Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 39 of 69

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If Daine had been asked what the one most ridiculous result of her demand could be, she never would have thought of something this absurd. She looked up when the door opened, preparing to repeat her imperious demand, and her mouth gaped open at the sight that was in front of her.

“Karenna?” Daine breathed, and felt a wild laugh starting in her stomach. The other woman frowned, then scowled at her when Daine couldn’t stop laughing.

“You have nothing to laugh about.” Karenna said icily, putting her hands on her hips. Despite her annoyance, her lips quirked up at the corners when she said, with some pleasure, “I can have you whipped for laughing at me, slave!”

Daine wiped away a tear of mirth and shook her head.

“No, you’re right,” she agreed, “but I can laugh at myself. Did you know, Karenna, that all this time, I actually felt sorry for you? I felt bad because I thought you had no idea what your father actually did. I thought about what might happen to you when you find out. And I felt guilty for what we did to you.” She smiled sickly and gestured to the belt that Karenna wore. “It’s almost nice to know that I was wrong about you. I’ll sleep better.”

Karenna’s beautiful face darkened. “It doesn’t make your lies or your tricks any better. You stole Leto from me. You hurt me. You owe me.”

“Well, I see you took my belt.” Daine said, her voice still light, but slightly sharp. She took a step closer, holding her back straight and her chin high and looking the taller woman in the eye. “He gave it to me as a gift after the first night we made love. I know you won’t give it back, but I just wanted to make sure that every time you look at it, you’ll be thinking of me and him together.”

Karenna looked down at the belt automatically, and her face flushed as she stopped herself from running her fingers along the delicate pattern on the leather. Apparently the woman knew Daine’s story but still somehow believed that Leto was a noble lord. Daine wondered again how much Orsille actually let Karenna know about his life here.

“So what?” Karenna blustered, but she couldn’t meet the other girl’s eyes in her confusion. “He might have slept with you, but he would have married me, in the end. I would have won him back. When he found out what you are... a murderess and a slave…”

“He knew.” Daine said in a level voice, “I never lied to him. Do you lie to the people you love, Karenna?”

“Don’t call me that!” Karenna looked up then, her face blotched and ugly with anger. “I’m Lady Orsille. They said that my father owns you. They said you had to call me ma’am, or miss, or my-lady. They said you were one of his slaves. That means you’re my slave. You have to do what I say.”

“I don’t have to do anything.” The girl shrugged, and tried not to think about Karenna’s gleeful promise of having her whipped as she turned away. She was thinking rapidly. Her first thought had been that Karenna knew what was going on in the keep, but now she was starting to think it was another trick.

Perhaps Orsille had promised that his daughter could have her revenge, and she had demanded to get it herself. Daine couldn’t imagine the man letting another person steal his fun, though, no matter how much he adored his daughter. So maybe that was wrong. Perhaps the other officials knew it would unsettle Daine to have to confront an actual noblewoman. Karenna would have jumped at the chance to gloat over her fallen rival.

Either way, Daine found herself feeling sorry for Karenna. The pampered chit had clearly had just been told a few choice facts, and so she didn’t know everything. She was making a fool of herself. Daine pushed her pity aside and thought: I can use that.

She chose her words carefully, and practiced them in her head as she walked across the room.

The window was a few steps away, but she could feel the other woman’s glare burning into her back with every step. She took a deep breath when she reached the window sill, knowing Karenna wouldn’t be able to see how white her knuckles were from gripping the frame.

“I’m not afraid of the officials, or of any threats you make. And, Karenna...” she looked around, and let the woman see the genuine pity that burned in her eyes.

Karenna flinched and actually took a step back when Daine said, her voice full of sympathy, “I’m not afraid of you, Karenna. Because you believe that I’ve already won. In your head, I’ve taken one of the only things you wanted, and I’m never giving it back. He’ll never love you. Not the way he loves me. Never. I know you came here to make me suffer for that, but it won’t make you feel any better, I swear it. Because every time you see me, or speak to me, or tie my belt around your waist, you’ll remember how I won. How I beat you. And how much I loved every second of it.”

Karenna stared at her breathlessly, her skin flushing red, and then paling to a bluish white, and then reddening again as she tried to think of how to answer. Daine looked at her steadily, and her voice was rich with pity as she took in the fine clothes that the woman wore, and thought about the absolute certainty that had been written on Karenna’s face until the slave had stripped it away.

“Oh Karenna,” she said sadly, feeling sorry for her. “Has anyone ever refused you anything in your life?” She looked at the mute woman, and then shook her head and waved a hand in dismissal.

“Go away, Karenna, and don’t get mixed up in this. It’s not worth it. They promised you revenge, but it won’t make things any better for you. You don’t want to play their games, I swear it.”

Karenna gaped at her, and then turned on her heel and left so quickly the door recoiled in its frame before the guard outside remembered to bolt it shut.

The next visitor her hidden captors sent her was Lord Parsey, and Daine had to stop herself from smiling when she realised how the officials were going to play this game. They would send one person after another until they worked out how she was going to react, or until one made her weaken, and then they would strike.

Well, Parsey was easy enough to deal with. Now that he had captured her she had nothing to lose, and she could remember the pathetic fear on his face so clearly that seeing his flabby features again nearly made her laugh out loud.

She let him get close, tolerating the rough imprint of his nails on her arm without flinching, and then said in a refined, matter-of-fact voice:

“This is the worst idea you’ve ever had.”

Parsey looked up, and an odd look crossed his face when he saw there was no fear on the girl’s face. She was watching him with a kind of detached interest, as if he were a moth caught in a jar. He reddened at the thought.

“I’m not going to fall for your little rich-girl act. It may have worked on Orsille’s silly daughter, but...”

“Oh, it’s not an act.” Daine didn’t move, just watched impassively as he drew his knife. His hands shook when he raised it to her throat and she met his eyes levelly, certain that he wouldn’t kill her. He cut through the tie at the neck of her shirt and pressed the blade to her exposed throat. She shrugged, and felt the sharp edge cut into her skin with detached pain.

“I know you can’t kill me. You need me alive. I don’t know why you’re bothering with threatening me. It’s fair pathetic. I’m not going to pretend I’m afraid of a pathetic grub like you.”

“You’re right: I won’t kill you. That’s not the idea at all.” Angry blotches appeared on his face and he hit her so hard that she was sent reeling. She raised a hand instinctively to her throbbing cheek, gasping in pain, and then lowered it and forced herself to laugh. The gold chain chimed sweetly when she raised the hand to him, as gracefully as a dancer offering herself to a partner. He blinked.

“Do you know why this didn’t burn me when you put it on my wrist, Lord Parsey?” She asked, raising an eyebrow as if he were an ignorant child. When he paused she smiled encouragingly and stood up, looking slightly disappointed at his lack of manners when he didn’t help her. “Oh, and it was such a simple question! Never mind, I’ll tell you.”

She leaned closer, her voice a confiding murmur. “I have protection. Without it, my own magic would kill me in a second, because it’s trying to fight against the chain. That’s the problem with us wild creatures.” She raised her eyes to the window and smiled, “We want to be free.”

He laughed, cruel bravado overpowering his confusion. “Want freedom all you please, creature. It won’t make any difference. We own you.”

“No,” she said peacefully, and waved a hand in the air. “You only own my body, and even then… you have to keep me alive. own my magic.” Her voice became vicious, “And I can free it whenever I choose.”

“But then you’d die,” the man blurted out, his eyes baffled as he struggled to keep up with the conversation. She nodded and smiled happily, as if he’d solved a difficult puzzle. Inside, she was almost choking from trying not to laugh, and wondering how she’d been so frightened of the officials when so many of them were so foolish and muddle-headed.

No wonder Numair worked out how to fool them so easily, she thought, giving Parsey time to think over what she’d said. He could probably outsmart them in his sleep! I wonder why I never saw it until now?

Daine didn’t think that perhaps not all the officials were as dim-witted as Parsey, or wonder if a stupid man had been sent on purpose so they could see what she would do. For the first time since being captured she was having fun, turning her childhood terrors into clowns with a few simple words. She studied the charms on the chain with absentminded affection, running them through her fingertips.

“You need me alive, but I could kill myself in a heartbeat. You so kindly gave me the weapon to do that. My old chain just made me ill, but this one is so much more powerful…” Her voice trailed off, and raised her eyes to him with a challenge written in them. “Do you really think I won’t use it? Hit me again. Find out.”

He stood quite still, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.

“You won’t.” he said, but the words held little conviction.

Daine stopped herself from smiling. She already knew that she’d won, and her words had dripped with a deadly promise that even Parsey couldn’t miss. What he had missed, however, was the way that those same words made her tremble. He didn’t know that they were a lie. Even saying them out loud felt like a betrayal. Daine knew she couldn’t kill herself, even though they had given her the weapon to do it.

She might have done it a few months ago if they had let her, but not now. The slave might have died, but not Daine, and definitely not the child she carried. The moment’s hesitation didn’t stop her words from sounding any more deadly, but it was enough time for a wave of pure horror to rise in her stomach at the idea, and eclipse any victory she might have felt at the horrified expression on Parsey’s face.

“If you touch me again – or any of your disgusting friends, for that matter - then I swear I will. I swear it.”

He stared at her, willing her to look away, but she looked back levelly until, like Karenna, he turned on his heel and left the room. Daine waited for his footsteps to fade before she sank to her knees, keeping her gasping breaths as quiet as possible so the listening spells couldn’t detect them. The chain clattered against the stones on the floor as a reminder of the awful lie that she’d just told, and she sat up straight with shaking hands raised to her head.

She didn’t let herself rest a hand against her stomach to protect the almost imperceptible life that grew there. She had just realised, with a crashing feeling of despair, that her secret would betray her as swiftly as a loosed arrow. The officials might believe she would kill herself, but they would never accept that she would knowingly kill her child. She rested her head on her hands and took a shuddering breath.

That was it. That was her weakness. And it was like an ominously ticking clock, counting down the days until every single official in the prison would know exactly how to hurt her.

Oh Numair, she thought, and knew the words were trapped in her head because there was no answering flare of copper light. He was too far away to hear her, but the words poured from her like a prayer.

Oh, my love, please come and find me. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 39 of 69

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