Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 44 of 69

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Daine started writing messages onto tiny scraps of cloth.

She begged the birds and the bats to fly into her room to collect them. She forbade them from picking up any replies. After the birds deliberately dropped the notes into the fire in front of Alanna or Numair, the Tortallans realised the risk they were asking Daine to take and stopped trying to write. Instead, they spoke to the birds. Conversations that would take a few minutes face to face took days of careful planning.

Daine didn’t dare to fly out more than once or twice a week, waiting for nights when Orsille was too distracted to wonder what her blank eyes were actually seeing. One night she saw his sharp gaze fixed suspiciously on her just as her mind was searching out the birds, and she dragged herself back so quickly it made her dizzy. She was too scared to use her magic for nearly a week after that.

Instead, Daine wrote notes and trusted the birds to fly without her eyes. She told her friends how scared the officials had seemed when she had been among them, and the kind of things she’d overheard in the few short weeks she’d spent as a servant. 
Then, trapped in her silent stone cage, she ran out of things to tell them. In their turn, neither of the Tortallans told her much about their plans. After a few confused days Daine realised that it was because they knew she would be tortured. She understood and was grateful not to have anything to hide from Orsille, but the forced ignorance left her reeling in frustration. Even though she knew they were planning attacks and sending spies into the valley, everything seemed very far away.

So, Instead of hearing about their plans from her friends, she only knew what was happening outside of her cage through the things Orsille told her.

At first the man enjoyed keeping secrets, knowing that being completely cut off from the world was agonising for a girl who couldn’t even see out of the window. He mocked her with her crimes and with questions about her past but he refused to speak about the war. His tongue was not quite so well guarded, though, when he was caught up in the throes of his passions. One night he stormed through the door and shoved her against the stone wall, savagely spitting out a strange word with every vicious motion. When he finally snarled out his release he threw Daine to the ground, his eyes so blinded with anger that he barely saw her fall.

“That bitch!” He spat, his wrath now sated into petty curses. “She thinks she can lecture me? His high-and-mightiness sends her here to check on things, and she thinks she’s in charge? Well, I’ve been in charge of this valley for far longer than she’s been licking his…”

“It’s…it’s someone’s name?” Daine whispered. He stopped shouting mid-sentence and stared at her.

“Ye-es.” He formed the word slowly, suspiciously, and then looked at his slave as if he were seeing her for the first time. 
The girl struggled to stand upright, he noticed, and she’d been locked in the darkness for so long that her new bruises were livid against her fish-white flesh. The wolf he had captured had decayed into a newt, skulking in the filth where it belonged. He barked out a half laugh at that vivid thought and planted his hands on his hips. Anger forgotten, he watched her fight to raise her head with the same detached amusement that he would get from watching a stray dog.

“Who are you going to tell?” He jeered. When she couldn’t find her voice to reply he chucked her under the chin, giggling inanely at the way the creature flinched away and hissed at him.

“Poor little wolf cub.” He said dismissively, and then he had turned on his heel and left.

After that night Orsille started talking to her. Daine listened in sickened silence, realising how immense and complete this man’s power was. He barely had to answer for anything. She had thought… hoped, even… that someone would find out that an official had locked away a valuable hostage for his own selfish reasons.

She daydreamed about Orsille being punished. She fantasised about being set free, even if it was just to peel potatoes again. At least she could do that in the daylight. But the more Orsille confided in her, the less she hoped. He answered to the king, of course, but other than that he was the one who owned and controlled both forts like a malevolent god. No-one would be telling him off for hiding away a slave.

Daine hoarded his secrets like gems, and took especial pleasure in telling Alanna things which Orsille boasted about. He thought they made him invincible. Whenever he returned a few days later in a foul mood, his secret troops discovered or his clever ambush outwitted, the girl had to hide her smile. She listened carefully to everything he told her, and she wrote the most important things onto scraps of her green dress.

Every night after the official left her she blindly scraped her fingers through the dead ash of the ancient fireplace until they found a dry black charcoal chip. Under cover of darkness, where no spying spell could see her, she struggled for hours to write legibly with the tiny chip shaking in her frozen, swollen fingers. The birds carried the notes away with the dawn, and she prayed to whatever god might be listening that some of the news, at least, would reach her friends.

And then she would sleep – a black, dreamless haven – until the setting sun brought Orsille back to her.

Those were her days.

And soon, that was her life.

Long, endless weeks of blind hope and hopeless enslavement passed until Daine began to think that all she had ever known was Orsille. She knew his cheerful moods better than she could remember her own. She studied his expressions with the same fierce desperation that she listened to his stories with. It was for the same reason: any slip, any weakness, could be the difference between this life and her freedom.

Her life. Endless stories.

Numair had told stories. Hadn’t he?

Orsille told her stories.

Usually his tales were told with a slight smile. He crowed about catching and executing a Tortallan spy, or torturing a Gallan farmhand until he surrendered the position of one of the many camps of Tortallan soldiers in the pass. Lord Orsille enjoyed watching his slave closely, linking his arm through her own like a lover and studying her face as she tried not to react. If she even shivered at hearing how the Tortallans had been slaughtered in a skirmish then he would twist her wrist like rope.

“Your friends will be so pleased,” he told her one night when she had kept perfectly blank throughout the whole grisly list, “that you’re starting to see things my way. Perhaps I should tell them, hm?”

“Do it! Then they’d know where I am. They’d know you’re… you’re the one who has me.” She stumbled over the words, biting her lip. She had nearly betrayed her secret – that she knew her friends were still looking for her. She barely dared to look up at her captor, but when she did his eyes had creased at the corners in inexplicable amusement. When he left her he hummed cheerfully to himself.

Staying silent against his gibes was not an option. She had to answer. She had refused to speak in the first few days but Orsille’s temper had flared at her silence. For three days he carried neither water nor food to her. On the fourth day he had crept into the room on softer feet, and Daine could not find the strength to raise her head from the carpet and look at him. She could smell, though: the beautiful clean, crisp scent of rainwater.

A hand had gripped her shoulder and pulled her upright. There was Orsille, of course, drawing her up against him and wrapping one arm tenderly around her shoulders. She lolled against his chest, too dizzy to see straight, and had felt his sharp-nailed hand running through her hair.

“You’re dying.” He murmured, and kissed her temple with genuine affection. “How does it feel to die? I’m curious. Tell me, wolf cub.”

She had forced her gummed eyes open and stared at him, mutely revolted by the casual way he had brought her to this. Her throat ached and her eyes burned, and her skin was coarse and cracked wherever it moved. The scent of the rainwater was agonising, and she could see the pitcher now. It was just beyond the realm of her chain. Just out of reach.

“And you shall have some.” Orsille promised her in his most compassionate voice, “Just as soon as you speak, my dear. Tell me what dying feels like.”

She closed her eyes, feeling mortification pool in her empty stomach like bitter acid. Her mouth was so swollen with thirst she could barely open it, and her words were so hoarse that they sounded like they’d been dug up in some ancient ruin.

“I’m… tired…” she rasped, and hated the triumphant smirk which blazed across her captor’s face. He scooped up a handful of water and held it out to her. She drank it with such violent thirst that she didn’t care about how much she was demeaning herself. He grinned and brought her handful after handful of water, and Daine wept dry tears at the sweet way the liquid soothed her lips.

“Two weeks.” Orsille said to himself, and ran his damp hands through her hair. She didn’t look at him, and he saw how she was fighting back humiliated disgust at her surrender. He grinned and kissed the crown of her head. “It only took me two weeks to get you eating out of the palm of my hand, little wolf cub.”

“Don’t you have anything better to do?” She croaked, and he could hear black fury crackling in her words. He had laughed and snapped one of the few laces that still tied on her overdress.

“Since you ask…” he drawled, and shoved her face-downwards onto the floor.

Had she only been caged for two weeks? Daine’s mind whirled and she couldn’t quite remember how long she’d been here. Two weeks of silence.

Then it was another month before Orsille confided in her, and another week before she found Numair. The battles had begun by then, and there were weeks of vile stories.

Who knew how time crept past? If her stomach hadn’t kept swelling she would have thought time had abandoned her forever.

Until the night which changed everything.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 44 of 69

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