This is my first fiction on this site, so it's kind of an experiment…. I stumbled across an old notebook of mine and discovered a little story I had written about Daine and Numair about a year before. Enjoy!

(Don't I need a disclaimer or something?...) Yeah…. I don't own any of the characters, or the locations, or the animals, or even the objects. What a pity.

"Someone's coming!" Daine whispered to Numair, her teacher and friend. Developing an eagle's eyes along with her bat's ears, she peered down the forest path behind them. "Oh, it's just Perin," she sighed, returning her features to normal. Perin, the clerk, had done nothing but follow Daine around since her return from Carthak.

"Doesn't he have anything better to do?" muttered Numair angrily. He'd hardly gotten 5 minutes with Daine alone between their duties and swine like Perin. Finally, they'd both gotten the afternoon off, and of course, the obnoxious busybody sought to ruin it.

Perin caught up, and sidling up beside Daine, slipped his arm around her waist. "Mind if but in, 'teach'?" he sneered at Numair. Daine inched away but turned pleading eyes to her teacher.

Numair sighed. "Go ahead." He hadn't thought Daine liked Perin, but it looked like she wanted to go. "But be careful!" he called after the retreating couple, "There are-"

"Yeah, we know!" Perin jeered over his shoulder.

Numair Salmalin kicked angrily at the ground. What did Daine see in that pig? "Probably because he's young," he mourned, "She'd never want an old man like me anyway." He started back to the camp. It just wasn't fair! He could have any other woman he wanted, but Numair Salmalin, the 30-year-old great mage was hopelessly in love with his 16-year–old student wildmage Daine. He sat down on a bench near his door and buried his head in his hands.

Veralidaine Sarrasri scowled as she was dragged through the forest by possible the most repulsive boy on the planet. How could Numair do this to me? She thought, We were having a lovely walk. Anyone could have seen that I didn't want to come with Perin. How could he miss the look I gave him?

Her thoughts were interrupted when Perin shoved his face into hers and started kissing her, pinning a helpless Daine against a tree. She struggled in vain. Perin was too much bigger than her. Daine's stomach churned and Perin began to run his hands over her body, pressing closer as a hand strayed to her shirt buttons. She thought quickly- A shape change! She slipped out of Perin's hands into garter snake form and slithered into some bushes as he cried out in fear and confusion. She waited, and after a few tense minutes, Perin left, cursing. Daine quickly changed back and dressed, deciding to take a different way back and find Numair again.

Numair just wanted to kill Perin. He popped the bubble he had been using to spy on the two, not liking what he had seen. Them walking together, them kissing, and when Perin started… it was just too much. He looked up to see just the person he was thinking of: Perin, coming out of the forest, alone, without Daine.

He raced over to the young man. "Where's Daine?" he demanded.

Perin smiled cruelly. "Wouldn't you like to know?" he said, "But you can just find her yourself, old man, because-"

His rude comment was cut short by a high-pitched scream from the forest.

Numair gasped, "Daine!" He ran into the forest, following the screams until they were suddenly cut short. Frantic, the mage looked for a trail the girl may have left. Seeing a path of broken twigs, he followed it, hoping for all he was worth that it would lead to his love. "Daine! DAINE!" He shouted, listening carefully for a reply.

A loud growl followed by a desperate, "Numair!" was all he heard, but it was all he needed.

Daine had never been so afraid in her life. After winding up in a dark part of the forest she didn't know, she sat down to ask the animals for help.

Strangely, there were very few nearby, and those were retreating so quickly that all she caught was one message- Danger.

Daine discovered what they meant soon enough. Two grunting Taurus and a killer unicorn emerged from the blackness. Not knowing what else to do, she screamed as a Taurus grabbed her, until it covered her mouth. "Daine!" she heard Numair's voice cry out. With all her might, she bit her captor's grubby hand (paw? hoof?) and managed a reply before the unicorn stabbed her in the side. Then she lost consciousness.

Numair emerged into a clearing to see two giant Taurus over Daine, alongside a killer unicorn with a bloody horn. With a scream of rage, he charged, throwing fire and killing one of the Taurus. The mage managed to get to Daine and scoop her up in one arm, while fending off his other two opponents with the other. After he had killed the other Taurus, the unicorn fled, galloping off into the forest.

Numair looked down at the unconscious girl in his arms and tried not to weep as he saw the deep wound in her side and heard her shallow, ragged breathing. The skin around the stab was already turning an angry red, streaked with blue. Did the unicorn's horn have some kind of poison?

Daine opened her eyes slowly to find herself gently cradled in her teacher's arms, his eyes filling with tears. "Numair…" she whispered, gasping in pain, "the Taurus, and the unicorn… why…?"

"Hush magelet," Numair said, pushing the hair out of her face. "It's alright. I've got you, you're safe." He smiled down at her.

Daine happily snuggled close to him, to discover that he was trembling with relief… or was it?

The mage held her closer as he started the long trek back to the camp.

"I don't know if there's anything we can do," Onua admitted ruefully. "It looks as if she's got unicorn fever from that nasty stab of hers. She might not make it."

Daine was lying in Alanna's chambers, where she could be monitored at all times. Since Numair had carried her into camp, she had slipped into delirium. Onua, Numair, and Alanna crowded around her bed, praying for a miracle. Eventually Onua, then Alanna left, leaving Numair crouched by the girl's side. He held her cold, damp hand, watching her lips form incomprehensible words and phrases. All the while, her skin faded paler and paler.

"Oh Daine," he sobbed, "Isn't there something I can do?"

Daine's eyes fluttered open, then shut. Overcome with grief, the great mage swept out of the room.

Numair rode into town seeking one man; Volney Rain, the single most talented artist in the court. He found him at his usual place, a small bench in a corner of the city with an amazing view of, well, life. All sorts of people came through- rich and poor, ugly and beautiful, and Volney liked to paint them all. Seeing his mage friend, Volney jumped up to embrace him. Numair looked the artist over. He was not a proud man, but rather a jolly one. His happy disposition well suited his appearance. He was rather small and round, with tufts of white hair and a pudgy nose in the middle of his smiling face.

"What brings you here on this fine morning, Numair, my lad?" he cried happily.

"Bad news, I'm afraid," Numair said. "You know Daine, yesterday she was stabbed by a unicorn, and she's come down with unicorn fever. I'd like you to paint a portrait of her, just in case she… you know… I don't want to lose her face."

"Ahh," Volney said knowingly, "You love the girl, don't you?"

Numair blushed.

"I'll tell you what, I'll make you a portrait so you can carry it around with you always," Volney said with a smile. "And don't worry about Daine. She's strong, she'll pull through."

"Thanks, friend," Numair said, and headed back to Daine.

Daine was in a blackness so inpenatrable, she had given up hope. Then she was her mother coming toward her.

"Don't worry darling," she said, "We'll take care of you." And before Daine could reply, she was gone.

Numair sat once again by Daine's side, fingering the locket Volney had just delivered. Inside was the portrait of Daine, perfect in every detail. He looked down at the girl he loved. She still murmured, but he noticed that she slept more deeply. Acting on an impulse, Numair took a small blade from his boot and cut a curl of Daine's smoky brown hair and clipped it into his locket. He strung the locket onto the chain he wore around his wrist and tucked the whole thing into his sleeve.

"Numair?"

He looked down, startled. Daine opened her eyes to look at him. His heart swelled so much he thought it would burst.

"Daine!" he cried, scooping her up into his arms. She wrapped hers around him, glad to see her best human friend after the lonely blackness. "Oh, Daine! I thought you were going to die, I was so scared. I couldn't bear to lose you! But why were you alone in the forest, you know that there are things in there that could kill you, and you almost did get killed! You are in so much trouble…"

Daine just laughed.

By the time Onua and Alanna rushed in, the two were in each other's arms weeping out of joy and relief.

Later that night, Diane lay in her bed, confused. When Numair had hugged her, there was something in his eyes that she had never noticed before, but she really liked.

It's love, dear, yawned Cloud from outside, Get ready, Kitten's coming to see you. Sure enough, the little dragonet nosed the door open, climbed onto Daine's knees, and sat there chirping at her.

"Hello Kit," Daine rubbed the dragonet's ears.

Had it really been love? Did Numair really love Daine? Did she love him?

"Yes. Yes, I think I do…" Daine muttered to herself and went to sleep.