Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 40 of 69

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Parsey was sent away in disgrace; weeks passed in boredom, and then the door was unlocked.

Daine agreed to return to work because it was the only way they would agree to feed her, but in truth she was almost grateful for the work. She had been locked in the opulent room for nearly a month since she had awoken, almost screaming with boredom as the door remained obstinately locked. She was given a place in the kitchen and peeled potatoes with good humour, practicing her courtly manners on the cook (who wasn’t impressed) and the kitchen maids (who mimicked her with wide eyes).

Life fell into a routine, and if it wasn’t an interesting routine, it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Daine felt like she’d won her safety, which was more than she could have hoped for, and she knew that none of the men would dare to touch her now. Even the guards treated her with wary respect as they escorted her to and from her old cell.

Things felt… normal. Daine sternly told herself off. From ‘normal’ it only took a few more absent thoughts before her time outside of the prison became abnormal: a short time away from the way she was supposed to live. Escaping, falling in love and hoping for a future… well, they all became pleasant memories for the cold evenings, whimsies with no more weight than the slow drift of pollen in the spring air.

Normal. Daine was disgusted at herself for even thinking of the word. She refused to forgive herself for it, or for the desperate lonely nights when she muffled her sobs against her pillow. Her disgust didn’t help her, though. In the daylight she could be strong, but every time her cell door locked behind her the girl couldn’t help wondering if the short time she’d spent with Numair was going to be the best few months she would ever live.

No, she couldn’t think like that. Even if, after months without a single sign, she was starting to believe it was true. 
More weeks passed and she found that she was still waking up earlier than normal, her stomach churning. She muffled the sounds of her retching as best she could. If anyone had heard her, she might have explained that she wasn’t used to the poor food that the slaves were given. The excuse might work once or even twice, but sooner or later someone would work out why she was sick every morning. Then the ever-watchful officials would smile and take away this dull, grudging protection. The girl shuddered at the thought of what they might do next.

She was careful to take out her own night pail, and tore the seams of her dress a little so that it fitted more loosely over her swelling stomach. She even asked the guards if she might have her old clothes back, knowing the flowing rags would have hidden triplets, but they refused: her old clothes had been burned. Her fading opulent gown stood out like a gem amongst the brown rags of the other slaves, and the guards saw no harm in the spittle, insults and rotten slops which they hurled at the girl. Daine gritted her teeth and daubed off the filth every night in the kitchen trough. She eked out the sagging stitches of the skirt with coarse hessian cord and a crude bone needle and let the fabric stretch and warp as it dried.

One morning she was carrying a pail of kitchen slops to the pigsty in the courtyard, enjoying the soft warm breeze that told her that flowers were blooming beyond the stone walls. She was so captivated by the gentle perfume that she almost stumbled into another person who was walking the other way. The pail clattered to the stones, and they both recoiled from the crashing sound. The man cursed and Daine apologised fervently, and then looked up with wide eyes, bucket forgotten.

“You!” She breathed, and laughed out loud before throwing her arms around the guard. He cursed and shoved her off.

“What the hell are you doing, girl?” He growled, folding his arms to discourage any further grateful behaviour. She apologised breathlessly, unable to stop a smile from playing around her lips.

“I’m sorry, I just... Numair told me what you did for him, and you gave me the blanket, and...”

“And just talk a little louder, idiot, so everyone in the prison can hear you.” Ronan said sourly, his foot tapping impatiently. Daine flushed and looked back towards the corridor, but it was deserted. She looked at her feet, feeling guilty.

“I’m sorry. I know it’s a huge risk for you...”

“Yes.” He cut the sentence off shortly, and looked her up and down. “I’m officially carrying out a routine health check, if anyone asks. You look well enough, girl, even if you got yourself captured again. Gods, what a wasted effort that turned out to be. Maybe next time I won’t bother helping you.”

“Maybe.” She echoed, and smiled slowly. The healer was being surly and he wasn’t allowing even the trace of a smile to touch his eyes, but Daine was happier to see him than she could possibly describe. She and Numair had talked about the man, wondering what had happened to him after the night that they had escaped. They had agreed that he wouldn’t have helped them if it could possibly come back around to hurt him, but they were also both keenly aware that even the best plans could go bad.

“I’m happy you’re safe,” she blurted out, wanting to say something in the few precious seconds before someone saw them and demanded to know what they were talking about.

“Mm.” He grunted noncommittally, and then leaned closer and lowered his voice to a hiss. “Look, I’ve been trying to get an excuse to talk to you for days. You have to know: you need to watch out. Lord Orsille will be back in a few days.”

“Back?” She felt a thrill of horror run through her at the man’s name, and shivered, loathing the man and the thrall he had over her. “You mean he’s not here now?”

“Do you think you’d be enjoying the sunshine if he were, girl?” Ronan laughed shortly, and ran a hand through his hair in agitation.

“Look, from what I hear he’s fair furious at you. And he’s in charge. Do you understand that? He was the one who sent the other officials to punish you when you were captured. It was him who ordered them to back off, too, after you... you did whatever you did, I don’t know. He’s been in the other fort where the soldiers are gathered, making sure everything there is ready to strike your friends on the border. But they’re ready now. He needs the mages. Do you hear me? He’s coming back, and everything, everything, is going to get bad here.”

“He only wants the mages.” She whispered.

“And his hostage,” He ran his eyes up and down her ragged dress, his expression scornful, “since you’re such a precious asset.”

She shuddered and cradled her head in her hand. “Why are you telling me this?” She whimpered, “You’re just scaring me. He won’t be interested in me. Not if he’s commanding an army. Not if...”

“Fine. Lie to yourself.” Ronan pushed her back with the flat of his hand, enough to shake her out of her fear but not enough to hurt her. “You might have thought of that before you insulted his daughter, you know. If I was scared of someone I damn well wouldn’t be goading them.”

“Goading...” Daine whispered, and her mind took her back to the last time someone had said that to her. It had been when she’d been drawing the wolf away from her core. Numair had asked her to distract it...

...“I said lure it away, not goad it!”...

But simply luring it away hadn’t worked. She knew it would lose interest. It was a predator, after all. Numair didn’t understand that. He might read about animal minds, but she could feel their feral desires with a certainty that went far beyond intuition.

You cannot lure a predator. It will not follow. It only hunts.

Daine had realised that if she goaded the wolf, if she made it furious, then it would be distracted. And it had worked! It stopped attacking her core, and turned away from Numair, and had focused all its energy on trying to destroy Daine. She was its prey, and that was all that mattered.

Orsille may have decided that she was his prey too, but he would not be so easily swayed.

“Perhaps...” she murmured aloud, “Perhaps... if he really is angry, perhaps it will make him less focused on the war. Then he won’t find it as easy to hurt my friends.”

“You are a very stupid woman.” Ronan said flatly, and she blinked. She had almost forgotten that the man was there.


“I said you’re an idiot!” He yelled, and shoved her away so that she went reeling down the yard. “Look at this mess! The pigs would have carried it better than you, stupid slut!”

Daine caught at the wall to stop herself from falling, and saw the silent servant who had just rounded the corner. Ah, she thought, and fell as if Ronan had shoved her a lot harder than he really had.

“I’ll clean it up, sir, I promise!” She retorted, dragging herself upright with a wince of pretend pain. “I’m sorry! I didn’t realise you were there!”

“Blind as well as stupid, are you?” He spat on the floor and stomped down the corridor towards the servant, who grinned at him.

“What are you looking at, boy? See that she cleans up that mess before Dakinn gets back, or I’ll take it out of both of your skins!”

Daine scrubbed at the stones in a frenzy of thought, barely feeling her fingers cracking at the cold and the lye in the water. As much as Orsille scared her, she knew that she had to do something. A thousand soldiers might not be able to get a minute in the same room as the man, but she would be able to.

“People do very stupid things when they’re angry,” she whispered to herself, and smiled.

It was a few days later when she was summoned, but to her surprise it wasn’t to the official’s chambers, but to the healer’s. She stepped through the door, looking at the man curiously as he smiled thinly.

“What did you want?” She asked, keeping her tone polite even if she refused to call him sir.

Dakinn’s eyebrows raised, and he nodded to someone standing behind the door. Daine felt a hand take her elbow in a firm grip, and looked back to see the expressionless face of Ronan.

“I don’t understand.” She looked back at Dakinn, her eyes wide. “What’s going on? What do you want?”

“Me?” He raised an eyebrow towards the door, and she turned to look. There was someone else there, standing in the shadowed corner with a slight smile playing at his lips. She took in his soft face and silver hair with rising panic, and even though she'd been expecting it she couldn't stop a gasp of fear from rising from her lips.

Orsille smiled. Slowly.

“Second from the left,” Dakinn said behind her, and his words dripped with the heaviness of magic. “Tanz, errupara di mohrus.”

A dull darkness grew from the chain around her wrist, and Daine gasped as she tried to pull it away from her skin. The darkness didn’t hurt, but it felt so cold that she shrank away from it. It grew, creeping along the curve of her arm towards her neck until it met her lips, and streamed into her lungs in a single frozen breath.

Ice flooded through her body, and she stiffened and fell into Ronan’s ready arms as the blackness leeched upwards. It deafened her ears, and blinded her eyes, and finally howled into her mind in a dizzy swirl of screaming shadows.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 40 of 69

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