I would like to especially dedicate this to the pple who first reviewed my first fic, ????? (whoever you are), Aquilla, Jenn, Lego, Lunarbard and Mage Melery.

This is because it encouraged me to go on my second fic and thanks to the pple who reviewed my second fic, Aurora Potter, Aya, Catalina, Daine, DragonMage, Faerie gurl, Fanfix1777, Kally, Luna, Merelena04, Missy Miller, Peenk Phuzipen, Piper2185, Veralidaine!! (All in alphabetical order.)

They in turn, encouraged me to go onto my third fic and here it is.


The Winter when Daine was 14
(Between Wolf Speaker and Emperor Mage)
Corus, The Royal Palace


It was an early warm winter morning in Corus, it was not quite yet dawn and Daine who was lying in her bed, flipped idly through the book Numair had given her. She had read it from cover to cover over the past few days when it was snowing hard. Daine pushed her brown curls from her face, away from her blue gray eyes and its long eyelashes. She felt claws gently pressing on her legs. She looked down and saw a pale blue creature, with tiny wings, silver claws, amber eyes and a long, slender muzzle. The dragonet chirped and tugged Daine's breeches. The latter reached down and scratched Kitten's head, who laid her head on Daine's thigh. Kitten tugged Daine's breeches.

"What is it Kit?" Daine asked her dragonet.

Kitten galloped to the door, sat on her hind legs and chirped, pawing the door.

"You want out?" Daine asked.

Kitten nodded.

"Well, who wouldn't? Let's go visit Cloud. I have nothing to do either way. Numair won't need me for lessons as he would be holed up in his workshop until it gets warmer. Either way he does hate being cold." Daine said.

Kitten responded by scratching at the door.

"Stop that, you are making a hole in the door," Daine said sharply, looking at the wood shavings on the floor. She put her book in her chest, then brushed her curls into some semblance of order, while being hurried by Kitten who made plaintive sounds. "All right, all right, I am coming, patience is a virtue which you can cultivate," Daine muttered, unknowingly echoing Numair's same words to her.


Kitten galloped ahead of Daine, beating the girl to the stables. When Daine entered the stables, Kitten was already in her favourite sitting position, chirping soothingly at Cloud. Daine nodded at the palace hostler, Stefan who only grunted. Daine smiled to herself and thought that Tortallans seem to have a habit of being grumpy during winter. Luckily, she had survived through much worse winters in Galla and found the Tortallan winters mild.

Hello Cloud Daine greeted cheerfully while she opened Cloud's stall door to groom her.

Hello Cloud nipped Daine's shirt. You're early.

I know. I am bored being stuck indoors for the past week. Daine sent as she took a brush and started grooming Cloud.

Stork-man? Cloud asked.

He's in the middle of one of his experiments. He hates cold. Daine replied as she carefully brushed Cloud's mane.

Cloud spoke thoughtfully as she swished her tail, Umm… You could go outside. It has stopped snowing and it isn't as cold as it was before.

It is? How can you tell? There isn't any windows. Daine said, surprised.

Hmph. I have ears, I can hear the snow falling on the roof and it has stopped falling. Cloud said snugly.

You want out? Daine asked.

No, it may be warmer outside, but not as warm as in here. If there's no need for me to prance outside, I'll stay here. Cloud declared resolutely. Knowing that it would be useless to argue with Cloud, Daine returned to her room. When Daine reached her room, Kitten huddled under Daine's bed covers as the girl peered outside and found that Cloud's prediction was true.

"What do you know," Daine muttered, then in a louder voice, "Kit, I am going out, you want to come?"

Kitten stuck her head out from under the warm covers and shook her head. Daine shook her head and put on warmer clothing.


Daine breathed in the crisp winter air. It was a good winter day to be out. The skies were clear, there was hardly anyone about, the snow had stopped and the grounds were covered with snow. As she was walking randomly about, it occurred to her that she might want to try a shape shift that day.

Daine thought quietly to herself, 'I have recovered fully from that last shift. There are not much people out who might see me. I think I shall go into the forest, I know there is hardly anyone out and about, but why take chances?' With that thought, Daine forged her way to the forest.

Daine did not need to think about what to shape shift into as she had pondered over it during the past few days. Being holed up in the palace, she had been poring over books, mulling on what animal she should try next. She had finally decided on trying to shape shift into a deer, she had wondered how it would be like bounding from place to place and have the ability to cover long distances quickly.

When Daine reached the forest, she cast her magical senses around warily. Not having detected any immortals in the vicinity, she set out to work. As this was her first shape shift into a deer, she decided that it was best that she received advice from an expert. Daine called out to the deer in the forest, she crossed her fingers and hoped that there was a deer nearby. Soon, a pretty doe bounded into sight. As soon as she saw Daine, she panicked and prepared for flight.

"Stop!" Daine yelled and held out her hand. The deer immelediately froze. Daine walked over and held the deer's head.

Hello hoof sister. I am Daine. I am sorry that I froze you, but I didn't want you to run off before hearing my say. Daine sent apologetically and shook off her will on the doe.

The deer quivered, but did not bolt. One never knows. Thought you hunter. Never seen two legger like you before.

I know.Daine sent, stroking the doe soothingly.

I am Soft streak. Streak said shyly.

Soft Streak? Daine queried.

Yes, I have streak on face since young. Makes me ugly. Streak said dismisally. Daine examined the doe's face, there was a soft streak running from the left side of her muzzle to under her left eye.

Don't be silly, I think you look pretty with it. Came Daine's instant reply.

If Streak could blush, she did at that moment. Rubbish. No one would want me for mate. Streak said, bashfully ducking her head.

I am sure a handsome young stag would want to make you his mate. Daine said reassuringly.

Streak, if she had a human face, would be now tomato red. You flatter. What is this say you want? Streak asked inquisitively.

Daine quickly explained her idea to the attentive Streak, who licked Daine's face and agreed. Daine led Streak into a nearby cave. She greeted the friendly bats and explained what she was about to do. They were curious and agreed to keep watch on her clothing while she shape shift.

Daine took off her clothes, so that they would be intact when she needed them after her shift. She took a deep breath and started the painstaking process. She shivered from the cold and thought, 'I guess this is extra motivation to hurry up'. She finally managed to get into deer shape, stood wobbly on her four legs and asked Soft Streak for her opinion.

Your front legs are too short. That's why you're so tipsy topsy.Streak instructed. Daine lengthened her front legs.

Long enough? Daine asked.

Your muzzle is too fat. Soft Streak commented, shivered delicately and added. Like a wolf's

Daine had to make several more changes before Soft Streak gave her stamp of approval (literally). Soft Streak walked about Daine and sniffed.

You don't smell exactly like deer, but since you were originally a two legger, it is already a feat that you now look normal. Soft Streak sent.

Daine hid her amusement, animals always deemed their own kind's appearance as normal. Daine asked patiently, So… can you now give me a tour?


Half way through their tour, Soft Streak said quietly, Something's coming. Daine halted in her hoof-steps and unconsciously braced herself for flight.

A magnificent stag came into sight, with its proud antlers and lithe body. Soft Streak. He acknowledged, bowing his head an inch.

Bold Soft Streak greeted shyly. This is Daine. A shape shifter. Daine's head perked up at her soft, timid tone, she noticed that Soft Streak really liked Bold.

Bold looked sharply at Daine and tilted his head to one side. Shape shifter?

Daine quickly explained her situation. Bold seemed amused by the whole thing.

You are the Daine I have heard about from the sparrows. Bold said. It was a statement, not a question.

I guess so. I don't know anyone else with the same name as me. Daine quipped cheekily.

Another deer appeared from the undergrowth. It was a doe. Bold. She greeted coyly, then looked accusingly at Daine and demanded, Who are you? What are you doing in this territory?

Daine, put off my the doe's refusal to acknowledge Soft Streak and her rudeness replied, None of your business.

The doe stepped forward menacingly. The herd leader must hear about this.

Soft Streak quickly interceded, injecting, She's Daine. Forgive her. She is just a two legger who shape shifted.

Shape shifted? the older doe said, bewildered. The doe looked to Bold for an explanation and he turned to relate the turn of events.

Why does she ignore you? Daine said angrily.

Never mind Coyolie. She's like that. She is like others. Think I'm disfigured. Soft Streak murmured soothingly to Daine. She's two summers my senior. At least she just ignores me and nothing else…

I knew you had to be in the middle of this! Coyolie said to Soft Streak, interrupting their private exchange.

Now, now, she is the Daine the other animals were talking about, the one who healed the squirrel and sparrow. Bold responded placatingly. I think my father would be more than happy to welcome her...

The herd leader is Bold's father. Soft Streak softly supplied to Daine.

…she is a guest and an honored one. I think it is nice for Soft Streak to show her around. Bold ended, looking at Soft Streak with approval.

Soft Streak blushed and ducked her head in embarrassment, I was happy to. she replied modestly.

Daine saw that the senior doe was displeased at Bold's praise. I would have done the same if I had heard the call. Coyolie responded, sounding immelediately contrite, looking at Daine in a new light. I am sorry if I was brash, one can never to be too careful with strange deer. Especially with the yearlings up and about.

Daine nodded, she understood, it was important for animals to protect the young. I can continue your tour if you wish… Sift Seak is not … Coyolie said, giving Soft Streak a contemptuous look.

I rather stay with SOFT STREAK, if you don't mind. I am having a marvelous time. Daine interrupted, unhappy with Coyolie's blatant rejection of Soft Streak.

Well then. I hope you enjoy yourself. Don't hesitate to call for help if you need to. I know the People of the Royal Forest is always happy to help you. Bold declared regally. He nodded to the Daine and the two does, then bounded off into the undergrowth.

Coyolie raised her head, her ears twitching. I better go now. It's my turn to help watch the younglings. Coyolie announced. Farewell. She said, directing her words at Daine and leapt off.

Daine stomped her hoof and exclaimed, How can she be so rude? Ignoring you like that!

It's all right. It is not her fault really. Soft Streak said desolately. I never really told you the whole story… She ducked her head. Afraid you reject me too. Some of the herd think that I caused parents' death… I bring bad luck wherever I go. After you hear this, you can go with Coyolie. I won't mind…

Don't be silly. Daine said in a no-nonsense tone her ma had always adopted with her. What is it?

When I was born, I had streak, parents protect me from other's ridicule. When 1st winter, wolves attacked. Parents hold them off, tell me run. I got lost in forest, Bold came and led me to safety. Herd brought me up. They say that I cause parents' death… Oh! It's true, it's true, I do bring bad luck! Maybe it is better if I dead. Soft Streak burst out, upset.

Soft Streak's story struck a cord in Daine's heart. Daine subtly used her magic to sooth Soft Streak. You mustn't think that way, I mean, you must be special for your parents to protect you. Isn't it? Daine said gently.

Soft Streak was silent.

My ma also died, but by two leggers. Soft Streak looked up in surprise at Daine's words.

Raiders came and attack. I wasn't there. I used to think it was my fault. That if I had only come back earlier to help. But now I realize there was nothing I could do. Daine said, then nudged Soft Streak's head and forced the doe to look at her. Your parents died. You cannot turn back time. You must live your life to the fullest so that your parents' sacrifice would not be in vain. Daine said.

Soft Streak remained silent, not very convinced.

Daine purposely changed the subject and said, Bold was nice. He treated you like the others.

Oh yes, Soft Streak said, perking up. (Daine hid a smile) He came by his name as when he was young, he fended off a fox from attacking the yearlings until adult came.

He must be very bold and brave. Daine said assumingly.

Yes, he stop others from outright bullying me. Soft Streak supplied.

He must like you then. Daine commented.

Oh no, no, Soft Streak burst out vehemently. He is nice to me as he is nice to everyone. I am indebted to him for rescuing me. He is not only the one nice to me. Some of the herd is nice to me, but…

Most are like Coyolie. Daine finished for Soft Streak, who said yes. I know. Most two leggers think I am weird. Freakish even. But I ignore them. Daine said.

Really? But you're so pleasant. Soft Streak commented in surprise.

But they think I am weird. Not many two leggers talk to the People. Daine confided.

Yes, that is true. You are the first of your kind I have ever seen. Soft Streak remarked.

Now then. Where off to next? Daine asked, she looked at the sky. So many things have happened, yet the sun indicated that is was only late morning.


Soft Streak introduced various inhabitants of the Royal Forest at Daine's request. (none of which were predators of deer, of course) She showed Daine her favourite feeding spot and the water hole which was not fully frozen. They were near the edge of the Forest when Daine decided she wanted to race across the Forest. Soft Streak declined, knowing that she had to conserve her energy when food is scarce. Thus, they decided to spilt. Daine bid farewell to Soft Streak, after promising to visit later. With that, Daine the deer, reveled in her deer abilities and dashed haphazardly about.

At noon, Daine stopped for a rest by an unfrozen trickling stream Soft Streak had shown her earlier on.

WATCH OUT! A sparrow warned, zooming into her path.

Daine jumped aside and an arrow whizzed into the spot where she had just rested. Before she could think, Daine's deer instincts took over and sprinted off. Daine heard the sound of dogs and horses labouring behind her. Arrows darted past her, marking the ground where she ran.

Daine the deer had never been so scared in her life and she knew it was a matter of time before the hunters caught up. It was some distance before Daine realized. 'What am I doing?' she thought. 'I am a girl. I can think. Think. THINK. How to get out of this.' Daine thought. 'I kept my magical senses out for immortals, but I forgot about the huntsmen. The Royal Huntsmen must be out for game. Horse Lords! Stupid me. I should have known that they would be out!' Daine mentally reviewed her options quickly. She could reveal herself, but she would be naked. Plus, who knows that they might kill her before she convinced them of her identity or they might think her some new kind of shape shifting immortal. Daine kicked the option off her mind. 'Well, first thing first. I must slow them down. I am getting tired.' Daine thought. With that, Daine cast her magical sense backwards towards the horses.

Herd sisters! She called.

The horses were startled. Most of them knew her and recognized her mental voice. Daine?

She quickly explained things to them and they quickly halted in their tracks. As Daine bounded away, she could hear the huntsmen's curses and bewilderment. When Daine was a distance from them, she stopped and listened hard. She heard the dogs with their huntsmen. She thought hard, 'I need to get the hunt off my trail. If I ask the dogs to abandon their masters, they would only get punished. Secondly, I won't be able to detect the masters without their dogs.' Daine thought, she looked down at the ground and suddenly realized, 'Odds Bobs! I have been leaving tracks. Stupid, stupid. The hunters can track me even without their dogs.'

'Now,' Daine thought. 'To cover my tracks. I can't run through water, most of the water is frozen, I'll just break my legs. I have to make my way back to the cave and get out of here.' Her stomach rumbled, reminding her of lunch impatiently. Daine thought hard, how can she cover her tracks? There was no branch or anything she can use to smooth out her tracks. Daine quickly formulated a plan. Daine sensed the dogs coming towards her direction. She carefully walked backward, putting her hoofs into her previous hoof prints. She walked backward till she reached the rocky place she remembered passing. Daine leapt onto the rocky ground, now relieved that she would not leave tracks on it. She changed her delicate deer hooves into a sturdy mountain goat's and carefully made her way around the small rock hill. When she reached the other side of the 12-foot hill, she physically heard the dogs and huntsmen on the other side of the hill. She froze, her heart thudding. They had stopped to the point where she walked backward and leapt upon the rock.

She cast her magical senses to the dogs. Pack brothers. She called. Daine quickly explained things to the dogs, who were puzzled at the horses' behaviour. Some of them knew her and convinced those who were skeptical. Besides, they added, she didn't smell quite exactly like a deer. They agreed to Daine's request - they were to stick close to their masters and confuse them.

Wolfbane, what is happening? Daine asked quietly.

The lead tracker has stopped. Wolfbane, the boss dog said.

Let me see through your eyes please, for a short while. Daine sent. Just trust me. She added pleadingly when he hesitated. Wolfbane agreed and let Daine mentally slip into his mind.

Daine saw the world through Wolfbane's eyes. The lead tracker kneeling by the spot and her heat thudded. He was scrutinizing the spot and tilted his head, as if bewildered. Daine breathed in sharply and smells flooded her. With Wolfbane's knowledge, she could differentiate the myriad of smells, there was the smell of dogs, man and a faint smell of her. Wolfbane, intrigued by Daine's reaction to her smell, cocked his head and breathed in her smell. Her smell was stronger now, coming behind the hill… With a jerk, Daine returned to her body. In her panic, she did not realize that she was standing downwind.

Are you alright? Wolfbane asked anxiously.

Yes… I just didn't realize you could smell me now. Daine said, thanking her lucky stars that the animals were "smart" (by her influence) enough not to reveal her presence.

You are downwind. Wolfbane offered. But the two legger can't smell you like we can. The other dogs yipped in agreement.

Daine shushed them Better be quiet or the two legger will know something is up.

The pack fell silent.

But not too quiet!! Daine quickly added. Act normal.

The huntsman is moving forward. Wolfbane cheerfully said.

Thank you. She said gratefully to the pack as they followed their masters acquiescently.

When Daine could not hear the huntsmen any more, she quickly bounded off the rocky ground and ran back to the cave. Although armed with the knowledge that it would take quite some time before the hunters could find her, she quickly shape shifted back. She pulled on her clothing jerkily with shaking hands, her body numb from cold and fright. Now that the hunt was over, she felt sick. So this was how prey felt when they were hunted or chased. Daine knew to be preyed and hunted was a way of life, but she never really knew the trauma the prey had to go through! It evoked unpleasant memories of the past, when the villagers hunted her… She jerked her thoughts away and carefully cast her magical senses out. Upon the failure to sense any immortals or the hunting dogs in the vicinity, she scampered out of the cave, after a hasty farewell to the bats.

She quickly made her way to her room in the palace. Luckily, she did not meet anyone on her way. Entering her room, she found Kitten pawing through her truck. Kitten immelediately dropped a pawful of clothing on the floor, waiting to get the customary scolding. The dragonet noticed that Daine was panting, her hair tangled, her face pale and white and thrilled her concern.

"Not now, Kit," Daine muttered and she collapsed into bed, tumbling into relentless sleep as exhaustion overcame her.


She was running. She could hear the hunters coming closer. She could practically feel their breath on her back. She panted and her legs were getting tired from exhaustion. They must have been running for miles, but the hunters were still fresh and unrelenting. They were coming closer, and closer, she felt an arrow graze her, missing her by a hair's breath… She ran and ran, sweat ran into her eyes, she stumbled on a branch, being blinded by her sweat. She went down tumbling…

Daine woke up abruptly to find herself on the floor beside her bed. Her shirt was soaked with sweat and her heart thundered. She closed her eyes and tried to slow down her breathing.

"I will never eat deer meat ever, ever again," the girl declared resolutely.

She felt tiny paws on her chest. She opened her eyes and looked into Kitten's concerned eyes, who thrilled in query.

"It's," her voice came out in a squeak and she cleared her throat. "It's okay, Kit, just a bad dream, it's all a dream," she said, as if rather assuring herself than her charge.

The bells rang. "Time for dinner, Kit," Daine announced, forcing herself to do the mundane though she had no appetite. Kitten looked at her worriedly, Daine scratched Kitten's head. "Come on, you should be hungry by now. I am surprised you didn't wake me up with your thrilling before this," she said and got to her feet with a groan. Her body ached! Daine looked into the mirror and tried to restore her appearance the best she could.


Daine stared at her food and forced herself to eat a few bites, before realizing the futility of it and went to clear her tray. She decided to take a detour to the stables and kennels to thank the animals. As she neared the kennels, she heard two men talking.

"I tell you, those dogs went crazy today!" a man with a deep voice said.

"And I tell YOU, that there is nothing wrong with them dogs. I cannot find any problems with them," a lighter voice said.

Daine walked closer and saw the sources of the respective voices. They were the royal head huntsman and the kennel's healer, Michean. Michean of the K'mir Raadeh, was in the same tribe as Ouna. He was a lean eighteen year old who had migrated to Tortall two years ago. He was five foot seven, raven haired and green eyed. Ouna had pointed him out a few months ago, but Daine had yet to meet him face to face. Daine remembered that Miri, her rider friend, had described Michean as a male with swoon-worthy looks and a fantastic dreamy voice that could hypnotize you. Daine was hesitant in coming into the light and interrupting their conversation. However, the pack sensed her presence and Michean noticed their shift of mood.

He looked towards her and smiled, "Hello, why don't you come in, it must be freezing."

With no alternative, Daine walked into the light and warily smiled at the huntsmen and Michean. "I just wanted to take a look at the pack."

"Now, now, these are no pet dogs to be cosseted," the royal huntsman said.

Michean sprang to her defence, "You might find that she is different from other girls. She is Master Salmalin's student." Daine was surprised that Michean recognized her.

The royal huntsman scrutinized her and grunted. "You are the girl who woke up everyone last year with that Stormwing attack."

Daine blinked, lost for words, she looked at Michean. 'Miri is right,' Daine thought. 'He looks MUCH better up close.'

Michean interrupted and said, "Yes, she is and saved our bacon. Anyway, since you are here I think you may be able to help us…"

Michean reiterated what the huntsman had told him. Daine nodded and thought, 'his voice is nice, no wonder the pack likes him to speak to them.'

"I'll take a look," she said cautiously, "but I don't promise anything."

"We'll take any help we can to explain their unusual behaviour," the royal huntsman replied gruffly. "They are good ones, just don't know why they went crazy."

Daine nodded silently, she kneeled down and the boss dog, Wolfbane came up to her and put his head on her shoulder.

"Amazing," the royal huntsman murmured. Michean nodded in agreement.

Well, what happened after I left? Daine asked silently.

Your trail ended abruptly, tracker puzzled. Huntsman set us after you, we sent them in circles. They realized it only after a few hours. Brought us back. Think we sick. Wolfbane said, his mouth open in a doggy smile.

Did two legger punish you? Daine sent worriedly.

No, they just worried. Wolfbane said and the pack yipped in agreement.

After some time, Daine ended her silent conversation and stood up. "So, what are your findings?" the royal huntsman asked.

"Well, I know for one, they would never do that again," Daine promised, and thought silently to herself, 'because I am NOT going to be that careless again!'

"What's wrong with them?" the rugged man asked.

"I am not really sure," Daine responded carefully.

There was silence, which was tense and long for Daine. "Good, we need them for tomorrow." The huntsman grunted, he bid them goodnight and left.

Daine and Michean were left alone. "Well, erm, I better go back now," Daine stammered.

"I'll go with you, I have nothing to do here either way and I might as well have an early night," Michean said cheerfully.

Michean was friendly and amiable, easily disarming Daine. She soon dropped her guard and they talked about animals and their homelands. It was all too soon when they stopped outside the rider barracks.

"Well, here is where we part," he said.

"Nice meeting you," Daine said and meant it.

"The same," Michean said. " Oh yes, Daine?"

"Yes?" Daine asked curiously.

"You might want to keep an eye out for the huntsmen next time," Michean said and walked away, whistling.

Daine stood there, her mouth dropped open.


Note :

Me like comments and constructive criticism! I am thinking of a sequel, which encompasses all the fan fiction I have done so far, so if you want any specific character to appear, or if you have suggestions or ideas, (which will be credited to you), please e-mail me at bibliophile88@hotmail.com, but NO flaming please!

Most of these characters belong exclusively to Tamora Pierce. Others are a figment of my imagination. I am expanding on a quote from a character. This is the quote (which can be found in Emperor Mage), which inspired me to write this fanfic. Daine said to Kaddar, "My first mistake was to try deer shape, one day last winter. See, I didn't know the royal huntsman would be out, looking for some game…"