Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 42 of 69

<< Previous     Home     Next >>

Daine stood up and faced the official when he opened the door, head meekly bowed in the only answer it was possible for her to give. He didn’t even look surprised, but he locked the door carefully and crossed the room, raising clawlike hands to touch her cheek. She shivered but forced herself to stay still, trying not to think, trying not to react.

All she could think about were the birds. If the plan was going to work, then she had to try it now, but they hadn’t agreed to help her yet. She forced herself not to speak to them, knowing that if Orsille thought for a second that she was using her magic then he would surely kill her. She kept her head bowed and her expression carefully blank, and listened to the birds singing in the night air. Her heart rose: they were agreeing to help her. She ducked her head to hide a smile.

He stroked her cheek gently, and his lips curved in a gentle expression at her apparent obeisance. “Good girl. That wasn’t so difficult a choice, was it?”

“Are you going to hurt me?” She asked quietly, hoping he would think she was asking out of fear. He wasn’t to know it was important. She couldn’t risk the magic without pain to bring her back. His fingers stilled for a moment, and then he ran his fingertips up through her cropped hair. She could feel the sharp edges of his nails. His voice was amused.

“What do you think?”

“Do you care what I think? Would you even listen to me? Well, I think you enjoy it.” She said, and her voice was poisonous as the words poured out of her unbidden. “I think you can’t be a man unless someone’s crying under you. I think you’re pathetic, and I think you’re sick.”

“Oh, you do, do you?” He said quietly, and his nails bit into the nape of her neck. She raised her eyes to meet his, and let him see the loathing that she knew burned in them.

“You threaten me with the death of my unborn child. That’s the action of a weak man. A coward.”

“And yet, it worked.” He smiled broadly, and the open friendliness in the expression was far more horrifying than any threatening look. Her insults washed off him like rainwater, Daine realised. He looked amused at even her sharpest words, and there was something else lurking in his smile which she could only dread. She swallowed back bitter bile and stared at the floor. He stroked her cheek affectionately. It was as if she had recited words of love to him rather than hate.

She tried to move away from him then, and she found that even if his caresses were gentle the hand which locked around her wrist was immovable and cruel.

“No.” He told her, and for the first time there was iron in his voice. “You made your choice, whore.”

“I had no choice.” She spat. “I had to sell myself to a vile man to save my baby’s life. You’re the one who should be ashamed, not me.”

His fingers trailed gently down her neck. “I’ve bought your obedience, Annette. I’ll accept your rather endearing hatred as a gift. I must admit that you’re a lot more interesting since you gained a voice.”

Daine pressed her lips together tightly at that. Half of her was still cringing away from what she’d just said to someone who terrified her even in her dreams. Orsille looked intrigued rather than angry, and his hands became tender as he reached out and cupped her face, tilting it to one side, then the other as if she were a painted doll. He lifted her chin with one finger, eyes quizzical.

“What happened to you? Where did my wolf go?” He asked, in a voice that would have sounded sympathetic from any other person. He took her hand and kissed it, holding it between warm hands, and she couldn’t help herself from shuddering. He raised an eyebrow and ran his fingers up her arm. “What did they do to you, my petal?”

“They were good to me. They’re good people. And they’ll come and find me.” She said, raising her chin defiantly and meeting his eyes like an equal. He laughed for an unsettlingly long time.

“I see. There’s no great trick, then. They’ve just tamed you from a wild wolf into a loyal little lap dog.”

“Better a dog than a devious, slimy, pathetic old snake.” She retorted viciously. Orsille licked his lips and then struck her, laughing when she grabbed at the wall to stop herself from falling down. She raised shaking hands to her face, feeling the heat of fresh blood where his ring had scored a line along her cheek, and glared at him through her fingertips before spitting at his feet.

He avoided it easily and turned away from her with cheerful nonchalance. “Take off that ridiculous rag of a dress.”

Daine had practiced letting her mind drift away for so many years that she realised that she barely even had to meditate. She nearly wept when he finally stopped hitting her to crush her against the rug with heavy hands. Instead of letting her thoughts escape into the sky, as she longed to do, she found the copper spark of the bird’s mind, and gratefully slipped behind its eyes. She thanked it in a babble of tearful respite as the pain faded away into the back of her mind.

For a few delirious seconds she was in both places at once, seeing the budding green acorns and the sweat that beaded his forehead, smelling the sweetness of the evening spring breeze and the sourness of his harsh breath on her cheek. Then she pushed her mind forwards, and felt her human body disappear into a distant shell.

That was dangerous, too, though. Her mortal hands wanted to become feathers, filled with the mindless joy of freedom as the bird took wing. She wanted to sing and fly and never return to the ground. Then the loathsome human creature in the locked room thrust into her body with vicious force and the pain brought her back. It stopped her from shape-shifting, as she had hoped and feared that it would, and every time hurt tore through her she remembered, just for long enough, that she was supposed to be a human.

It’s enough, she thought, almost hating the fact that this was working.

Let’s go, she whispered into the bird’s mind, carefully shielding it from her agony when the official’s nails tore cruel lines into her back. Let’s find them.


And now I fly. For hours, sometimes. For seconds, other days. Time has no meaning any more.

I fly until I can’t bear it any more, until my mind is dragged back to defend my body. I think that if I stayed away it would be a kind of death, where my body finally surrenders and my mind is free. Sometimes that seems better. A better life, dead, than every putrid second I have to fight for under his hands.

That’s not life. It’s not even close.

Are you looking for me?

I search the valleys for you but I cannot find you. I think you have hidden yourself away with the Tortallan soldiers and the mages. I find myself hoping that your disguise will keep you safe. It must be comfortable to have a reason to hide. Where better to hide a mage than with other mages? That trick works for you even better than it works for me.

We might be a few short miles apart, but in months you still haven’t found me. I won’t be bitter. I won’t blame you. I can’t find you, either.

Which one of us is the hostage? Something keeps you away from me, or else you would have come and found me. You would have rescued me from my cage. A thousand times, that’s what you said. You would have risked death a thousand times for me back then, when you said you loved me. A thousand deaths couldn’t keep us apart, but a few pathetic illusions and some iron bars seem to have done the trick.

I never believed you anyway. Your world had no bars. You made your own cage, and you could have gone back to Tortall whenever you chose. It was your sense of ‘right’ that kept you here, beating your wings against the mountains until they trembled. Your years of exile – so what? You could still roam the mountains, see the sky. You could walk in the sunlight even if you were still trapped inside your own mind.

The iron cuff bites into my ankle. It has worn a thick callous on the skin, another ring of hard unforgiving material which makes me hate the limit of my own flesh. What are your chains, Numair? What is keeping you away from me?

I know, deep down, that you are afraid.

What will you admit? Not that you are scared. Never that. But let these words cross your lips: You are afraid for me.

It’s true. Tell me it’s true.

Even now I love you for it. I cling to it like a child. Sometimes I whisper it into the darkness, even when the man I loathe is lying beside me:

There is someone who fears for me. I am worth protecting. I am worth loving.

Orsille is wrong to use me the way that he does. He is cruel, and vicious, but most of all he is blind. He is unable to see that I am worth loving.

He cannot break that certainty away from me, and sometimes I think it confuses him. Perhaps that would make you laugh, my love. Not that he hurts me, but that when he has finished my loathing sometimes turns into pity so quickly that he can see it on my face. He draws away from me as if my pity burns him.

Only sometimes, though. Just as often I feel only hatred, or my throat burns with screams which he smothers from my lips. I speak less and less.

I speak to you, my love, but you cannot answer me. There is no copper light any more. There is only the dim barred light from the window, and the firelight which helps Orsille see acts which I would much rather hide in the dark. Let my words stay in that darkness, too.

If you can hear me, please don’t answer. I can’t bear the thought of you hearing me. Steal my body away from this place before my words abandon me forever. Orsille will never break me, but time tears me apart.

I don’t speak to you.

I can’t.

You’re not here. You never came. You never found me.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 42 of 69

<< Previous     Home     Next >>