A/N: Huzzah! The semester that nearly killed me is over. For the next week anyways. Here's a new Green Rider piece to celebrate. I've had this piece in the works for a while and you can thank the fact that I couldn't sleep last night for me finishing it. DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. It all belongs to the genius that is Kristen Britain.
Prompt: Ben and his fear of horses
Even after six months, Ben still wondered if hearing the Rider's call had been some sort of cosmic joke. He pondered this question frequently, especially as he made the long walk from the comfort and familiarity of the Mender's Wing to the fear and humiliation of the stables, which was where he was currently headed for his lessons that were every other day.
His mouth went dry just thinking about what he was about to do. He was sure he was the laughing stock of his fellow Green Riders when he wasn't around. Whoever heard of a Green Rider who was afraid of horses?
All he had wanted to do when he came to the castle was study and learn to become a Mender. Granted, his new ability helped tremendously with that, but everything else blew a rather large, horse-shaped, hole in his plans. He sighed and made his way across the castle grounds, wondering what new tortures Karigan had in store for him today.
When he reached the stables he found Karigan waiting for him outside of Condor's stall. She leaned up against the door with one ankle crossed over the other, absently chewing on a stray piece of hay. She straightened when she saw him approaching.
"Hello Ben," she greeted him.
He swallowed. "Karigan." He was watching Condor out of the corner of his eye. The big chestnut gelding merely gave him a placid, content look as he chewed another mouthful of hay from the manger. All Ben could think of was what those teeth and powerful jaws could do to things like his fingers.
He turned his attention back to Karigan. "So what new humiliations do you have planned for me today?"
He saw Karigan try to unsuccessfully cover a smile. He felt his already thin confidence slip just a little more.
"Today is the day we are going to finally get you on a horse."
Ben regarded her dubiously. He appreciated her confidence, but he had been trying and trying to get over his fear of horses. So far nothing had improved.
He did fine on the ground, but as soon as he put a toe in the stirrup he just froze or sometimes it was like he blacked out.
"While your confidence is appreciated, I doubt that. Nothing has changed that much since last time," Ben informed her.
She just smiled at him. "Ah, but I have good incentive for you. I have been informed that you are not allowed to leave until you have at least sat on a horse's back. Now, I don't know about you, but I've had a large midday meal and enjoy spending time with Condor here so I'm fine with staying here a good long while."
Ben groaned. There was truly no escaping this nightmare. "Alright, let's get on with it then."
He followed Karigan and Condor out to the riding ring that was blessedly empty at the moment. The whole way he tried to give himself encouraging peptalks, but they were swallowed up by the flood of nerves currently rushing through him. It got to the point that in the short period of time it took to get to the ring he had worried himself to the point of feeling physically ill.
Logically, he knew he shouldn't let one bad moment cloud his judgement, but a traumatic experience as a child with a horse in the past had left a lasting mark, literally. He absently rubbed a spot just above his left hip where a hoof-shaped scar was concealed.
He watched Karigan recheck the tack before she led Condor over to the mounting block. Ben hesitantly approached hoping some servant or Green Foot runner would appear with an urgent message that would save him from this task. He'd even take a noble with a hangnail right now. Alas, no such savior appearedand Ben was facing a battle-scarred red giant of a horse who watched him curiously. Ben gulped and resigned himself to his fate as he set a foot on the bottom step of the mounting block. His heart was pounding so hard he was sure it could be heard all the way across the arena. He broke into a cold sweat and wiped his palms dry on his trousers before stepping up to the top step.
"Just breathe Ben," Karigan instructed looping the reins over Condor's head and coming to stand next to him at Condor's shoulder.
He stood frozen on the block. "I'm not sure I can breathe," he gasped eyeing the stirrup that seemed to be taunting him.
"Just close your eyes," she instructed. When she saw him hesitate she added, "Condor's not going to do anything. He knows if he does he's getting half-rations for the next week." The chestnut snorted and tossed his head expressing his opinion of this matter. Ben nodded and closed his eyes.
"Now take a few deep breaths and I want you to really focus on them. Focus on how the air feels going in and and out, how your lungs expand and contract, how your brain sends the commands. I want you to keep doing this until I say so," she instructed in a measured, calm cadence. He followed her directions, gradually feeling his heart rate start to come down and his breathing bcome less labored. He didn't feel quite so out of control.
"Good," Karigan interrupted after a couple of minutes. "Now open your eyes and look at me." He opened his eyes and blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the change in light as he looked over at Karigan.
"Here's what I want you to do. You're going to get on Condor. Don't give me that look. At any point in the process if you feel yourself start to panic I want you to stop and do that exact same exercise you just did. If your hands are on the saddle leave them there. If your foot is in the stirrup keep it there. If you're part way in the saddle and dangling over his back stay there. Do you understand?"
Satisfied, Karigan pointed at the saddle. "Alright then, time to get on."
Ben took a deep breath and faced the saddle. He placed one hand on the cantle and the other on the pommel. So far so good. He took a deep breath and let it out. He lifted his left foot and placed the toe of his boot in the stirrup. Condor held still as a rock. Ben could feel Karigan practically staring a hole into the side of his head. He focused back on his breathing. In, lungs expand; Out, lungs contract. He closed his eyes and pushed his wieght up and into the stirrup. Before he could give himself time to think about it he swung a leg over the saddle and sat, slipping his right foot into the stirrup on the other side. He didn't realize how tightly was bracing himself until he registered the fact that his shoulders were almost eye level and his eyes were screwed shut and starting to cramp.
Ben forced himself to relax, slowly unwinding his muscles. He cracked an eye open. The first thing he noticed was Condor craned around to look at him, the look on his face clearly saying Well it's about time. The next thing he noticed was Karigan watching him with her arms crossed, wearing a triumphant grin.
She rocked back on her heels still smiling. "Congratulations, you're on a horse. That wasn't so hard was it?"
Ben swallowed as the full realization that he was actually sitting on a horse hit him. "It was terrifying. Still is."
Karigan gave Condor an affectionate pat on the neck. "Now that you're finally on, how about we for a bit of a walk?"
Ben felt himself pale. "Walk?"
Laren rubbed at her face. Kauv really needed to be provided at these administrative meetings or else there was no guarantee that she'd stay awake through them. She looked up as she neared Rider stables and blinked. Apparently she need more sleep than she thought as was starting to hallucinate now. Surely that was the only explanation for what she was seeing. As she neared the riding ring, however, she realized that her eyes were not playing tricks on her. That truly was Ben trotting around on Condor on the long line with Karigan calling out instructions. Albeit, he was stiffer than a piece of cord wood and was by no means a graceful rider, but that would come with time. For now he was on and he was riding. Laren smiled feeling more energetic. Maybe she should add miracle-worker to Karigan's many titles. She'd love that.