, who Tolkein described as "tall and long-limbed." It doesn't help that he's fairly slender as well, hence the reason Éowyn compared him to a child. Hmmm... I was leaving it purposely ambiguous because readers often like to infer those kind of things for themselves, but if it were me I'd put him somewhere between 5'0 and 5'6 maybe? (Mede told me off for making him too tall *lol*) He'd probably reach Éomer's chest. :p What can I say? I like 'em cute.
The information Éowyn had imparted was mind-boggling. It had been a delicate conversation, with Harry attempting to learn as much as possible without giving away his own ignorance. He had been hard pressed to evade Éowyn's probing queries. Nevertheless, her need for assistance outweighed whatever misgivings she may have had and she had soon filled in the gaps in Harry's knowledge.
The wizard now found himself in something a quandary.
The war the people of Rohan were fighting was, in many ways, similar to the one from which Harry was still recovering. Their enemy were dark creatures that sought to destroy anything that was not like them. There would be no parlay. They would not negotiate, and to surrender meant death. There was no choice but to fight.
Harry stamped a hoof against the straw-covered stone floor and snorted restlessly, pacing the confines of his stall. This was the absolute opposite of what he had wanted when he had performed the ritual! He had wanted peace, not another war! He didn't want to fight again, to risk his life and those of his friend's, losing everything he loved one agonising piece at a time. He couldn't go through that again. It would destroy him.
And yet, he couldn't stand back and do nothing. He was the only one that could help Éowyn and her uncle, the king. What sort of person would he be if he didn't at least try? How could he let these people struggle against something they could never hope to defeat? Especially when they fought so valiantly and so unflinchingly that Godric Gryffindor himself would have been humbled by their courage.
He couldn't. And how he cursed himself for that simple truth!
Harry dropped his nose to the ground and sighed heavily. All this worrying was hardly going to help matters, he decided. Tonight he would meet with Éowyn again; she was going to find a way for him to see the king. He would do well to get some rest.
Unfortunately, Godléan's plans were somewhat different. The battered man appeared at the entrance to his stall mid-morning, halter in hand. Harry paused in his restive pacing and regarded him curiously
"Ho there, my beauty," Godléan murmured, raising the halter to the horse's cheek with his good arm. Harry approved of this gently, gently approach but he was rather concerned that the man was doing this instead of his son. Godléan was still recuperating! What was he thinking?
Gifu apparently agreed. "Papa," the boy piped up, "I can take him for you"
"I know, son, but I mean to take the measure of him after he's been to the farrier. It's about time he started earning his keep."
"He's already earned his place, Papa. It can wait a few days."
"A few days? No, lad, not for a horse like this. Did you not see him circling his stall like an angry wolf? He needs to be worked! Anyway, what use is a horse that does nothing but eats and sleep all day long? No use at all, that's what!"
Harry got the impression that the man wasn't just talking about horses. He knew Godléan's type: the stubborn old soldier whose only sense of self-worth was in their usefulness. Moody had been like that. Most aurors would have happily taken the ministry's retirement package after receiving his kinds of injuries but not Moody. He had fought until his very last breath.
If Godléan were only half as stubborn as Moody had been, he would never abide infirmity. It was no wonder he was pushing himself back to work so soon.
Perhaps it was this comparison to a man he had so admired that caused Harry's respect for his inadvertent rider to grow. Without even realising what he was doing, he allowed Godléan to slip the halter over his ears and fasten the buckles. When Godléan led him out of the stable, he suppressed his usual impatient cavorting to a staid walk, shortening his gait to match the man's.
Harry never even noticed the man observing his behaviour with a thoughtful frown. He was too lost in his own thoughts.
Godléan had raised a very good point earlier, the small stallion acknowledged. He was leeching off these people, accepting their food and shelter without earning it first. It was dishonest.
Perhaps he would see what Godléan asked of him. Running, carrying, pulling… those were the sorts of things working horses did, right? That didn't sound so bad.
After the war, Harry had developed a fondness for physical work. He had taken several such jobs in the muggle world. It was an untold relief to simply follow orders for a change; to not have to bear the stresses and strains of leadership. Too many times he had made a decision that had resulted in someone's death. No matter that there was no other option, that the alternatives would have been far worse, he had never been able reconcile himself with the terrible choices he had been forced to make. Compared to that, the monotony of manual labour was bliss.
No, Harry decided, a little bit of hard graft never hurt anyone.
Six hours later, Harry wasn't so sure about his earlier assessment.
The farrier had insisted on shoes. Apparently a horse of his slight stature would suffer greater wear and tear of the hooves if made to carry the weight of a rider in full armour. Added to his tendency towards stable-circling, shoes became a necessity. Harry was surprised. He hadn't even realised it was considered a bad habit to pace one's stall. It just went to show you learnt something new everyday.
His legs felt heavy, the strange weight of the metal shoes made it feel as though he was walking through thick mud. It actually reminded him of the first time he had tried on dragon-hide boots but he would get used to it soon enough, he supposed.
It wasn't the shoes that were the problem.
In the last few hours Harry had been subjected to every manner of torture device at Godléan's disposal. Saddles and stirrups, reins and breaststraps, not to mention a rather alarming-looking face mask. Harry endured it as stoically as he could. He only raised one objection. He was not, under any circumstances, going to put that stinky-looking bit of metal into his mouth. Who knew how many mouths it had already been in? It was revolting!
Harry had tried to politely decline. He had tossed his head and turned away in disgust. The man had spent an inordinate length of time gently coaxing him to lower his head, pressing his hand on the spot just behind his ears and praising him for the slightest downward movement.
That was a mistake. With a practised ease, Godléan attached the halter he was wearing to a tie-down hook.
Harry gave Godléan an annoyed glare and snorted angrily.
The man simply resumed his patient sweet-talking. After a while, he began to tickle Harry's lips before sliding his fingers into the space behind his teeth. Harry stiffened in shock. Fingers! In his mouth! Get them out! He didn't care how good they tasted, he wanted them out!
Harry blinked. Why did they taste good? Was that… honey?
The horse in him had just died and gone to heaven. That was really nice!
Harry was sulking.
His rider was evil. In fact, he was fairly certain Godléan was this world's version of Lord Voldemort.
He stalked angrily alongside the man, who he was starting to regret having saved, imagining all the lovely ways he was going to take revenge. He wouldn't do anything just yet, of course. Attacking an injured man was, well, it just wasn't cricket!
Not that Harry had ever played cricket but wizards didn't have a comparable saying. Quidditch was about as unsportsmanlike game as he had ever come across.
Regardless, Godléan was as sneaky and underhanded as any slytherin he had ever met and Harry was not in the mood to forgive him any time soon. Was this any way to express his gratitude? Sticking a nasty piece of metal in his mouth? Harry was not even remotely impressed.
Oh yes, he would allow the man to train him. Knowledge was power, after all, and Harry had quickly realised that his skills in battle, while considerable as a wizard, were rather poor as a horse. He couldn't wield a blade or a wand and his back was a giant platform which cried out 'come eat me!" to any passing predator. A horse fought with very different weapons: the hooves, the teeth, the shoulders. He had brute strength on his side but not a lot else. It would behoove him to try to learn Godléan's techniques.
A great deal of this training seemed to involve keeping calm under pressure. This was something Harry had long ago mastered, though, he had to confess, it would be amusing to play up a little. Godléan had drafted in some friends to help with the tests. Harry appreciated the audience.
The first time the gathered men began to shout and holler Harry just stood there, looking rather bored. Eventually he reached down and whiffed Godléan's pockets, as though searching for treats. Godléan signalled the men to stop.
"Well, that's promising," he murmured. "Ealdor, why don't you try him with the sword?"
Ealdor hopped off the fence he had been sitting on and picked up a sword and shield. As soon as he rattled the metal together, Harry charged. The stallion ripped free of Godléan's grasp, screaming at the top of his enormous lungs. Ealdor ran for his life.
"Béma's balls!" Ealdor croaked after catching his breath. "That's not a horse! It's a warg in disguise!"
Harry wasn't sure what a warg was but the others certainly thought it was funny. Godléan threw back his head and laughed loudly.
"He's got spirit! Can you imagine him in battle? He'll be magnificent!"
"Rather you than me," Ealdor replied. "He's worse than Úhte!"
Harry whickered happily, returning to Godléan's side and nosing his good arm gently as if to say "That was fun! Let's do it again!"
"Never," Godléan said. "Arod's as sweet as a kitten most of the time, even when he's in a mood like today. Úhte is always cantankerous! It's interesting, though, the way he reacted."
Ealdor nodded in agreement. "Almost like he's had some training before. It'll make your job easier, at any rate."
"I hope so. I don't want to be left behind again."
"You won't be. We'll make sure of it," Ealdor promised. Godléan smiled gratefully and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Well, come on, then," he said gruffly. "We've got work to do."
By the time night fell, Harry was exhausted.