Well, here it is. THE FINAL CHAPTER. Guys, this has been so much fun, a wonderful ride for my first story here! I've really enjoyed this overall. Sometimes I hated it. Not usually though! Sorry this one took a little longer - it's finals week - but in exchange, it's extra-long. I hope you like it and I hope it makes sense - this is it, people! Thank you SO much to everyone's that reviewed this story and given me motivation to keep writing - you guys mean so much. I'll be sending personal replies to any more reviewers (can I get over 250? -gasp-). I love you all, really. And thank you also to any lurkers and people that have favorited/alerted me or my story! So, here is the finale. Fluff abound.
MoriaRownlands222, xxTunstall Chickxx, .111, Evil Bunny of Death, purple smurfs r real - thank you guys so much!
Starling Rising - They always fix things, right? And yeah, they'll definitely have those memories for ever, but for now it's just about being home again. I hope this clears everything up: if it doesn't, I'll explain in a PM or something. It makes sense in my crazy mind...
weeblz-kat - Heh, I definitely seem to have pulled off the shock factor in that last chapter, even if I didn't like it, lol. But I'm glad you guys did, thank you!
Jess - THANK YOU! I'm sorry it's coming to a close too, but all good things must end... Thank you so much for sticking with this from the beginning! Hopefully I'll be able to get some D/N oneshots up this summer, I have a few ideas, this isn't the last from me yet.
Captain Libeka - Thank you! Haha, I'm glad you like it so much, it really means a lot when you know people are reading. Enjoying reading. thanks so much!
Fariy Lights - Ah, I see, yeah. Numair's definitely stupid in that sense. Yup, new claw... IT'S SO A SYMBOL. I JUST TOOK AN ENGLISH FINAL. I'M SEEING SYMBOLISM IN EVERYTHING. I'm warped. And no, she's not dead! I could never do that to poor Numair... except I did a little. In my other story, Dreams, but that's beside the point right?
silverflight8 - Really? Thank you so much, I really didn't like that chapter for some reason, I need to work on writing action scenes I thought. Alanna's always fun to include, and thank you again for all the compliments - stuff like that is really hard. Lol, love always has bad timing, eh? And about the connections, this should clear it up - if it doesn't I can PM you, it is kinda abstract and confusing. The blood thing came to me in the middle of the night and I jumped up to scribble down a note. I actually wrote Life blood, you must be psychic! I hope the conclusion works, full of fluff... -worries-
shadowstorm13 - Thank you!! Haha, glad to be the one you liked... D/N and Immortals are undoubtedly my favorite too. Awesome stories, I remember I read half of TP's books first in like 5th grade, then forgot all about them. I had never read Immortals. This year I read them again, and got so addicted to them all and especially Daine and Numair - of course, this time around I also understood all the sexual undertones. That made everything more interesting to my relationship-oriented mind. Heh.
SO. Here you go at last. Finally fullly edited, completely complete... I can now definitely see why it takes authors years to complete a book. Enjoy! -winks-
In such a small, cramped room, it was astounding how everything managed to be so quiet. But barely a whisper found its way through the walls of the infirmary, much less the loud sounds of recovering from battle. Daine's nose twitched and she blinked her eyes open slowly, dazed and disoriented. For a full minute, the only thing she could see was a glaring whiteness, but slowly, her eyes adjusted to the lamps and candles around her. She felt a clean bandage wrapped around her ankle and light gauze on both of her hands, along with various other patches all over her body.
"Numair?" she murmured. He couldn't be far, could he?
She was in the infirmary at Legann, she realized shortly – one of the tiny rooms. A small pillow was behind her head. She was lying on a thin mattress with threadbare sheets, but at least it was something. It was still astonishingly comfortable for her aching body. Something cold burned into her neck, and she lifted her head, feeling two claws on her necklace instead of one. How odd.
A tired-looking Numair was holding her hand in both of his, sitting tensely in a rickety chair beside the bed. Safe and alive. When Daine lifted her head to meet his eyes, he smiled. He lifted her hand and gently pressed his lips to her fingertips. "Don't you ever scare me like that again, magelet." She could tell he was controlling his voice very carefully.
"How many times have you said that?" Daine replied, trying to smile too. Her mind felt sluggish, and her thoughts mixed and melded into each other until it was very hard to distinguish what she wanted to say. Kitten, Alanna, the dragon…. She sighed, looking back at Numair. "I'm just going to keep getting into danger, you know that."
"Only too well."
Daine laughed, his presence making her heart lighten, like it always did. Numair smiled up at her too, reaching out to brush hair away from her face. Daine's skin tingled as his fingertips brushed her cheek softly. But now, with the consciousness, the memories were returning too, and that meant questions.
"What happened?" she asked quietly. Daine shifted her body so she could lay on her side, facing Numair and ignoring the protests from her stinging ankle. "Shouldn't you be resting? You drained yourself, you were hurting - "
"I'm fine," he said quickly, kissing her forehead. "It's been three days, Daine. I've rested."
"Shh. The healers will have my head if they think I am preventing you from adequate recovery." Numair slipped his hand down to cover her mouth, effectively stopping her next irritated and loud response. He leaned forward, pressing a kiss to her cheek. Somehow his arms were under her back, supporting her as she tried to sit up a little. Daine slid her arms around his neck and hugged him tight, breathing in deeply. In the back of her mind, she felt animals outside the Legann walls, repairing nests and burrows that had been destroyed by the battles. But they were mostly safe – so there couldn't have been too much damage, could there? Not to her friends, or Legann?
She tilted her head so she could whisper in his ear. "I'll stay quiet if you tell me what's happened. Everything."
A sort of sigh escaped his lips, and Daine realized how tired he still must be, even after three days. She leaned back onto her pillow, reluctantly taking her arms from his neck, and felt Numair's arms pull away as well. But he kept his hand around hers, rubbing his thumb over her fingers.
"Everyone's safe, if a little shaken," he began, and instantly a huge weight lifted off Daine's shoulders. "Alanna, Kitten, they're both all right. Kitten's wings will take some healing, and Alanna's furious with herself for fainting, but she will get over it. Jon, Thayet, Tkaa, and Rikash all made it through. Onua's hurt, but she's going to be fine in a few weeks. Injured arm. Caynn and Corus are safe. We don't have to concern ourselves about immortals any longer. At least - not as much."
Numair sighed again, and Daine's heart ached at the anxiety in his eyes. His voice was tired and sad. "When the dragon disappeared, so did a lot of immortals. It's just like we thought – they just had no motivation to fight once they could sense that their leader had left them. But unfortunately, the hole in the barrier is still open. Whichever immortals are unintelligent enough to pass through are going to be as dangerous as ever."
"How did that happen? The dragon, I mean. How – how did I – we – get rid of him?" Daine shook her head, trying to think. "I never had any idea what I was doing, you know. I just saw Alanna fall – and then you were in pain. I just did whatever came to me." Meeting his eyes, she felt ashamed for some reason, like she should've come up with some sort of logical plan.
But his gaze was understanding. "You were brilliant, magelet. You nearly killed yourself - but you were brilliant."
Daine didn't respond, unsure if she should apologize or thank him. Numair kissed her forehead. "The way magic works," he began softly, "is that everything has to be balanced - you know that. And a balance includes a sort of connection. In this case, a connection between the realms."
Daine nodded. She could follow what he said about magic only about half the time, but she was getting better at understanding. Slowly.
"In this case, it wasn't a one-for-one trade sort of balance, like some magics need. There had to be a powerful and physical connection between the realms in order to send the dragon home against its will. When you said balance, I remembered what we needed."
Numair's eyes darkened, making Daine remember too: the pain she had seen. She bit her lip, only to feel the tender spot where she had already drawn blood three days before. Pushing herself into a more upright sitting position, Daine brushed her lips across Numair's rough, unshaven cheek. "Keep going."
"You should be resting."
"I am. Keep going."
The mage sighed. "At first, I was the connection. I was connected to the dragon by my magic, I was a physical part of this world, and I had enough power to serve as a connection on my own. But when you touched the dragon, your wild magic created a stronger bond, and so it was going to take you. You had less power in your magic, but it was a much, much stronger bond, both in terms of the nature of your power and the physicality of you placing your hands on the dragon."
A few terms were starting to escape Daine's knowledge now. "So it was going to take me," Daine clarified, "but then – then I fell, and my blood got on the dragon's claws - "
"You have no idea how lucky you are, Daine," Numair said with a bittersweet smile. "How lucky we are, really. When you see your father, you should thank him."
"My father?" Daine asked, completely lost. Paying attention was almost not worth it.
"Your blood was the connection. You have the blood of a god in you – and so that alone was powerful enough to be the connection. The essence of your wild magic was contained in your blood as well. All together, even those first few drops were powerful enough to send the dragon home. There wasn't any need for more."
"Oh." Daine looked down at her leg under the sheets. A little embarrassing, sure, but she was all right now. No lasting damage; nothing hurt. "And you – and you were okay? Kitten, and Alanna too?"
Nodding, the mage shifted his long body so he was leaning back on the tiny wooden chair, stretching his out legs parallel to her cot. He didn't let go of her gauzed hand. "Yes. The strength of the spell drained Alanna's Gift faster than she could keep up with it. In a way, though, it was lucky, because it removed her from dragon's list of targets."
"Bet she hated that, though."
"She was absolutely livid," said Numair, looking at Daine sidelong with a nod and a grin. "And Kitten – Kitten must have learned something from Tkaa, I don't know what, but somehow she helped push the dragon back wither whistle. Maybe it was an inherent talent. It was her power with minerals, too, that kept one of the dragon's claws here." He reached out and picked up Daine's necklace, inspecting the new claw. Drops of dark blood were scattered over the silver, and they didn't come off when the mage rubbed his thumb roughly over them.
"Where are they? Kitten, Alanna, Onua; where is everyone?"
"Helping with repairs and the injured. There's a lot to do. Onua's sleeping in here." His voice took on a different tone now, clearly irritated. "Jon initially didn't want to let me stay in here. He said I had to do such trivial things such as eating and sleeping."
"That's good to know. I'd be a bit scared if I thought there was no one to look after you if I was gone."
"I can take care of myself."
"Course. Of course," Daine said. They grinned at each other, Daine feeling a light warmth spread through her body. She had missed his smile; the one he reserved just for her. "I want to see everyone," she said suddenly. Not thinking, she turned herself around and threw her legs out to the side, the cold stone floor sending shivers through her feet.
Numair leapt up, hands on her shoulders, shocked. "Daine, what in the Black God's name do you think you're doing? You've been unconscious for three days, and your leg hasn't - "
But nothing hurt. Daine frowned; she was on her feet, and she couldn't be anywhere near fully healed yet. The healers were supposed to conserve their energy. She shifted to put her weight only on her left side. Nothing.
Numair looked astonished. "You're not in pain?"
"No," Daine said, as mystified as ever when it came to unusual occurrences. "Nothing at all."
Wordlessly the mage knelt down, his hands gentle as he rolled up the bottom of her loose breeches – Daine supposed the healers had gotten her fresh clothes – and unwound the bandage around her ankle. Daine watched carefully; there was no blood, and still no pain. Eventually the thick white linen fell away, revealing the pink skin of her ankle and a thin scar, running vertically, about the length of the hand that was brushing over the tender skin. Speechless, Numair unwound the gauze from her burned hands, too – and Daine saw that they were the same as ever, soft and pink, but healed.
"Well," Daine stated simply, stumped but not particularly interested. "That's that, then. I want to see everyone."
She started to head towards the door. But, not entirely unexpectedly, Numair stopped her again, putting his hands firmly on her shoulders. "Daine, even if you can walk and had your injuries miraculously fully healed, you are still exhausted. You've got to rest. Promise me?"
"I've been asleep for three days. How tired could I be?" she said innocently. Lifting her head to meet his gaze, Daine studied his familiar face - warm, dark brown eyes; raven hair tied back, a few strands falling over his face; a long nose; and two pale scars crisscrossing over his cheek. With a hidden grin, Daine ducked under Numair's arms, darting to the side and making a dash for the simple plank door.
The young wildmage let out a laugh. But just as she was reaching out for the metal door-handle, strong arms caught her from behind, spinning her into the air and away from the only way out. So close!
"Numair," Daine complained, but she was smiling despite herself. She put her hands on Numair's shoulders to hold herself steady in the air. "I'm fine, see? You've roughed me up like this and I'm still okay. I just need to be in the air, somewhere I can actually breathe. And Kitten's probably going mad and annoying the cook so much that she'll get banned from the kitchen forever and have to sit on the ramparts alone with Tkaa. Starving."
Numair just laughed, shaking his head, and his breath brushed over Daine's neck and collar, making her shiver pleasantly. His arms slid down to her waist and held her closer so that her toes were barely brushing the ground. Daine rested her head against his strong chest, feeling his heartbeat; he left a soft kiss on the top of her head.
All together, she didn't think she had ever felt warmer in her entire life.
"Sorry to interrupt, Daine, Numair, but I think someone wants to see you - "
Daine's eyes flew open and she turned her head so quickly that her neck cramped. Rubbing it, she winced at the sight of Queen Thayet, staring at them with an expression of barely suppressed laughter. Behind her, Numair's body froze and she guessed he, too, was staring at the queen. Knowing him, in distress. But before either he or Daine could speak, a small explosion attacked Daine's legs, whistling and trilling like an angry squirrel. Except about a hundred times louder.
"Kitten," Daine said exasperatedly. She slipped out of Numair's arms and knelt to hold the dragonet, grateful for the distraction. Her cheeks were flushing under the queen's knowing eyes. Not that she minded if Thayet knew, really, but she couldn't help wondering – there was so much at stake, on either side. Shaking her head quickly, Daine turned back to the demanding dragonet, dropping a kiss on her scaly nose. "You silly little dragon, did you think we would leave you? We've been away from you too much lately." Daine paused, making sure Kitten was looking her in the eyes. "You all right, Kit?"
The dragonet's wings were bandaged, but Daine knew that wasn't the biggest problem. Daine could see the sadness in the dragonet's eyes. But Kit's scales turned a cool blue, and she purred, rubbing her nose against Daine's palm and Numair's legs. The mage bent and patted her on the head, throwing an awkward glance back up at Thayet, who grinned mischievously.
"Come on, Daine," the queen said, titling her head back, her eyes glittering with amusement. "Everyone would love to see you. I'm assuming you're feeling up to it, He wouldn't let you out of bed if you weren't, after all."
"I tried," began Numair, but Daine cut him off.
"I'm fine," she said, picking up Kitten and starting towards the door. "I don't know how, but I'm fine." Her leg didn't even twinge. She felt tired, but not exhausted. As she left, Numair following a little ways behind her, the queen caught up with her and bent to speak in Daine's ear.
"You are a very, very lucky woman, you know that?"
Daine flushed. But she knew what Thayet meant, and the queen kissed her cheek as they left the infirmary, then spoke loudly so Numair could hear. "Don't get too caught up with each other that you forget to help with the repairs."
"Of course not," muttered Numair, throwing Daine a grin.
As they passed through the courtyard Daine took in everything that had changed at Legann. Dust and rubble was everywhere, and one wall was crumbling and broken, the large rocks cracked straight down the middle. Blood littered the floor and stones, and an unpleasant feeling crept up her spine; she could tell that the corpses of the immortals will still outside the castle. Probably a few stray, living Stormwings were there, too, taking advantage of the unguarded human bodies. Without a doubt, that they had a massive amount of work ahead of them. But through the pain and death there were cautious smiles full of relief, and Daine heard a whistle and turned around, seeing George waving with one arm around Alanna's shoulders, who looked tired but healthy. The Lioness gave her a grin.
Daine's heart filled and she waved back, jabbing Numair in the side to make sure he caught sight of them. Near the west wall she saw the King, talking to a common soldier, and Tkaa and Rikash were conversing on top of the tower. She even saw Zek, wrapped around the basilisk's shoulders. Everyone who wasn't injured was helping; it didn't matter who they were.
"Come on," she said suddenly to Numair. Daine grabbed his hand, turning to face him. "I have somewhere I want to go."
"Where? We can't leave the castle - "
Ignoring his protests, she pulled him over to the west wall, and up a familiar, dark staircase until they were on top of the same small tower they had been on what felt like ages before. Below them, the ocean stretched out, pale, sun-lit, and glittering, dotted with ships and debris. Daine recognized the ship Alanna had used to reach their sandbar, probably the same one that took them home. Seagulls and dolphins called out to her across the wind, and Daine smiled and replied, sending out her voice to every animal she could reach. She was connected to everything. The wind on her face, the smell of the sea – she was back where she belonged. With Numair and the People and freedom.
Another scent suddenly reached her, one that reminded her of Snowsdale, for some odd reason. But only the good parts of Snowsdale – memories of home, of her mother. It was an herb her mother once used to heal deep wounds and infections. Looking down at her leg and hands, Daine smiled. Her parents did care for her, after all. Godly influence was everywhere in her life – her blood, the claws on her necklace, even her magic. She felt a warmth around her, like a parent's loving embrace.
"Are you looking forward to going back to Corus?" Numair asked. "When all the work here is done?"
Turning to look at him, Daine laughed, feeling happier and more whole than she had in ages. "Of course! I'll get to see Cloud and Tahoi, and train with the Riders again, right? And spend time with the People. I've missed them all so much. And even Kalasin and the kids."
Numair laughed too, stepping up beside her, placing his elbows on the worn stone wall, and staring out across the sea with his chin in his hands. Daine leaned against his arm, closing her eyes and feeling the sun on her skin. The ocean waves were relentless and calming. "Numair," she murmured softly, her heart beating a little faster than normal. "Will you – will you still teach me when we go home?"
She blushed. Numair glanced sideways at her. "Teach you?"
Daine shrugged. "Still give me lessons, and all. I know there might not be much more about wild magic. But I still don't know all the myths and stories of Tortall, or any of those things people here learn in early school." Looking up, the wildmage let herself smile a little. "I still want to spend time with you."
The sound of post-war repairs and the ocean waves pounding against stone drifted over them, but in their world it was quiet. Daine studied Numair's face, from the dark warmth in his eyes to the criss-crossing scars on his cheek, an everlasting gift from Ozorne. Numair titled her chin up, meeting her eyes, and softly – deliberately – he kissed her, his lips lingering sweetly.
It was the time to be impulsive. Daine grabbed his shirt, pulling him to her, fully aware of the pressured feeling in her chest. Love, she reminded herself, smiling widely, as Numair's arms settled around her slender shoulders. He pulled away first, his eyes dancing with surprise as their breath mingled, faces inches apart. In the back of her mind, Daine was aware that they were in full view of the entire castle; anyone who happened to look up. It didn't even matter.
"Teach me?" she murmured. Questioning.
There was a pause. Numair's arms slid to her elbows, and she breathed in sharply, still gazing into his eyes.
"If we don't get distracted."
Daine grinned against his lips as Numair kissed her again, strong and certain.