Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 12 of 69

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Daine picked stones from the hoof of the massive plough-horse, keeping her face carefully blank. The guard had wandered away, bored, and was flirting with one of the farm maids who giggled as she swung her bucket of chicken feed. Around her, the chickens gobbled in excitement, but she obliviously ignored them.

Daine wedged the pick more firmly against a particularly cruel stone and pulled. The farm animals had been neglected since she'd been away, and the horse sighed in relief when the stone finally came free. She scowled at the raw flesh underneath it, and slathered some goose-fat into the gap. There was little else she could do, except hope that it wouldn't get infected. She silently cursed the lazy farm maid and stood up.

The other woman glanced at her contemptuously and turned a beaming smile on the guard. "How-ever do you stop that little rat from scurrying away? Is that where she's been all this time?"

The guard looked over his shoulder at Daine, and shrugged. "Nah. Doesn't try to escape, that one."

Daine looked at her feet and scuffed her toes against the wisps of straw on the floor, hearing the heavy manacles clink as they knocked against the stones. She sneered inwardly at the guard's bravado. She wondered if he'd be so brave, so nonchalant, if they didn't wrap her in irons before they marched her to the tithing farms.

It had been one of her favourite things, before. She was hurried between the five farms in the valley once a week. Her feet bled from the thorns and stones on the mountain trails, but for a few hours she was outside, and in the fresh air under the open sky. The farmers hated her, staring at her with mistrust, and the officials played on their fear by ordering that she dress in rags every time she was outside. She would never blend in to a market or be able to duck into a tavern, not dressed like that, and it was easier for the farmers to hate her when she looked like a creature.

Today, the torn scraps of fabric had a better purpose. Seeing that the guard's eyes were once again fixed on the maid's rather generous (and conspicuously exposed) figure, Daine quickly tucked the hoof-pick into a hastily knotted pocket she'd fashioned on the hike up the hill. Among all the oddments of material, the bulge of the sharp tool was barely visible. She smiled to herself as she hid it away. It was too easy! She'd been planning it for days, but now she'd actually stolen a weapon it seemed laughably simple.

Still, she still had to get away before the maid noticed it was missing...

Daine carefully tangled her foot in the milking stool she'd been sitting on and then fell forward, clattering loudly against the stone floor with a harsh intake of breath. Straw flew through the air as the maid and the guard whirled around. The other woman laughed suddenly, pointing and crowing at the clumsy slave. The guard cursed and yanked her to her feet by her elbow, shaking her harshly.

Did I spoil your mood? Daine asked him silently, feeling amused despite herself. She kept her mockery out of her face, and stood mute. The guard swore at her and dragged her away, making a show of his power over her. The maid batted her eyelashes at him and waved a farewell, caught up by the display.

"Stupid, clumsy bitch." The guard spat, hurling her forwards and sending her sprawling into the mud. Sharp, frozen shards of gritty dirt cut into her hands as she threw them out to protect herself, and the chain made a delicate imprint in one of her splayed handprints. She stared at it, dragging herself upright before the guard had chance to grab her again. They set off down the trail. He followed her, shoving her forward from time to time, but once they'd cleared the farmland he stopped and glanced over his shoulder.

She's not watching you. Daine thought cynically. She flirts with all the guards. You're not special.

She felt the cold weight of the sharp hoof pick swinging against her leg and couldn't hide a smile. They were far away enough now that even if the maid had noticed, she wouldn't want to catch them up just to ask if the creature had stolen it. The sharp point pricked tiny holes in her thigh. It was the biting promise of things to come.

Daine vaguely remembered overhearing one of the guards telling a new recruit that he needed to wet his sword. After a few crude comments they had started talking about the odd idea that a new weapon should be bathed in blood, as if it were a child being born into a violent world. It was an old tradition- a kind of magic that was barbaric and exciting. The soldiers laughed about it.

Daine liked the idea. She relished the pain, and the promise of all the blood to be drawn.

She had planned carefully, but throughout all of her careful scheming there was a red haze. She wanted blood. She wanted to punish them for everything they had done, and everything they had said. She wanted them to suffer. She wanted them to feel the pain of Numair's death as keenly as she did, in all its agonising, hollow rawness. The tide of desperate fury waxed and waned in her mind, and she found she could think quite clearly. It had been a week since she'd resumed her normal life, and she felt stronger than she ever had before.

There was one thing left to do, and she planned to do it tonight. No matter how long it took, she knew she had to break off the chain. The guard brought her back to the castle just as the light was fading, and locked her in her cell without so much as a word. She stripped off her stinking rags and pulled on her tunic and leggings impatiently, tucked the hoof pick under her belt, and then sat in a tailor's seat on the floor. The stone stung her with cold even through the cloth, but she didn't mind. She needed something to draw her back into the real world.

She closed her eyes, and started to meditate.


The door crashed open, and her eyes flew open with it. She stared around at the guard, her expression frantic as the man strode in. He had to do a double-take when he saw the prisoner sitting cross-legged on the floor, but didn't say anything.

Daine drew a gasping breath, pressing frozen palms to her temples with her eyes rolling wildly. A hundred, thousand voices shrieked in her mind, excited and scared and loud and clamoring for her attention. She didn't know how to make them be still! Her own thoughts shrank away, barely audible behind the laughing and crying and speaking and screaming, but she understood the most persistent one as if her bleeding ears could really hear it: This was a bad idea!

The guard didn't notice. It was dark in her cell, and his scowl only deepened at her reaction. Perhaps he thought she was scared. He reached out to grab her wrist, to drag her out of the room, and she pushed at him with shaking hands.

"D...don't..." she stumbled, the words a harsh croak. His eyebrows flew up at the sound of her voice, but he simply laughed and dragged her away. This would be a fine story to tell the other guards! They had heard the wild creature had found its voice, but they would laugh to find out that the girl was a coward. She staggered after him, nearly blind even in the torch-lit corridors.

"You'd better not be sick again." The man growled, shoving her towards the door. "They won't stand for it. Too much feeling sorry for yourself, miss, is a bad thing."

Daine pulled away from him instinctively, terrified beyond sense. She barely knew what was going on. Half of her mind was taken up with the voices, and the flood of copper light which blazed from every shadow and blinded her. The other half knew, vaguely, that she was being dragged, that she was being yelled at, and that the silver chain was sliding slowly off her wrist. Several links were warped and twisted, and each charm was blackened beyond recognition. In the blaze of copper light it glittered with black fire, insidious and dark.


A wool carpet was soft underfoot, and the room was warm. She blinked frantically, trying to clear her eyes, but the man was a grotesque blur topped with leering green glassy eyes.

"Remember me?" The liquid shape oozed closer, and the eyes swam into focus. It pressed pudgy fingers to a fleshy cheek, and smiled humourlessly. "I'm all healed up now. As are you, I hear."

An official. Familiar, even as a monster. Words. I can't let things carry on as they are. These people are vile. I have to stop them. Not her own words, she realised, but they were piercing in the miasma of her screaming mind. She felt desperately sick.

"You're mine, tonight. They all wanted you. They want to make you speak." He ran a fingernail along her cheek, pressing down with the ragged edge of it in a line of sharp pain. "I won. I won, because they only wanted you to speak. I wanted more. I fought them for you."

Her thoughts crystallised. This was the man who had beaten her. The one who had insulted her ma. The one she had slapped. His damp hands were familiar on her skin, and she shuddered, still too trapped in her own mind to move, as they fumbled under her tunic.

A thousand voices in her head all shimmered into one, and she took a step away from him. His hands caught in the cloth and he laughed, the sound irritated. She heard it echoing. She saw the wolf prowling through the copper light, and smiled at it. It was trapped behind a wall of dark fire, but that didn't mean it was gone.

The official saw her smile and his expression became angry. His hands grew rough against her skin, and he tore at her clothes with oafish spitefulness. He wanted her to look at him, to meet his eyes rather than let her mind drift away. Daine closed her eyes instead and saw the wolf's gleaming pelt, the raw power in its shoulders and the ripple of muscle in its paws.

My beauty, she called to it, reaching out arms of copper fire, Oh, I need you! Let's play.

The man gripped her chin in sweaty fingers. His breath was ragged; he was thinking she had moved out of fear. Daine knew she would never be afraid again. His words called back so many nights, nights where her mind had wandered away. She thought she had forgotten the pain, the humiliation, but his words brought it all back, and she felt the wolf surge closer on a wave of pure hatred.

"I won," The official hissed, "because I want to make you scream."

Daine raised the hoof pick in a dreamy trance, pressing the sharp edge against his lily-white throat. She heard the watery gulp of gasped-in air. "You first," she whispered back into his stunned eyes, and smiled.

And pressed down.

The silver chain slithered from her wrist like a rivulet of icy water, glittering in the soft candlelight, dripping down onto the floor alongside the viscous dark-red blood that poured, so merrily, so easily, from the official's white skin. There were no colours in the middle: just dark red next to bone-white, and the silvery-grey of the hoof pick scything between them.

The voices in her mind were suddenly silent. The wolf howled.

Daine laughed out loud. The sound was harsh, a crow of pure delight that drowned out his choking noises, his hideous human pleading, the rattle of drowning breath through the gaping wound. It drowned out the crash of his body to the soft red carpet, and the scrabbling sound his fingers made against the bedpost as he tried to drag himself away.

Well, the wolf was having none of that! It prowled closer, still laughing at its escaping prey, and crushed its scrabbling fingers into the floor. They snapped with sounds like broken twigs, one after the other, and the dying human struggled and gurgled in drowning pain. The wolf didn't care. It waited mercilessly for the struggles to stop. Human eyes, green and pathetic, finally stared blankly at nothing. And the wolf laughed again. It lay beside the fallen creature and rested, its anger satiated...

... a few moments later, snapping out of her furious trance, Daine blinked at the bloodstained room and gripped her aching head in frozen hands. Shaking, she saw that her fingers were encrusted with dried blood, and picked up the broken chain from where it had fallen.

What have I done? She thought wildly, looking around. ,This is... this wasn't supposed to happen!

She saw the ashes of her carefully made plan lying around her. She could never escape now. Killing an official was a death sentence. She'd only meant to take the chain off, not bring the madness back! Her head ached horribly, and she retched at the coppery scent in the air.

I invited that wolf back, she remembered in horror. Why... why did I do it? After Numair died trying to stop it from reaching me...

She was sick then, heaving up her pitiful food ration in retching sobs. She'd killed an official. She knew that she would have to finish what she'd started. There was no turning back, now. For a few scant minutes of revenge she would have to keep fighting until she fell.

I'm going to die tonight.

She sat up straight and pocketed the chain, then her hoof pick. She squared her shoulders and glanced down one last time at the husk that had once been a man. She heard Numair's words in her mind, and smiled in reckless abandon.

He said, 'These people are vile. I have to stop them'. He said that, and he's dead now, but I'm still here. And I'm going to die tonight.

So, I'd better make it worthwhile.

For him.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 12 of 69

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