Walking back along the beach after speaking with Idrissa, Mur'dah kept one hand in his pocket, while the other rested gently against the edge of Kalsuoth's jaw. The brown rumbled softly, and Mur'dah felt the pressure of his thoughts upon his own mind. Lifting his shields, he tried to block out the brown, eyes narrowing as he pulled his hand away from that dark hide.
Kalsuoth stopped, tail tip lashing against the sand as he stared at his young, volitale rider. « What? » the brown demanded, his low voice rumbling through trees that sprung up against the edges of Mur'dah's wall, branches and roots digging through mortar and stone. Finding the loose places so they could wedge their way through and bring the wall down. Mur'dah tried to repair the walls but the brown pushed, adding water to the mix, pounding against the walls.
They fractured, and Kalsuoth got a few of his rider's jumbled thoughts. « Broken, » Mur'dah was thinking, « broken and made fun of and why can't he be perfect? Why can't he be like Kanekith? Kanekith is stunning, and confident, and strong and built perfectly - he's the picture of a proud dragon and mine is broken, crippled, hobbling along rediculously. »
Kalsuoth reared back, wings flaring, and Mur'dah crouched down with his hands over his face. "I /told/ you not to listen to me!" he cried.
« How can I not listen? You are my rider and this is tearing you apart! » the young brown protested, wings flapping in agitation.
"I know," Mur'dah yelled back, banging his hand against the sand. "I /know/ and I hate myself for it but it's how I feel. You're…you're amazing, Kalsuoth, in everything but this and I just can't take it any more. I know what Kanekith says to you, and it /kills/ me."
« He means nothing, » Kalsuoth replied firmly, pressing further into Mur'dah's thoughts. The boy struggled against it, but with a final push of ancient roots the walls crumbled and all at once he found himself standing on a riverbank inside Kalsuoth's thoughts. He struggled to see through his own eyes, imagining the beach and trying to feel the sand, but all he saw was forest and all he felt was rocks and earth beneath his feet.
"You trapped me," he protested.
« It is the only way to make you see, » Kalsuoth replied, the voice echoing in the very air around the boy. Looking up, Mur'dah saw a black bird land heavily on a branch in a tree across the stream from him. Black, intelligent eyes blinked at him, staring unwaveringly until he began to fidget.
"Kalsuoth," Mur'dah protested softly.
« You think I am not perfect, » the brown's voice rumbled, and Mur'dah sensed his anger and his insult.
"Well," the teen mumbled, "you're not."
The bird sprang off the branch, leaving it quivering in his wake and soared down at Mur'dah. The boy cried out, lifting his hands and ducking. « Why is perfection desirable? » his dragon demanded, landing on another branch behind him, wings flared. Briefly, Mur'dah saw light among the feathers before the shadows swallowed them again. « I know what I am. I have problems with my leg. I walk differently than everyone else. It is not a problem. »
"But people make fun of you! Kanekith-"
« His opinion means nothing to me, » Kalsuoth said firmly, thunder rumbling to support his words, « and it should mean nothing to you. He has his own problems that he will have to deal with. And I will not stand for his teasing for much longer, but it does not mean anything. »
"You couldn't even hunt…"
« I will hunt, » Kalsuoth said, and Mur'dah's head ducked down as feathers battered his head again when the bird soared. « Dragons fly, and I will fly. Luraoth and I will both fly and then will you be happy? When I am good at something? We are already better than most at sharing thoughts. »
"Because you trap me!"
« Because you need it! »
Mur'dah sank down onto the ground by the stream, feeling the earth give beneath him, taking handfuls of the mud to fling into the water. Pulling in slow breaths, Mur'dah tasted the timeless woods around him, and looking into the sky gave him an odd swirling sensation, as light followed dark in a subtle but unmistakable pattern across the sky. Here, time had no meaning.
"I don't like it when they look at you, or pity us, or make comments. I just want…I want to be treated just like the rest of them."
The bird soared down to perch on his bent knee, and Mur'dah reached out to stroke the silky black feathers. Up close, he saw shimmers of blue and violet in their depths. « It is what it is, Mur'dah. There is nothing we can do to change it. We can't stop them. We can only not let it bother us. Do not let it ruin your friendships. »
Mur'dah scowled. "Hard not to, when Ka'el just lets him say such mean stuff to you."
The bird gently nipped his finger, and Mur'dah jerked his hand back with a frown. « I say mean stuff too. I get him riled up. It is not only his fault. »
That is a bitter pill for Mur'dah to swallow, so he doesn't. He just sinks lower and reaches out to stroke the bird's feathers once again. "I do love you," he whispers to the bird. "And you are wonderful. I just…expected something different, I guess."
« A blue, » Kalsuoth replies. « A small, nimble, fast blue. Yes, I have seen him in your thoughts. But I am not him. I am brown. And with me you will do even greater things. We will lead, we will be looked up to. You can do much more with me than you ever could with a blue. It would have been a waste of your talents, no offense to any blue riders. But that was not the color for you. »
Sighing, Mur'dah leaned forward to rest his forehead against the bird, and with a jolt found himself falling onto the sand. Hands jumped up to catch him and he received a painful jolt in his wrists as he fell. Turning, he saw Kalsuoth sitting there with his head tilted, and the brown rumbled. Looking at the sky, Mur'dah saw the sun was in exactly the same spot. How long had the whole interchange lasted? It felt like at least ten minutes, but apparently not.
Shaking his head firmly, the teen rose to his feet and pushed his hair out of his face before reaching for his dragon. He felt a thrill of relief when the narrow muzzle pressed against the palm of his hand without hesitation. « I love you too, Mur'dah. You are mine and you are not perfect either. »
With a snort, Mur'dah looped an arm around the narrow muzzle and the two resumed their walk back to the training grounds.