Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 46 of 69

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Numair flinched when he read the note and stared wildly at the bird. He was tempted for a moment to walk away, to stride out of the tent and refuse to respond to the message. But then he looked at the tiny, fragile creature and wondered for the hundredth time how Daine was looking through its eyes. However she was doing it, it must be difficult and dangerous for her. He owed her an answer at least.

He looked at the note again. Usually Daine wrote in carefully shaped words, but this one was scrawled so forcefully that at one point the charcoal had snapped, leaving a black blotch on the cloth. How important is the valley you sold me for?

“How did you find out?” Numair choked out, and had to clap his hands over his ears when every bird in the camp screamed simultaneously. The soldiers would think they were possessed by some demon. In a way, they were. Possessed by a roar of mindless copper fire, every single creature in the camp, from cats to stallions, was radiating pure fury – and it was all aimed at Numair.

“It was Alanna’s choice.” He whispered. “I tried to change her mind but she won’t listen to me. She said that they won’t hurt a hostage so she won’t gamble hundreds of men’s lives on your freedom.”

The bird squawked furiously and flew away. A few minutes later it returned with a second note. Numair took it with numb surprise; normally only one note appeared each night.

They won’t kill a hostage. There’s a difference. You know what they’re like.

Then a second bird appeared with another:

If you weren’t so busy being the hawk you could have told her that yourself.


I love you Numair but right now I hate you.

“I don’t blame you.” He muttered, not knowing which bird to direct his apology to. He felt sick, knowing he couldn’t explain himself, knowing how hurt and betrayed she must be feeling. She hadn’t told them anything about the way she was being treated before now. He’d suspected it was on purpose – she wouldn’t think it was important. But now her furious notes painted a picture that was bleak, closer to his own tortured imagination than Alanna’s chivalrous logic.

“I’m trying to help you.” He said.

A screech. The birds disagreed.

“Did you want to hear the answer to your question, Daine, or did you come here to yell at me?” Numair said a little sharply. They banked their wings and perched together on the edge of his pack. Every single feather on their backs was ruffled, and from outside Numair could hear the sounds of the horses kicking fitfully at their tethers. The birds were silent, though, and he made himself calm down.

“You know about the valley... do you want to know the rest of it?”

The birds nodded without a second’s hesitation, and their black eyes never looked away. It was like being held on trial before a court. Numair shuddered and spread his hands open in an honest gesture.

“Alanna wouldn’t let me do anything – she’s so set on winning the war that she didn’t want me to take any risks. For the first weeks we were camped here I disobeyed that order. Every night I sneaked out and flew through the valley looking for you. I asked every official I could find and… and they told me what happened at Hazelle’s. The hawk… it consumed my anger and the revenge I took on them like a glutton. It got so much stronger so quickly that Alanna noticed, and she made me choose between the Hawk or being with the army. I chose the army. I didn’t chose it over you, sweetheart, but because of you. We need allies, Daine. On my own I could make far more trouble, but all it would take is one lucky arrow and then no-one would be thinking about you at all when they invade that keep.”

He rubbed his temples with icy fingertips and stared up at the ceiling where one of the birds was circling fitfully. “So now I’m here and… and I’m working with the soldiers. I’m fighting in their battles and we’re planning… well, I can’t tell you what we’re doing, sweetling, but I swear it will help you.”

The birds all glared glassily at him for a long moment, and then as one they took wing.

For nearly a fortnight there were no more messages. No notes, no birds. Nothing.


Fly. Daine ordered the bird. Just fly.

It did, playing in the warm air currents and snatching up insects in the evening light. After a while it forgot that it even had a magical passenger in its mind and returned to dance with the rest of the flock. Daine let it circle aimlessly, taking little pleasure in it, and worried at her thoughts like a loose tooth.

She couldn’t feel anything. Her first surge of anger was gone, and so was the sense of betrayal. When they had screamed out of her heart they seemed to have taken away any other feeling, too. She felt completely numb. She dissected the sensation curiously.

No, she was wrong. The feelings were still there.

There was not a space where feelings had been erased, but there was a barrier which held them back. Numair and the Wolf were both caged inside Daine’s heart, and as much as they beat at their walls she refused to free them. Both of them had hurt her too much. If she let them out they would hurt her again. She looked at them blankly and then turned away.

For the next week Daine felt absolutely nothing.

Then the baby kicked for the first time. She gasped aloud and couldn’t help pressing a hand to her stomach. She could barely believe it, and when the strange shock happened a second time a smile brightened her face for the first time in weeks.

Orsille woke up at her unbidden movement and his arms snaked around her middle; his beard tickling her ear as he murmured, “Something to tell me, petal?”

“It’s…” she answered breathlessly, and then turned to look at him. “Please, let me be happy. Just this once. My baby, it…”

“Ah.” He smiled indulgently and pressed his hand over hers. She disliked the action, but it was at least gentle. Since he nearly killed her Orsille had been a lot less vicious, except when he was angry. Tonight he was nearly amiable.

“It’s kicking. It’s the first time it’s done that,” she whispered, and her heart felt so choked with happiness that she just had to share it. He smiled.

“It’s a good sign. A good time for it, too. I’ll light some incense to the Mother for you, if you like.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, and he kissed her cheek lightly before settling back down again. Daine thought that he had fallen back asleep until, long minutes later, he spoke.

“Do you think it has magic? Can you tell?”

“N-no, I don’t know how to do that.”

“Pity.” His hand circled her stomach lightly. “Still, you have magic, and so does the Hawk Mage. So it’s got a good chance.”

“Mm.” She made a noncommittal sound. He continued,

“And of course, if it is ungifted you can always try again. There are plenty of other strong mages around, after all.”

He rolled his eyes at her gasp and explained, “When we win this war, wolf cub, we’ll need more mages to keep us strong, won’t we? I can’t trust all the powerful ones to go mad and murderous. I don’t know why I didn’t think of breeding you all before now. It’s a terrible oversight on my part, my dear. You’re so clever to make me think of it.”

She stared at him for a long moment. “You couldn’t let me have even one moment of happiness, could you? Not one second. I bet you used to pull the wings off butterflies, too.”

He laughed, looking more flattered than put out by her outburst. “Don’t be like that, dearest. Do you want me to tell you how proud I am of you? Who would have thought my little murderess would make such a doting mother…”

Daine couldn’t hear a single insincere note in his voice. It was, frankly, unsettling. Then she remembered the way he adored his own daughter, the spoiled Karenna who had ‘only child’ written so clearly on her face it might as well have been a Banjiku tattoo. Orsille had never brought his wife to a single one of Hazelle’s parties. People said that Lady Orsille was a recluse, or that her husband kept her tucked away at home.

There was a story there, Daine thought, some great bitterness which went back for decades. A sorrow which made him loathe women but fiercely protect his one daughter – a useless female heir. Instead of sons he had built a legacy of mages around his empty hearth. He still had his hand pressed to her stomach but his mocking voice had rumbled away to nothing.

“So what’s your plan?” She made herself sound bored of the whole thing “Take a few charms away and keep us mages locked up here like breeding stock until the day we die?”

“Not you, little wolf cub.” He laughed and his arms tightened around her. “You’re going to come to Corus with me. To the delegations and negotiations and all the courtly events after my army overpowers that upstart Conte with his shiny Jewel. I wouldn’t dream of facing the Hawk and his friends without you by my side. Do you want to see Tortall, my petal?”

“Yes.” She answered him in a dead voice. He stroked her hair back from her temples and then his hand rested again on her stomach.

“Good. Then you’ll stay with me, and don’t worry about your brat. Gifted or not, it will only ever be a slave.” He kissed her suddenly, the first time he had ever kissed her mouth, and when she gasped and dragged herself away his voice grew rich with dark promise. “Our sons will be kings.”

“You’re mad,” she stared at him in pure horror. “You really are.”

“No.” He shook his head and reached for her greedily. “I’ve just never been afraid to take what I want.”

It was a reflex: a movement that was over before she had time to think about it. Daine thought she had only slapped him, but when she drew her hand back she felt wetness on her fingers. She gulped and looked down, seeing the blood that dripped from the long wolf claws which had burst from her fingertips.

Orsille cursed and held a hand to his cheek. The glow of his healing magic started, but not before hot blood bubbled up between his fingers and dripped onto the carpet. For the first time Daine saw real pain in his eyes, and when he looked up at her his pupils were furious pinpricks in bright blue orbs.

“You should be afraid.” She spat the words, shaking. His eyes narrowed even further and then she was laughing, shrieks of laughter that made her stomach ache and tears spring from her eyes. The claws shrank away when she wiped her cheeks, but she couldn’t stop laughing.

“My happiness!” She giggled, “I got it back!”

“Cherish it. I swear to you that it is the last pleasure you will ever feel.” Orsille hissed, and this time when he seized her she had no defence. Her hysteria turning into fear and anger, Daine called for the birds.

Are you alright? One of them asked, able to feel the burning emotion welling up inside its passenger’s mind.

Daine said: I need your help. All the People. I’m going to kill him.

Now? The bird banked its wings and fluttered for a moment in a breeze. Good! Then I’ll take you to your humans.

No! Even Daine was shocked by the violence of the thought. Alongside her fear of her own magic and her disgust at Orsille had roared back her other emotions. They were thick and cloying like oil. The thought of facing the writhing anger and love that Numair had shaped in her mind made her feel even worse. She bit back her fury and made herself think sensibly.

No. She repeated slowly. We plan. We talk to the People. We don’t tell the humans and we don’t ask for their help. They won’t help us. We’re on our own. And I swear by all the dark gods beneath that even on my own, I will make that man suffer.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 46 of 69

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