A/N: This story is not new, it has been rewritten and posted as a one-shot. The story it originally came from has been renamed 'Balance' and that fic will be continued shortly. Bear with me while I reorganise my mind and begin to write again. Meanwhile, I'd love to know what you think of the changes to this one.
Disclaimer: All characters and locations, as always owned by Tamora Pierce.
Musings of a Great Mind
The day had dawned bright and warm. So warm in fact that all activities at the Royal Palace in Tortall had halted at noon for perhaps the first time ever during the reign of King Jonathan IV and Queen Thayet. This unexpected holiday was indeed a luxury, and a lazy stillness spread throughout the palace as nobles and servants alike enjoyed a day of rest. So quiet were the hallways, that if you crept silently along the upper levels of the noble's quarters and pressed your ear to the heavy wooden door outside the chambers of one of the worlds most renowned mages you would be able to hear the familiar scratch of a quill. It seems one mind at least, refused to rest.
The mind of Numair Salmalin was undeniably brilliant, and had previously outwitted many a scholar who sought to test the depth of its knowledge. Today Numair was furiously scribbling a paper about the calming effects stormcane essence seemed to have on the tiny dragonet Skysong, someone he had grown intensely fond of this past year, among others.
Spending the majority of his younger years in Carthak enabled Numair to build up a resistance to weather very similar to which Tortall was experiencing. Although, as he wiped beads of sweat from his brow with a large but gentle hand, and rearranged dark hair back from his face Numair silently admitted, that it wasn't entirely the heat that was bothering him. Bending his head back down toward his parchment, the cry of a hunting bird- a falcon- echoed shrilly in his ears. Numair's eyes flew to the open window and unknowingly he held his breath as he scanned the endless sky for the source of the call, but the horizon remained free of both cloud, and bird.
The great mage was shocked to register a slight tightening in his heart at this discovery, and this fact urged his mind onto another far more agonising thought, one that he had tried to avoid on many occasions. Until very recently he remained untouched, uncaptivated by the attempts of many court ladies to charm him, and although they made it into his bed, none ever made it into his heart. But this was before her. Was there ever such a time? His sensitive mouth curved into a frown. He would have been miserable back then. No infectious laughter to brighten his day, no lighthearted teasing about his vanity. At this, 'supposed vanity anyway' was his sidethought, accompanied with an unconscious toss of his head. More than anything, he supposed he would have missed teaching her…oh very well, missed just being near her, seeing her smile. The slightest touch of her hand on his skin filled him with a coltish nervousness he hadn't experienced since he was a mere boy. But why? Why in the name of Mithros would her presence send him offbalance? Surely it couldn't be he actually… Numair's heart almost skipped at beat at this revelation, he was even forced to lay down his quill as his hands had begun to shake slightly. No use ruining the accuracy of his notes on an unevidenced whim. And yet… the mages eyes again drifted to the window.
It was some minutes before the consciousness of his situation fully stuck him. Lifting his chin and adopting a steely expression one was likely to use in these momentous situations so oft written down by the Master of the Word. The mage finally discovered the name given to thoughts and emotions similar to those he'd experienced since he met Veralidaine Sarrasri. It was love. Pure and simple. Amazing really, for someone of his intelligence to take so long at recognising it.
He expelled long drawn breath and laid his head in his hands, returning his gaze to the sapphire sky. He could never tell her. Mithros. What would it do to her reputation? The gossip would tear her heart to shreds, and it would all be because of him. He would have to be very clever then, disguise every look and every word he sent her way. It was for her own good after all. Yes, he would protect her from himself. Replace the raw emotion that threatened to overcome him every time he looked into her face with a teacherly affection for an adept pupil.
The sound of his study door being carelessly thrown open roused Numair from his thoughts, as did a warning cry of "Don't turn around! I'm so sorry Numair, I had nowhere else to go. Lost my clothes in my last change – a falcon, just like you suggested, and you were right, the streamlined wing works wonders with the air currents, you should come up next time…alright, I'm decent."
Numair turned in his chair only to take in the sight of a tousled Daine, who was in fact, not as decent as she had promised him, clothed only in the black robe which had formerly hung from the back of his door. Numair's mouth fell open for a full moment before he realised his mistake, but he managed to close it again under the pretence that he was about to reprimand her for interrupting him. Daine realised this and met his gaze squarely in a silent challenge. Grey-blue eyes met dark cinnamon, and for a moment the hopelessness of his situation fell upon him; was there anything he didn't love about her? Had he been blind for so long? Shewas here in his room, and barely clothed, whispered his treacherous mind.
Ah Gods, he must've lost control of some of his emotions in that split second, as she faltered under the intensity of an unknown emotion in his eyes. Realising his mistake Numair jerked his head away from the sight of her, dropping his gaze to his ink stained parchment. While taking up his quill Numair allowed himself a small sigh. Hiding his heart from Veralidaine Sarrasri. The idea was all very well, but putting his theory into practice was another matter entirely. Her presence at his back was already wreaking havoc on his nerves.
"Numair, may I borrow this?" His student indicated the black robe she partially wore with a wave of her hand. "Only I gave your new maid such a scare last time I changed back from bird shape, I'm fair sure she's not in any hurry to air your linens on the balcony anymore!"
Mithros, Mynoss and Shakith. He wouldn't forget that incident in a hurry either. His timid servant Hannah had fled screaming from the tower at the sight of a kestrel-turned-girl on his highest balcony. And he had raced up the tower's many stairs to discover the source of Hannah's distress only to be met with Daine's apologetic grin as she swanned past him in one of his white silken bedsheets to collect her clothes from the observatory. The sight of her then would be with him forever. Especially now his heart had turned on his head.
Coming back to himself, the corners of the black mages mouth curved into a small frown as he gave Daine a distracted nod and began scratching at his parchment with renewed vigour at the sound of her exit. To the watchers eye, Numair Salmalin appeared to be again calmly pondering the many applications of stormcane essence. Yet his heart raced, and his mind responded. Furious at being distracted from its usual academic deliberation it was only able to process one prevailing thought. I love you Veralidaine Sarrasri. I only pray you never know it.