Finally, the sequel to Midnight. Thank you so, so, so much for all your kind comments on Midnight, I loved them, I really did. I hope you'll enjoy Dawn as much as you did Midnight, and please, all feedback is highly welcomed! If you haven't read Midnight yet, it's probably best you do...
Same format, poor Numair worrying far too much – the pair are now in the Divine Realms, although it's pretty much all clear.
Sorry it's taken so long – this has been in the pipeline/half-written since about 2 days after I posted Midnight, but I've only just decided I'm happy with it… the third part in the trilogy is already written, so it shouldn't be long before that's up too! "knocks skull" Enjoy!
Disclaimer: the characters in this are obviously not mine, that's why they're published here and not on fictionpress, and under the Tamora Pierce section, because, coincidentally, Daine, Numair, Broadfoot and everyone else happen to belong to her. Funny that, isn't it? And the definition of the word Dawn come from my handy dictionary thingy on my laptop, which also comes up with stunning words like eldritch/eldrich – and if you don't know what it means, look it up! It's a great word!
There is a difference, I think, between knowing that you love someone and loving someone. To know that you love them, you must previously love them, even if you are unaware. Realisation is the key.
Sometimes I wonder at my love for Daine. How long did I love her before it manifested itself to me? How can I tell?
I think back to when I met her, a young child of thirteen. I did not love her then, I realise. I valued her for her friendship and magical skill, but I did not love her. Not like I do now.
Dunlath. By the time of our venture there, we were fast friends, my student and I. My threats for her safety if she harmed herself were real. I would never have forgiven myself, or her, if any harm had befallen her. I remember the hug I swept her into once we were reunited. Was that from concern for her safety, friendship, or love?
I decide I need to determine what I mean by the term 'love'. There is more than one kind of love, I know. For example, I love Onua Chamtong, but I love her as I would a sister, and I value her as a friend. I love Alanna; she has been a true friend to me since my arrival in Tortall, as has her husband. I could even say that I love Jon or Thayet in a way. I appreciate their friendship strongly, and I serve my monarchs with an unyielding regard.
But when I talk about Daine, what term of love do I mean? The love I have now, unrequited, or the love that we share, as friends and companions?
The events in Carthak must also be taken into consideration at this point. My feelings for her there consisted of several things. Concern, most certainly, for her safety, and my strong desire to protect her from Ozorne. But was it my enmity for Ozorne that led me to attempt to hit him when many times before I have laughed off comments similar the one he made? Was that an unconscious reaction to the feelings I harboured for her, the first indication that she was more than a friend and student to me? Ozorne seemed to think so.
I remember telling Prince – now Emperor – Kaddar in no uncertain terms to leave Daine alone. I remember Daine's horror that I could have the gall to tell him so. I remember when I returned to my seat with Varice that Daine's head had dropped to the table she was so embarrassed by my actions. Do I regret that now? Maybe it would have been best to talk to Kaddar when Daine wasn't there. If I think about it, however, I do seem to have taken a certain dislike to the young man. Maybe I would prefer him now, knowing that he and Daine are a significant distance apart, in separate Realms even. No, I think. I don't.
I remember the heart-wrenching pain when Ozorne announced Daine was gone, leading an uprising of slaves. Was that love? I knew it wasn't true, it couldn't have been. An uprising of two-leggers wouldn't be Daine's style, even if she hadn't been doing her best to avoid trouble, as she proved to Ozorne's demise. I knew she was still in Carthak, that he had her, and I knew I had to free her. She managed well enough on her own though. Would Daine be better without me?
I tried to tell her this, in her parents' house. That if I was not to survive the war, then at least by staying in the Divine Realms she could. To know that Daine was safe would send me to my grave peacefully, even if I didn't see her one last time, even if I didn't tell her how I feel for her.
I cannot tell her how I feel. What if I did, and she rejected me? I could not cope with that. What if I told her, and she said she returned my feelings? How would I know that she did not think herself in love with me, instead of actually being in love with me? How would I know that it was not her head playing tricks on her heart? That I had not manipulated, or forced, or fooled her in some way to agreeing with my sentiments? Would she merely echo them because she is too young to understand? Would she be afraid to reject me over fear of the loss of our friendship?
No, I cannot tell her.
For a moment, I let my mind wonder at the possibilities though. Can I imagine a future for us? Can I see Daine as my lover, my wife, mother of our children?
Yes, in short, but doesn't everyone who is in love picture themselves this way with their beloved? Do they not look into their future to see visions of love and happiness, knowing that they would be content together? Have I not done this before, for other women I thought myself in love with?
I remember Varice Kingsford. We were lovers, once. In my youth, I thought our love would last forever, but I was forced to flee. I could never have asked her to follow me, although, I would have followed her to the ends of the earth. Why was it that I didn't ask? Was I afraid to put her life in danger? Did I fear she would stay behind? Or did my head give my heart a cruel glimpse of reality and know, without doubt, that even if we were safe, even if we did escape Ozorne and he did not hunt for us, we could never be?
But, if that was the case, why, on our visit to Carthak as members of the Peace Delegation, did I allow myself to slip back into that fantasy? Did I think that, if peace followed, however unlikely I believed it to be, we could be together once more? That she would return to Tortall with me, for I would certainly not stay in Carthak? Was I just trying to relive a part of my past, something I could never recreate?
Too many questions, I decide, even for a mind such as my own, one that craves knowledge, without answers. Do I want to devote myself to seeking answers to them?
A new thought enters my head. Did I allow myself to return to Varice in an attempt to hide or reject my feelings for Daine? It is a possibility, I suppose, but I did not know the extent of my feelings for her then. And surely, at fifteen, I would have deemed her too young. I cannot help but tell myself that I still deem her too young, even though I have admitted my feelings for her now. Fourteen years is too great an age gap.
Or is it? There are many marriages, common and noble, although mostly noble, where girls younger than Daine are forced to marry men older than myself for the sake of an heir, a continuation of a line. But if I was to marry Daine, it would not be a noble marriage – we are both common by birth, and I have no lineage to ensure. There are many marriages, I continue to think, where girls younger than Daine are married. Indeed, there would be many in the lower sections of the Tortallan population, where girls Daine's own age have mothered several children by now.
I look at the young girl over my shoulder. I cannot see her as a mother, not at this age. She would need to be older, if I was to make her my bride. I would have to wait.
I could wait forever for her.
"You love her," a voice comes from in front of me.
I look down at its owner, the god of the Duckmole. It enters my mind to refute this fact, the one I have carried with me for so long in my head and my heart, but I know I cannot. "Can you read minds?" He could sense the lie anyway.
The small form on my front laughs. "No, only faces, mage. You should tell her. I tried to, but she was asleep."
My step falters, and I keep my voice low so she cannot hear me. "You tried to tell her?"
"Yes. She was angry with you – she couldn't understand why you wished her to remain with Sarra and Weiryn." I stare ahead, trying to hide my thoughts from him. "Tell her," he repeats, like to do so would be the simplest thing in the world.
A conflict wars inside me. Would it be? "I cannot."
"Why? For fear that she'll deny you? I don't think she will."
"No!" This is a half truth. "For fear that she'd believe herself into loving me, but not actually love me. For fear that her reputation will be destroyed by the Court, that gossips and rumour-mongers will damage and hurt her."
"You think that words could hurt her? She has had words and names said at her all her life, mage. Besides," he adds casually, "she would not be the sort to let true love be stopped by name-calling."
This I know. "I cannot."
The duckmole sighs. "Then you will lose her."
"I could lose her anyway, if she rejects me. And I'd rather spend a lifetime as her friend than her spurned would-be lover."
"But would you rather not try?"
"Not if I lost her friendship."
My love for Daine must be one that remains inside, unknown, even if it withers inside me and shrivels away. I would rather my heart never saw the light of day to exposing it and being discarded ruthlessly. I know inside me that Daine would never be so cruel, but I must tell myself this to enforce my own rules.
"It will come out in the end," Broad Foot tells me. "A love is something that cannot be denied."
When did Gods, and animal Gods in particular, become so knowledgeable as to human emotions?
Broadfoot leaves us at our behest to try and control the Sorrow of Malady. I am grateful that the God feels he should do something for us, as the Great Gods seem unattainable, wrapped in battle with Chaos as they are. Daine and I walk through the night; we are now so close the Sea of Sand that the heat during the day cannot be tolerated by either of us. Rock surrounds us now and I know we are nearing the Stonemaze Weiryn showed us. The position of the moon is the only indication we have of time as we trek under a sky glowing with changing shades of magic.
"You never call me Magelet anymore, Numair." The statement comes out of the blue.
I turn to look at the young woman behind me. "That's not true!" My stomach churns. I can't believe she's noticed. If she has noticed that, then what else has she seen of me that I try to hide from her?
"Once, since we got here, Numair, once. And that was only because you were saying 'Good night'! You used to call me Magelet daily!" Her tone does little to tell me if she's angered or saddened by the fact, disappointed in me.
Since the night we spent in the Palace Gardens, watching a meteor shower, I have done my best to distance myself from Daine, to prevent contact as much as I can. It is as much for her benefit as for mine; I do not feel I can trust myself around her any longer. That night alone, when I kissed her at her pronouncement of the fact that she would always be there, I was far too close to danger, to loosing myself in her permanently. That night when we lay together under the stars, her head resting on my arm, warm against my body. The memory haunts me daily, takes shape and form in my dreams and wonderings.
Why must she torment me so?
She coughs, clearly seeing that my mind has wondered once again, back to that place where it is safe to remember what it feels like to have her body pressed against mine. I fumble for an excuse. "Daine, I – Magelet," I correct myself. She glares. "I – I merely thought that you were – outgrowing – the nickname."
She raises an eyebrow.
When did she learn to read me so well?
"There's something going on, Numair, and I want to know what it is."
"Nothing!" I exclaim, too quickly. "Nothing is going on, Daine," I lower my voice. "Why would you think it?" I curse myself for asking the question. Do I really want to trap myself into answering this?
Maybe my mind has finally turned on me.
"You – " she stops, sighs. "All sorts of things. You just – you fair confuse me sometimes."
I smile, attempt a jest. "And you're only noticing just now? That must be a record."
She scowls. "In a different way to normal, you dolt." She sighs again, and looks away from me, staring at the ground instead. "Maybe I'm just imagining things."
I want to tell her she's not, that she's not going mad, that she's seeing to the core of me, but I can't.
Maybe seeing to the core of me is enough to drive anyone mad.
"Things just seem different to normal." She strives for the words to explain, and for a moment, I see a flash of sadness in her face. I have never wanted more to wrap her in my arms than I do now. "You seem more closed now. You don't talk to me like you used to, Numair. You used to tell me things, about where we are, what you think. You've stopped teaching me. You – I feel like – sometimes – you show me something, and then snatch it away."
I turn around and face her. Maybe now is the time to tell her, now that I know she knows something is happening. That we are not quite the same 'we' we used to be, even six months ago.
Suddenly Daine grabs my arm and points in front of us, into the sky, saving me from my explanation. I tighten my grip of my staff, preparing to call my magic to me at the slightest notice, as I follow the line of her arm. Before me, a bird of sorts spreads its wings to the moon, silver, blue and gold spreading from its wings. The bird is followed by others, and they circle around each other, interweaving in a glowing rope across the desert.
Daine whispers to Leaf beside me, and I stroke my own darking as I stare with wonder at the display. "I wish I could stay, or come back. So many wonders," I breathe, my mind spinning with the prospects that such an opportunity would offer. To be a mortal in the Divine Realms, to make a comprehensive study of the homes of our Gods… to add to the facts gathered by other scholars, and the theories and oddities I have gathered in our stay here already… it would be an ambition, certainly. For now though, I have to ensure we return home. With regret, I begin to pace again, glancing at the exhibition above until our path begins to climb and twist away from it, stone columns blocking our view.
I feel uneasy now, as if someone or something, in fact many things, are watching our progress, and not sharing positive sentiments towards us. I try to ignore the sensation of the eyes following us, although I can feel the hair on the back of my neck prickling, as I continue up our path. When I turn round to check on Daine, I realise she is not there. Pushing down a mild sensation of panic I return down the path where I find her staring at one of the columns.
"I feel it too," I tell her as I lead her away, holding her arm tightly to break her from the spell she is under. I light my staff as we walk on, using the magic in it to light our way against the darkness. Eventually, Daine asks me to turn it off, and I can feel the nervousness in her voice. It is all I can do not to pull her to me and comfort her, wrap my arms around her and reassure her, but too many times have I let my emotions slip out of my control on this journey, shown her the true depth of my feelings for her, although thankfully, as far as I am aware, she has been oblivious to their true meanings. For once, I thank the Goddess for Daine's naivety in the matter of love.
I let her walk in front, knowing she will be using her magic to aid her, and that she will warn me of any danger to us. I have complete trust in her. As we near the end of the pass, the stone walls widening, I can see dawn is coming. I know the light will help us both. The light creeps up the path to meet us as we continue onwards, the sun rising to meet us. Dawn approaches.
"You go – I'll come after," she urges. I know she is nervous, nervous of the Chaos bile, the sheer drop at our side, nervous of whether we will make it home to Tortall. I smile in a way I hope is reassuring at her, but she is glancing warily at the overflowing Chaos vent. I walk forward confidently, trying to let her know it is safe. I stride around the strange liquid and past the grey rocks which are so geologically out of place. I glance over my shoulder at her as I round a corner, to catch one last glimpse of my Magelet.
In a breathless moment, I feel hard arms wrap around me and lift me off my feet, and to my horror, those grey rocks have captured me, are pulling me away from Daine and out of sight. I let out a yell to catch her attention, so she sees what is happening. I hear her utter a curse and close my eyes, forcing my Gift to form a shield around myself, for dual purposes. Hopefully, my magic will hurt these strange beings, forcing them to release me. However, I also know that one of Daine's first reactions when faced with a strange and dangerous situation is to use her bow. For all the trust I have in her aim – it has never failed yet – I refuse to allow myself to be the one that it does fail for.
I hear a scream and my heart rips in my chest, my stomach jolting. "Daine!" I yell. "Daine!" I need to see her, need to know if she is safe. Daine rarely screams, and only does so when she has good reason to. I pray she is not facing another immortal attack, pray she has not been captured by the rock beings too, pray she has not – Mithros – fallen.
The sun rises fully over horizon. Dawn.