Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 53 of 69

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Numair soon fell into a deep sleep, exhausted from the hawk draining his magic. Daine stayed awake, one hand resting lightly in his, thinking as rapidly as she could. She was ready to wake him up as soon as anyone ventured onto the wall, but in truth she watched Numair as carefully as she did the battlements. She was terrified that his eyes would open into the black orbs of the hawk’s, and that this time she wouldn’t be able to bring him back.

She heard the sounds of the slaves, sent to clear away the gore and chaos in the courtyard. They didn’t say much, but she could hear them retching and cursing at what they saw. Daine was glad that Numair had fallen asleep before he’d thought to look over the wall.

She tensed when the door opened, and stood up as a stream of soldiers trudged out along the wall. They approached the mages warily, their swords drawn and lowered towards them in case they were attacked. Each one was watched Numair with wide eyes until they saw that he was still and silent. Then they called to Orsille, their voices respectful as they reported that it was safe for him to come out of the tower.

Something was different in the way the soldiers spoke. Before, they had been laughing and jovial, following the orders of the official cheerfully and without any doubt that he was right. Now they eyed him uneasily, through suspiciously narrowed eyes. They wandered about the wall, avoiding the bloodstains as they talked to each other in little knots. Daine stopped herself from watching them as Orsille strode up to her.

The man took in the scene with a thinly veiled sneer, but didn’t comment on the way his slave had wrapped herself around another man. She had stopped the hawk; that was what mattered. He could be magnanimous.

“Is he alive?” He asked in a terse voice.

The girl stared at him accusingly for a moment before nodding. He made a tight-lipped smile and gestured to some of the guards to pick up the exhausted mage. Numair cried out when they touched him, waking up in a confused blur, but quickly came to his senses and stared around at the group, his eyes darting between the men and Daine.

“Where’s Lady Karenna, sir?” Daine asked Orsille. Her voice was soft but clear in the crowd. The bloodstain had reminded her that the girl had fainted, and although Daine hadn’t seen her being carried away the woman was nowhere to be seen. Orsille made a dismissive gesture, but he was unable to hide his distraction at his daughter’s name, and so he answered grudgingly.

“She’s asleep. Recovering after that... creature...” he turned to glare at Numair, who looked blankly back, but before he could finish his sentence Daine laughed harshly. She linked her hands behind her back so Orsille couldn’t see how much they were shaking, and made her voice loud enough for the guards to hear.

“You’re blaming him? He told you what would happen! He warned you. He told you to move the people to safety. You were the one who refused. It was your fault, not his.”

A few of the soldiers whispered to each other, their eyes questioning as they took in what the slave was saying. Their captain barked an order and they settled into silence, but there was no doubt that they were paying careful attention to what was going on.

“You’re going to make me angry.” Orsille said, tethered impatience in his voice as he shot the soldiers a quick glance. “Do you think I won’t punish you just because there are other people here?”

“It’s the truth. Some of us aren’t liars.” She shrugged and swallowed back bitter bile, feeling sick with fear. All the same, since Karenna had spoken to her she felt some protective warmth towards the spoiled noblewoman. Out of all the people on the wall, strangely, Karenna had been the only one who was truly innocent, and she’d been the closest to being hurt. The thought of it stung, and she felt a new surge of anger towards the man.

“You could have protected them. All you cared about was getting your own selfish way. You got those people killed, and you nearly killed your own daughter. You don’t care about her at all, do you?” Daine asked, and the genuine accusation in her voice made the official whiten. He whirled around and seized the girl by the neck of her dress, lifting her bodily off the ground and hauling her towards the edge of the wall. Daine heard a shout and scuffle behind her as the soldiers stopped Numair from running forward, and then she felt the sick rush of cold air against her back.

She looked down, and the rocks at the base of the cliff seemed to drag at her hanging feet. “D...don’t...” she whispered, looking up into eyes that burned with fury. She gripped his wrists with numbed hands, “Please, don’t...”

“Why not?” He spat, his words drawn out with rage. He shook her violently, and she yelped as the movement dislodged stones from the wall. They clattered down into oblivion, and she couldn’t even hear them land. The rough wind tore tears from her eyes.

“Please...” she choked, fear stopping the breath in her lungs, and all that she could produce was a strangled whisper, “Please...”

“Sir!” Behind Orsille’s twisted face a hand appeared, and settled on his shoulder. The speaker carried on urgently, “Sir, what if you need to use the Hawk again? Won’t you need her? The men say...”

“I could stop that creature with a single poisoned arrow.” The official’s voice was ugly as he turned his head to look, still holding Daine over the edge of the wall. “Don’t those idiotic soldiers trust me enough not to rely on a lying bitch of a slave?”

“No, yes... well yes sir, they do, but...” the man babbled, and the hand vanished from Orsille’s shoulder. Now it was gone Daine could see the faces of the men gathered around him, staring at her in varying degrees of horror, fear and indifference. She gasped in a breath and forced herself not to look down. Her hands shook so badly that if Orsille did let her go, she wouldn’t be able to hold on to him for more than a second. 
The men started to speak, all at once, but it was a single voice that broke through their words and stunned them into silence. A low, dangerous hiss of a voice.

“Kill... her...”

Orsille jumped, and Daine felt his hands tremble in fear as he looked around. She couldn’t see what he was seeing, but she recognised that deadly voice, and it made her shudder.

“Kill her... let me be free... I will dance... in her... blood...”

There was a flat, percussive sound as one of the soldiers hit out blindly at the hawk, and Daine heard Numair gasp for breath as the savage strike brought him back to himself. She shut her eyes, feeling the hot tears freezing on her wind-burned cheeks, and then she was moving. Falling! She shrieked and held out her hands, and they recoiled sharply off the paving stones of the wall as she landed next to Orsille’s feet. He kicked her viciously and she rolled away, laughing and crying at being safe, not falling to her death.

The official spat at her and turned on his heel, his hands still shaking in delayed fear. He didn’t look back, but his voice was vicious.

“Chain them both up in the pit. Let them rot.”


The pit was not really a cell, but a cave deep in the bowels of the keep. The ground was covered in a sheen of greasy, icy water that writhed with moss and strange creatures who fed off the filth of the prisoners who lurked in the shadows. When the great iron door opened and the guards shoved the two slaves through the older prisoners streamed to the door, begging for some food, or clean water, or even some rags to ward away the frozen chill. The soldiers shoved past them impatiently, dragging the two struggling prisoners to an ancient, rusted pillar that held up the dripping ceiling. Twisted loops of iron circled the pillar, but the chains that hung from the loops were new, and strong. When they were snapped around their wrists both Daine and Numair felt the odd tingle of the spelled iron.

The door had barely slammed shut before the other prisoners began to gather around them curiously. Remembering the last time she had been here, with the insane laundry witch Anja, Daine bared her teeth and hissed at them. They jabbered in half-insane laughter and scattered, watching and listening from a safe distance.

“Speak quietly,” Daine said softly, “They get rewarded for reporting back information.”

Numair didn’t answer. Daine wondered if he was still exhausted, and then caught sight of his furious expression. She turned away and pretended to examine the iron pillar, knowing full well that it wouldn’t have any weaknesses, but not able to look Numair in the eye.

Numair caught her arm impatiently, stopping her play-acting, and his mind-voice was clipped with anger. Why are you fighting with Orsille? He nearly killed you! You know it just makes it worse. If you would just...

If I would just? She echoed, hardly able to believe what he was saying. She wanted to drag her arm away from him, but she had to keep their connection to demand: Are you saying that it’s my fault?

No, but I’m saying you’re making it worse. He retorted, fingers twitching against her skin. We told you not to fight them. We told you. Alanna will be here soon, and this will be over. You can stop... stop antagonising the man, Daine!

No. She cut him off with more than words, with a burst of pure fury that made him physically recoil. She realised that he didn’t understand. Or perhaps he couldn’t understand. It must hurt him to think of what Orsille really was around her. Still, her voice was fierce. 

I obeyed him for so long. Too long. You saw the creature they turned me in to before. That’s what he wants. He doesn’t care if I obey him or not. He just wants to turn me back into a slave, and I won’t do it. I can’t let him win.

Numair’s hand tightened on her arm for a moment, but she couldn’t tell if it was a warning or sympathy until he said, still trying to argue: But perhaps... if you just pretended, then he wouldn’t...

Pretended? She could barely believe what he was saying. Pretended what, Numair? That I really am some mindless slave? Oh yes, I can see how well that would work. Orsille’s little whore, obeying his every whim and giving him my body to enjoy like it was some piece of meat I sold at market. Perhaps I could even convince him I enjoy it! Then it couldn’t possibly be my fault, could it? Because fighting back just makes it worse, is that right? You and Alanna could sleep soundly at night knowing that I’m following your plan to the letter, and I would loathe myself for the rest of my days.

Daine met his horrified eyes for a moment and then sobbed aloud and sank to the floor. She gripped her head in her hands and her shoulders shook but after that first cry her tears were absolutely silent.

“He won’t stop. He won’t. No matter what I do. I tried, and he won’t…” she whispered over and over again, and then the words poured out of her in a flood. “He won’t stop. He enjoys it. And it’s his way of having power over everyone, not just me. Over Alanna, and Hazelle, and especially you. Alanna sent spies into one of the towns and found out his troop movements, so that night he broke my arm. Even when he didn’t tell me what was going on I could tell when he was in a bad mood, because those were the nights he hurt me more. He hurt me, and it made him feel good.”

She looked up then, and her grey eyes were furious in the dim light. “Do you understand now or do I have to tell you what else that man does to me? There’s no clever way to think around him. There’s no logic to his desires. None at all! He hates me so much and then he acts like he loves me. I hate how cruel he is but I’m far more terrified by his kindness. I’m so afraid all the time because I never ever know what he wants from me.

“So I fight. I claw at him and curse at him. I try to get under his skin and sometimes I feel like I might have hurt him, just a little. Just enough to keep me going. What else could I do, Numair? I had to survive! Whatever you and Alanna say you weren’t here to help me! Oh gods, Numair, where were you? I needed you so badly but you weren’t here…”

She bit back another cry and clutched at the pillar they were chained to, letting its cold sink into her hands and numb them until they ached. When he reached for her and tried to pry her hands away from the dank stone she wept and shoved at him and beat against his chest. “You weren’t here! You weren’t even you! You… you…” she lost any sensibility and sobbed.

He caught her wrists and then lifted her up into his arms, cradling her like a child as she cried against his shoulder. If he had said anything – an apology, an excuse, an accusation – she might have hated him forever, but he was silent. He just held her, warm and mute and implacable in the darkness.

“They’ll be coming to take me away again.” she whispered finally, not raising her head from his shoulder. He nodded, shifted her weight in his arms and sat down, carefully avoiding their chains.

“What do you want to do?” He asked, and there was a careful distance in his voice. Daine shook her head.

“I don’t know. I can’t think about it.”

“But you have to,” he murmured, and he rested his cheek against her head. “They didn’t activate my chain after Orsille made me become the hawk. I can use my magic - if you think that would help?”

“I don’t know why you’re bothering to ask me.” she said savagely. “You promised me you wouldn’t be the hawk. You promised.”

He bit his lip and then drew back so he could look into her eyes. “I know how angry you are, Daine. Really, I know how it must look to you. But this deal I made… the Hawk can help us. I wouldn’t have done it if there had been anything else – any other way I could have helped you. But… but there wasn’t anything else I could do.”

“You? But you weren’t you!”

“And would you feel happier if I had slaughtered those Officials with my own two hands?” He retorted. “Whether I was Numair or the cursed Hawk I would hate myself if I hadn’t tried everything in my power to get you back! You made that vile deal with Orsille to protect the baby, didn’t you? Why blame me for making a deal with the Hawk to protect you?”

“That’s not the only reason why I’m doing it.” She snapped. “I’m not just thinking about myself. He’s started to make mistakes. He’s getting angry. Every time he loses his temper he makes a mistake. Like bringing you here, or... or locking us up together. He always thinks twenty steps ahead, I’m fair certain... but not when he’s angry. When he’s angry he lashes out, and it makes him weak. If he’s weak... he’s vulnerable.” 
She couldn’t stop smiling at the thought, even knowing that Numair was looking at her in something close to horror.

“You can’t be serious,” he said, his voice harsh in the echoing stone cell. “You’re baiting him on purpose? Daine, if he knew that he’d kill you!”

“No...” she smiled, and her voice was dark. “He tried. He was furious, but he couldn’t make himself do it. He stopped and healed me.”

“Have you gone mad?” he hissed. “I can’t believe you’re saying this. Dear Shakith, it’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard. He would have thrown you off the wall if I hadn’t...”

“Greetings!” A high voice trilled, and both the mages flinched as they looked up. A man smiled down at them, his thin face open and cheerful as if he were welcoming them to a country inn. “You must be new here!”

They both stared at him for a long moment, and then Daine started laughing helplessly. The laughter echoed in the room, sounding more like an eerie howl than a young woman’s laughter, and Numair put his hand on her shoulder to calm her down. There was something about the echo that made his blood curdle, and he suddenly realised what it was.

“That sounds like...” he said, and looked up at the man who had greeted them. “Sir, where is this place?”

The man tilted his head to one side like a dog, and spat into the pool of water that made up the floor. “Fairy land, lad.” He said sardonically. “Can’t you tell?”

“No, I meant...” Numair stopped and tugged at his nose thoughtfully, cursing his weariness for slowing down his thoughts. “This is a cave, right? At the very bottom of the keep? So we’re inside the cliff?”

“Guess so.” The man shrugged.”Doesn’t really matter. Cliff or castle, I don’t think you’ll be moving more than a breath away from those manacles for a while. You must have done something entertaining to get those baubles round your ankles.”

“He won’t tell you,” Daine cut in quickly, stopping Numair from answering with a quick warning look. “So don’t ask. I know stories are worth more than gold down here.”

The man sniggered, and the sound echoed back in the same horrifying howl that had chased Numair and Rain from the caves weeks before. “You’ve been here before.”

She leaned forward, and her voice became soft and coaxing. “Perhaps. But I’ve also seen the sunset. I’ve seen all the colours. I know what season it is outside. Do you want to hear?”

“Yes...” the man leaned forward eagerly, his eyes greedy, and in the shadows some of the other prisoners crept forward. Daine smiled sweetly, and pressed her lips together with decided muteness.

“Well, you’ll have to barter for it, and there’s only one thing that we want. We’ll trade you our stories if you find some way to help us.”


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 53 of 69

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