Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 66 of 69

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"You don't have long to wait." Hazelle meant her words to sound comforting. They didn’t. If anything, the soft tone made them more ominous.

Daine lay beside her on the chaise lounge, looking shamefully dishevelled - like a crumpled bundle of baggy clothing against the luxurious velvet. Her head was cradled in the woman's lap and her eyes were sliding shut sleepily in the muggy evening heat.

The girl had recounted the entire conversation with the king over their evening meal, and the old lady listened with a mind half full of relief, half full of worry. She ordered the girl to rest after the servants had faded away, seeing how excitement had made Daine's eyes overbright and her hands tremble. The heat hadn't made the last few weeks of her confinement easy, and the last thing Hazelle wanted was for Daine to make herself sicker with plans.

At least, Hazelle thought, when Daine had been looking for an answer in the library she'd been reasonably quiet. In her furious mission to help her friend, the girl seemed to ignore the fact that she was expecting a child, beyond cursing fluently at how slow and tired she felt.

Not human. That was what they said. Not human.

At first, Hazelle had forced Daine to join her in the evenings with the same kind of proud obstinacy that the girl drew from to refuse. The old woman felt it reflected very badly on her that the girl had become so stubborn, so unruly and so emotionless. That was in the first few days, when Daine nearly screamed at her for taking her away from Numair’s side.

Now Daine had softened a little. Hazelle found that she was becoming increasingly maternal towards the girl. What had begun as an obligation became easy, because in reminding Daine to eat and making sure that she rested, Hazelle pretended a fragile kind of love was being acted out between them.

After another week, after Daine kissed her on the cheek before wishing her a sleepy goodnight, the old woman was sure. Daine wasn’t emotionless; she was hurting so badly that she didn’t dare let another person near her. Even now when she should feel safe it was like there was a glass wall in between her and the other people who lived in the castle – a brittle shield of mistrust and bitterness which raised as many eyebrows as the Gallan girl’s near-silence.

The next day Hazelle bought Daine a beautiful new haircomb, and dryly told her that it was for the sole purpose of taming those dreadful curls. Daine pulled a sour face at her and then smiled for the first time in weeks.

Hazelle had heard people whispering that when Daine had first reached the safety of a camp in Galla the girl had fainted, weak from hunger and weariness and blood loss. A soldier healer rushed to her side to fix the most dangerous damage. The girl regained consciousness and found a stranger’s hands on her. She shrieked and shoved the healer away.

Then she scrambled into the corner and raised her shaking hands defensively. When the man raised his own hands to reassure her, Daine stared at him with such violent horror that the healer, a veteran of several battlefields, was aghast. He mopped his brow and ducked his head respectfully to her, then hurried from the tent.

By the time she reached Corus the girl had grown a little more used to strangers. Still, Daine flinched away whenever anyone tried to touch her, and outright glared at anyone who approached Numair. Hazelle heard from her network of servants that the girl had slept beside Numair's bed, never letting go of his hand, refusing to move to a bed of her own or to be healed herself.

Such devotion, the gossips said, hinged on obsession. What was it, love? No, it couldn’t be. What else, then? Guilt? Far more likely. Now... what had that girl have done to feel such remorse?

They began avoiding her.

Eventually one of the more stubborn healing women confronted the girl. Instead of trying to reach for the strange Gallan’s wrist like all the other healers, the woman scowled and folded her arms, glowering until Daine impatiently asked her what she wanted.

“It’s my job to heal you.” The woman scowled a second time, “But I know you won’t let me, and I don’t want to go and scrub bedpans, thank you very much! So if anyone asks I’m trying to convince you.”

“No-one will ask me about you. They know I don’t care. I want to be left alone.” Daine matched the healer’s furious impatience and the woman sneered at her.

“You want? I want a rich healer to carry me off on a white horse.”

“Then go and find one.”

“I have to heal you first.” The woman shrugged and started sucking at her teeth obnoxiously. “It’s your choice, of course. I guess you want to remember what that warlord did to you every time you look in a puddle and see your pretty scars, right?”

Daine glared at her. “Since everyone seems to know what I am already, I don’t think just healing my wounds will change how anyone sees me.”

“Oh, is that it?” The healer raised an eyebrow. “So are you wanting to face their pity or their disgust, Miss? I’ll be sure to spread the word.”

Daine gaped at her for a second and then something seemed to splinter in her eyes. She held her hand out in impetuous disgust. “Fine!“

Even after that small surrender, it had still taken a few days before anyone could convince the girl to rest properly. She looked at anyone who approached her with suspicious eyes, refusing to move. In the end, Hazelle had been summoned from her home near Olau and had been asked to come and reason with the girl.

She tutted at her first sight of Daine, drawing up a chair so she could sit down in a dignified manner.

"Veralidaine, you are making a scene." She said, by way of a greeting. Daine had looked up, and her eyes had widened.

"Hazelle!" She looked back at Numair as if she were sharing a joke, and her shoulders moved in a half-laugh. "You've never called me by my real name before."

"Your memory is still flawless, but I see you've forgotten everything else I taught you." The woman continued drily. She gestured at the girl's travel-marked clothes and unkempt hair. "Really, this display of emotion is most unbecoming. Are you aware that you're in the royal castle of Tortall?"

Daine glared at her. "I don't want to act like things are different from what they are. I want him to wake up."

"And scaring off all the healers and making yourself ill are going to help him?" Hazelle raised an eyebrow.

Daine flinched, and then swallowed and said,
"I… I can't hear him. In my mind. We used to be able to feel each other’s hearts beating but now he's not even dreaming, Hazelle. It terrifies me. But I need to be here, just in case he… if he needs me…"

"Did the healers say that?" The old woman hated the coldness in her own voice, when all she wanted to do was comfort the girl. Even so, it had an effect. Daine blinked and answered honestly.

"Well, no, they said… he's just sleeping. He's not sick, just asleep, they said."

"So then you simply need to wait for him to wake up. It's easy, and you don’t need to be here for that." Hazelle had smiled then, reaching forwards to take the girl's free hand. Daine had blinked at her numbly, and then her fingers had tightened around the woman's. Her voice was thin, desperate when she said.

"Hazelle, do you think he will wake up? Really?"

"Yes," the woman lied, not looking at the deathlike stillness on the unconscious man's face. "And he'll want to wake up to see a pretty young lady, not a bedraggled little beggar scaring off all the people who want to help him."

Daine flushed darkly at that and muttered, "I don't… can't… trust them. It's difficult."

"Well, do you trust me?" Hazelle was genuinely touched by the quickness with which Daine nodded, and she smiled. "Veralidaine, my darling, I trust these people. You don't need to protect Numair from them, honestly. The king has set aside some rooms for you, and for Numair, too. You're both safe here, I promise you! Tomorrow we can move you both out of the healers’ wing and you can live in your own home. But tonight I want you to come home with me and be thoroughly spoiled. Bennette will be shocked at the state of you!"

Daine had looked down, thinking, and the old lady had let her take her time. Slowly, in hesitant steps, the girl had relaxed her hold on Numair's hand and, finally, let go.

Every night since, Daine had spent her evenings with the old lady, and every night she had asked when Hazelle thought Numair would wake up. Every night there was a little less hope in her grey eyes. A month after she had coaxed the girl away from the healers, the old woman stroked the half-formed curls away from Daine's eyes tenderly and repeated, "It has to be soon."

"We'll only get one chance at it." Daine murmured, not opening her eyes. Predictably, she was only thinking of the spell. "It has to be done right. Jon said that between him and Alanna they can probably manage it, but it's still going to be risky. There are a lot of spells to break."

"If it doesn't work, we can think of something else."

"No. It has to work." The stubbornness in the girl's voice cut off any argument, and for once Hazelle didn't tell her off for snapping in such an unladylike manner. She was still one of the few people Daine allowed near the unconscious Numair, and she had seen the way that the man was fading as clearly as the girl did. The longer Numair stayed asleep, the weaker he was becoming.

Hazelle frowned and smoothed the arch of Daine's eyebrow absentmindedly.

"I got a letter today," she ventured, changing the subject. One of the girl's eyes opened, and she looked up enquiringly.


"Oh, indeed.” She tweaked the girl’s nose reprovingly. “It was from the Lady Orsille."

"Karenna?" Daine pulled a face when Hazelle opened her mouth to correct her. "Oh, don't give me that look. You know I hate hearing his name. What did Karenna say?"

"I don't know." Hazelle didn't smile, but her eyes were curious. "It was sent to me but the letter is addressed to you. There was a note with it saying that I should decide whether or not to give it to you."

"I would like to see it." Daine admitted, sitting up with an effort. "I'd like to know if she's well."

"You already know that." Hazelle smiled and shook her head as she went to fetch the letter. "I've been telling you every single thing my spies have told me, you know. When I go home you'll suddenly feel like you're wearing blinkers, you'll know so little!"

Daine smiled and sipped some water. "I wish you didn't have to go," she said quietly, watching the old woman walking stiffly across the room. "I can't imagine wanting to go back there."

"I think we can definitely agree that you saw Galla at its worst! But there's a lot there worth cherishing, my dear, even if you never had a chance to see it." Hazelle unlocked a box full of papers and found a neatly folded one with a cry of triumph. She handed it to Daine, who blinked at the ornate writing with an incredulous look.

"Dear gods, she's even scented it." She muttered, drawing her belt knife to break open the seal. "Who does that?"

"Well, Karenna does, apparently!" Hazelle sat back down again. "She does it on her official correspondence, too. Our dear king was ever so confused when he got a note about the fortified strength of various forts perfumed like some courtly love letter. I can't decide whether she's being foolish or if she just has a twisted sense of humour."

Daine winced and didn't answer, knowing that whatever opinion she had wouldn't be particularly ladylike. She unfolded the letter carefully, frowning when a second sliver of parchment fell out and dropped onto the seat beside her.

Daine, she read to herself,

I hope that the Lady Hazelle decided to pass this letter on to you. We parted in anger, and I understand if you never want to hear from me again. Whatever you said at the time, I don't believe you wanted me to come with you to Tortall any more than I wanted to leave. I am grateful that you offered, but please try to understand that I meant no insult when I refused. Galla is my home, and I have to fight for it just as much as you had to fight for your freedom.

That is why I am writing to you. I am trying to rebuild the ruins of my home into something that will one day be good. It is hard to erase the traces of what my father did here, and it will take a long time. Every day we find something else that needs to be fixed, and every day I have a hundred more things to do. The people have accepted me as a leader, but I am watched carefully. I will never shake off the shadow of being his daughter, nor for being wilfully blind to his crimes for so many years. Hundreds of people died in his attack, and for no other reason than his want of power.

I am trying to make amends, and I think it will keep me here for the rest of my life. Your friend Rowan helps me, and is one of the few people that I wholly trust, but even with his help it is slow work, and very difficult.

Daine, I am asking for your help. I know I can trust you beyond most of the people here, and I know that the valley will never leave your thoughts. I am not asking you to return. I said you should stay away, and even though I was angry when I said it I still believe that. Live your life in Tortall as a free woman, and with my blessing and apology for my part in the pain that your freedom cost you.
But there is something that needs to be done in Tortall, and I cannot think of another person more suited to doing it.

When the castle was razed the soldiers opened every door, and unbarred every cage. They believed all the slaves were like you, imprisoned there in innocence on my father's command. That is not true. Even before my father was involved the keep was a prison, and at first it was kept most seriously: as a place to carefully keep dangerous mages away from people that they might hurt. We are still counting the dead, but we know that many of these mages have escaped. They are in Tortall, or have fled deeper into Galla.

I cannot cross the border: I am named a criminal by your king, and perhaps rightly so. I must stay here and rebuild. There is no-one here who I can send to find these people. But I know that you can find them. You can recognise them, as the people you lived among for so many years. You can reason with them, or point them out to the Tortallan soldiers, before they can hurt innocent people. You do not have to fight them, but someone needs to be able to look into a crowd and see the faces hiding there in plain sight.

I know this is a selfish thing I am asking you to do, and you probably would like nothing better than a simple life without any more fighting. If you wish to tear up this letter or throw it in the fire then I understand. But you know more than anyone what these people are thinking, what they're feeling, and what they might do. I'm asking you, please, to consider this most seriously. I will pay you well, but I know that means nothing to you. Instead I should say that you know far more than I do that no innocent person deserves to suffer for another man's pleasure.

I have heard what happened to Leto – I mean, Numair - and I am very sorry. I think even then I loved his pretence more than his self, but even if I dislike him now I don't think anyone deserves a life of emptiness.

Perhaps I should apologise for coming between you two, but I do not deceive myself for a single second that I ever had a chance of making him love me. All he ever saw was you.

Rowan sends his best wishes to you, and tells you that his family are safe and happy. He asks me to order you to rest as much as possible. He says you will ignore him, but I hope this time you will listen! Remember that we wish you well, and whatever you decide to do, we will always be your friends.

- Karenna 

Daine folded the letter up slowly and picked up the slip of paper. It was addressed to King Jonathan of Tortall, and formally asked that he give Daine the authority to pursue Gallan escapees on Tortallan soil. She shivered and folded the scrap, not sure what to do. Wordlessly, she handed the letters to Hazelle and then lay back, covering her face with her hand and wishing her thoughts weren't quite as foggy as they were.

There was the sound of paper being folded, and Hazelle cleared her throat politely. "Well," she said, and then couldn't think of anything else to say. Daine shrugged, not opening her eyes.

"I don't know." She said honestly. "I can't think properly at the moment. It's too hot, and I'm too... too..." she scowled and pushed herself upright, feeling suddenly furious. "No. I won't do it. Never! How can she ask me to do this? Putting people back in that prison? I... I want to forget any of this ever happened!"

"But it did happen." Hazelle said softly. "You're living with all the consequences of it, good and bad. If it hadn't happened you wouldn't have met me, or Alanna, or Numair."

Daine glared at her. "You keep him out of it. He wouldn't want me to do it."

"Why should I? You can't pretend to know everything he would think just because you're in love with the man. You didn't even know he gave up his magic to protect your baby until this morning."

"I know him better than you do." The girl went white with anger, and the old woman shrugged, deliberately callous.

"Well, then you'll agree that he'd want you to talk to him about this when he's awake, and not just make a decision now when you're hot and tired and angry."

Daine stared at her, feeling furious and deeply ashamed at the same time. Without answering, mainly because she couldn't think of any sensible words, she hauled herself to her feet and left. By the time she got back to her rooms she was out of breath from walking too quickly, and dull aching pains were darting up her back. She caught her breath, going to lie down on the bed next to Numair's still body and wrapping her fingers around his icy hand.

I do know what he'd say. She thought obstinately, and pushed down the sick thought that she was forgetting who he was, and what he would have said.

She cuddled closer to the man, stroking his pale cheek with her free hand and trying not to sob at the placid emptiness on his face. If she shut her eyes she could almost pretend that he was just asleep. She could almost believe that he would wake up.

"Come back to me, my love," she whispered. "Please, please..."

Tucking her head into his shoulder, she breathed in the comforting warm, living scent of him, and slowly drifted off into an uneasy sleep.


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 66 of 69

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