Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 55 of 69

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Time had no meaning in the pit, but Numair knew every second that passed as an agony of worry and desperate, useless plans. It was a long time before the door creaked open, and a man’s silhouette was framed in the yellow rushlight. The man was carrying something, and Numair felt his heart twist when he realised that the slight silhouette was Daine. The man walked into the pit and the light lit his face. Numair recognised the healer who had freed him from his chain the last time he was imprisoned.

“Is she alright?” He demanded, his voice hoarse. Ronan knelt down next to the pillar and shook his head impatiently.

“Here,” he said, “Take her. I’ll not put her down on that filthy floor.”

Numair took her numbly, cradling her in his arms like a sleeping child. Her head lolled back unconsciously, and he shifted so that it was resting against his shoulder. Bruises darkened her skin, running under the edges of her dress which had been violently torn. Her skirt was stained with dark, fresh blood.

“She fell off the curtain wall.” Ronan said tightly. “And why was she up there? We both know Orsille wasn't askin' her to enjoy the fresh air. I’m fair certain she was pushed.”

“I swear,” Numair said, holding her tightly, “I swear by all the dark demons of chaos that I will kill that sadistic monster.”

“Not if I do it first,” the healer said grimly, not looking up as he pressed the flat of his hand to the girl’s stomach. His eyes shut and his mouth formed words in thought as he concentrated, and then the soft glow of his gift lit the room. After long minutes he sighed and sat back, looking dazed from using his magic. “There, Daine,” he said faintly, “You see? I kept my promise.”

“Promise?” Numair echoed, and the softness faded from the healer’s face as he scowled. Not meeting Numair’s eyes, he leaned down and fastened the dangling manacle around Daine’s wrist. His words were curt.
“Mind your own business, hawk.”

“Well, it is my business.” Numair snapped back. “And I’m guessing you don’t have time to wait for Daine to wake up and tell me herself, so you might as well just... get over yourself, and tell me.”

He half expected the guard to scowl and turn away at the angry words, but to his surprise being yelled at seemed to make Ronan view him with new respect. The other man smiled wanly and stuck his hands in his pockets, leaning against the column.

“She knew you would come back.” He drawled, holding the other man’s eyes sardonically. “She’s been working on Orsille for weeks, but it was still a big risk, telling him what she did. You saw how he reacts whenever Karenna’s mentioned. She must have been fair desperate. Well, the trick worked, and the next day he sent me to heal her, and we spoke.” The healer shrugged one shoulder awkwardly at the memory, and for the first time he looked away. “She’s clever, isn’t she? I guess she’d had a lot of time to think – to plan. She told me her plans, and what she’d done for you. She said it was so they wouldn’t torture you. But then she told me she was frightened.”

“Frightened?” Numair looked down at the unconscious girl, and brushed a strand of hair away from her eyes. It had been covering a swollen knot of bruise, and he flinched, letting the strand fall back over it. “But... what’s different? She’s always been frightened of Orsille.”

“Not the way you think.” Ronan muttered, saying the words unwillingly: “She told me the only reason Orsille was letting me heal the baby was because he wanted to own it. But once he had the famous Hawk Mage in chains, she was afraid that he would change his mind. So she made me promise to help her as much as I could... by healing the baby, I mean. I told Orsille that if she miscarried she would likely die, but I don’t think he believed me, even though it’s true. Today he told me I’m to keep her alive. That’s all. He’s too afraid of the hawk to lose her now, but...”

“But if he stops being afraid...” Numair had gone white. “Is she really... is it that likely that she might...”

“Well, she’s a strong, stubborn little thing.” Ronan’s voice was odd as he looked down at the girl. “But there’s only so much a body can take before something starts to give. She needs warmth, and good food, and more healing, and rest. But I can bet by Shakith that the first thing she does when she wakes up is think of another plan.”

“I can make her sleep,” Numair whispered, looking down at her. It was as if he was seeing her for the first time, and suddenly she seemed smaller, more delicate and fragile than a Yamani doll. She was unbearably thin, and he drew the edge of his cloak over her pallid skin in a futile effort to warm her up. “I don’t have any food, though.”

“I might be able to bring...” Ronan started, and then flinched when the door rattled loudly. The guard who rushed in looked familiar, and he blurted out the words before he even stopped walking.

“Have you seen my key, sir?” He cried, “I can’t find it! I think I might have dropped it...”

“No.” Ronan said flatly, folding his arms and turning away slightly so only Numair could see his slight smile. “You lost a key? Your captain will be furious.”

The man blanched, and then caught sight of the prisoners. “The girl!” He pointed at her, and his eyes narrowed. “I bet she stole it! Search her!”

“Search her?” Ronan repeated mockingly. “I’m not touching the filthy creature. Do you know where she’s been? Our noble Lord Orsille’s had her all afternoon. I’m fair sure he would have found a key, if she’d been hiding one. You know what he does to her.”

The guard sneered, taking out his stress on the prisoners. “She deserves it, the murderous bitch. You saw what happened in the courtyard. She could have stopped the Hawk any time she chose. There’s a lot more people wanting to beat her than just Orsille.”

“Then they’ll have to wait.” Ronan’s voice was patiently barbed. “Orsille’s going to leave her rotting in the pit for a long time. He has other things on his mind, what with the first attack being tomorrow.”

Numair looked up and then away quickly as the guard said, “Ssh!” The healer rolled his eyes.

“Oh, who are they going to tell? The rats?” He stomped forward irritably and shoved the other man between the shoulder blades. “Come on, let’s tell your captain you’ve lost his key, shall we?”


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 55 of 69

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