You know those moments when you feel like you’re falling, and your body jerks you awake to save you, only to have it turn out that you’re ACTUALLY falling?
That’s why I don’t trust hammocks.
Anya opened her eyes briefly to see the ground rapidly approaching her face. For a brief moment, she began to panic. What if Hidalgo didn’t catch her? What if he took this as his true moment of freedom and had flown away already? The memories of the past few years came flooding back to her; their adventures across the plains of Denton, their journey westward through the wintery mountains. All wonderful memories and all of it for naught if their partnership had fallen apart now.
A rush of movement just above her head caught her attention; it was Hidalgo. He was in a steep dive, trying to angle himself to properly catch her in the saddle before they hit the ground. With a frantic motion, Anya managed to snatch the reigns flailing wildly in the wind.
“Change forms!” Anya yelled to him. Immediately, Hidalgo’s body began to morph; his midsection and tail began to stretch out while his long slender legs shortened, his cloven hooves giving way to three toes and sharp claws. His white coat began to dull into a dark red color, his fur rapidly transforming in to scales, while his wings shrank and disappeared, along with the saddle. In a matter of seconds, Hidalgo’s horse form was no more, and in its place was a fierce looking dragon with a long and winding body.
The new slender form made it much easier for Anya to mount on to his back, and easier for Hidalgo to manage their steep dive. Crouching against Hidalgo for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, they pulled out of the dive a few feet away from the ground, racing past the small crowd of Lady Ajam, Abbas, and Colonel Albert.
“Out of the way!” Anya managed to yell to the groomsmen as Hidalgo continued his charged through the barn and out the other end. Hidalgo continued his charge over the field where the Governor’s horses were kept, sending them racing to the other end of the paddock as they passed over head, slowly decelerating.
Anya let out a celebratory cheer, excitedly rubbing Hidalgo behind his ears as they circled a nearby cloud. Pleased with his path of destruction, Hidalgo roared loudly, a breath of fire escaping from his mighty jaws.
“That was awesome buddy!” Anya yelled, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Looking below, Anya could see the amazed look on Abbas’ face. “We are a goddamn BADASS team!” she hollered, and Hidalgo agreed with another satisfactory roar. “Let’s get back down below.” She said, giving him another loving pat. With a loud snort, Hidalgo flew back down towards their waiting, and hopefully captive audience.
Hidalgo didn’t bother to change back into his horse form, preferring to strut his new form in front of Colonel Albert. The Colonel, on the other hand, looked none too pleased with Hidalgo’s new transformation, and recoiled to the shadows of the barn.
“That was amazing!” Abbas shouted, breaking away from the safety of his mother’s grip and running over to them. Hidalgo grinned smugly, preening himself before the young boy.
“This,” Anya said proudly, “is what a rider can do with their hadesus partner.” Anya dismounted from Hidalgo to face Abbas in a dramatic manner. “A true partnership is about give and take, knowing what the other is capable of, and putting your full trust in them.” Abbas listened for the first time with undivided attention. “This isn’t something that happens over night, however.” Anya clarified. “A partnership like ours takes years to develop. I treat Hidalgo like I would anyone else, and in return, Hidalgo and I have formed a pack of our own.”
“Hadesus form packs?” Abbas asked in disbelief.
“Oh yes!” Anya said proudly. “I have witnessed it myself during my travels.” There was a glow in Abbas’ eyes; for the first time, Anya had his respect, and she was quite proud of herself. “Together, Hidalgo and I are a team. We rest together, we eat together, and I wouldn’t ask him to do anything I wouldn’t do. If you want to form a bond of your own with a hadesus, you have to remember one thing: hadesus are smarter than you think; don’t ever under any circumstances underestimate them.”
“How smart is smart?” Abbas asked curiously. Anya and Hidalgo traded glances; that wasn’t information they were willing to divulge in front of Colonel Albert.
“That you’ll have to discover on your own.” Anya said cryptically as Hidalgo morphed down to his original form. “The power of the hadesus is not something to be misused, nor toyed around with. They are powerful creatures; if the partnership becomes one sided, they can sense it and easily end it.”
“But how do you keep the partnership even?” Abbas asked.
“If I told you that now,” Anya said, “we wouldn’t have anything to talk about tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Anya nodded.
“Tomorrow morning, before breakfast, meet me out here.” Anya said, collecting the reigns and guiding Hidalgo towards the barn. “We have riding lessons to start!”