REVISED VERSION posted on 7 APRIL 2010

A retelling of Wild Magic with a twist!

There was, Daine decided, a certain amount of clumsiness to be had when you were face to face with a legend. It didn't matter that the Lioness was two inches shorter, or that she talked with a gruffness that belonged to the hardiest of normal folk. When Alanna gazed at Daine in gratitude, the girl could only swallow an absent lump of saliva and feel like she was ten-feet-tall. "It was no trouble—"

Alanna smiled, and took her hand. "If you need anything, come to me. A place to stay, money, work—I don't care. If I'm not around, go to my husband." Gods, Daine thought, amazed at the extravagant golden band on the woman's ring finger. "Though, you're more likely to find him at Pirate's Swoop these days. When there isn't any action occurring in the realm, he'll be there with paper work."

"Or drinking with friends," Onua added. "The Baron enjoys the company."

Alanna snorted, as if annoyed by her husband's antics. "He claims it's a bore when I'm not around. Which is mad considering that he really has no time to laze around feeling such a thing in the first place." She shared a grin with Onua, and the K'mir woman said,

"Bored? You're aware that as soon as your back's turned, he shouts his freedom from the towers?"

Daine smiled politely, not understanding the comment. She wasn't privy to their lives back in Corus or Pirate's Swoop, and though the women spoke as if Daine was, it only emphasised the bitter truth that she had no home.

In a serious tone, the Knight looked at Daine. "I mean it. So promise me."

Daine nodded, not trusting herself to speak. A living legend was offering her, whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. The kindness even extended from her lord, or baron, husband. She wondered about what good she had done to deserve having Mistress Fortune favouring her so.

"Will you be heading further south?" Onua asked.

Alanna strapped on her gauntlets and secured Darkmoon's saddle. "No. I'll see the local magistrate, now that I have Arram's information. I'm also sending word to the King, to tell him about our visitors last night, and the Stormwings." Darkmoon butted Daine's shoulder affectionately one last time, giving her a farewell of his own. She returned the fondness with a healthy rub, until he moved away proudly once his mistress swung onto his back. Alanna offered Daine her hand. "I'll see you again, at the Palace. Take care of my friends, and take care of yourself."

"Safe journey, Lioness. Give that Sinthya-man a few lumps for me."

"I hope to do just that." Looking to the men, Alanna was greeted with a fully saddled entourage. "Forward!" Daine watched wistfully as the company galloped off. She had just encountered Alanna the Lioness, the only lady knight in living memory. It gave Daine a sense of renewed hope, knowing that an ordinary girl could become someone important.

I could get used to Tortall, she mused in elation, and headed back to mend some leatherwork repairs.

"That's the palace."

Daine observed the magnificent structure that crowned the highest point in Corus, and held her breath in awe. Even from here, she could spot – in the distance – a royal blue flag with a silver crown and blade, flapping impishly. It served as a solid beacon against the clear blue sky.

Numair sighed suddenly, his next words sounding worn with practice. For her sake, he put on a cheerful grin. "Welcome to Corus, Daine. This is the throne of the most controversial and eclectic monarchy in all history. You'll have fun, I can assure you that."

Seeing that a woman served as King's Champion, that vicious immortals ran around like forest animals, and that the most powerful sorcerer in the nation fussed over his hair as much as Daine herself did… the girl thought it wise not to debate Numair's assurance.

The woman before Daine was dressed simply in breeches and a shirt, but she turned them into the richest garments ever worn. Masses of her coal-black hair had been woven into a braid and coiled around her head. She was the most beautiful female Daine had ever seen, lovelier even than her Ma.

"There's bad blood in my family," she was saying. "I'm half-K'mir, anyway. You're a friend of Onua's?"

Daine stared a little longer than was probably civil. "I work for her."

"You're Daine." At Daine's slacked jaw, the woman smiled and nearly blinded Daine with its warmth. "Word travels fast here. You'll get used to it. Goddess knows I have." The woman's calloused hands gripped Daine's palms, easing the ball of tension in Daine's belly. People of this woman's refinement were usually noblewomen or princesses, or even goddesses—not that Daine had ever seen one in her thirteen years. The closest she had gotten to royalty was Alanna, whom, as Champion, was practically sitting on their laps.

"Let's go and eat," the woman said, patting her stomach. "I'm starving—you must be, too."

Daine agreed, suddenly feeling ravenous. She became conscious of the smell of freshly baked bread and strong salty soup. The woman's nose twitched, and they exchanged smiles. As they passed the fences, a dark-haired man of towering build approached them. "Another one," Daine whispered under her breath, her mind whirring at the many faces she'd met that day. Inspecting the newcomer, she noted the imposing chain-mail that draped his frame.

His grin was infectious, though. "You'd make my men sit up and focus, your highness. You haven't rethought my proposition?"

"To leave the Riders and ride with the Own? Never. And thank you, but stop. I'm a humble woman now."

"A queen you'll always be, Thayet. No matter how much you try to do otherwise." He bowed then, and received a slap to the arm, as well as a friendly hug.

"It's good to see you well. This last assignment took you away for the winter." Glancing at Daine, the woman grinned. "This is Sir Raoul of Goldenlake, Daine. He's the Knight Commander of the King's Own. Raoul, Daine."

"Ah, Onua and Numair's new conquest." Sir Raoul held out a gloved hand and winked. "How do you like Corus, Daine?"

Still stunned from the revelation that the woman beside her was the Queen, Daine rattled around in her brain for an appropriate reply. "Pleasant—if you like bizarre, sir. "

"Is that so?" He lifted his brows, seemingly finding her evaluation of particular interest. "How? And it's 'Raoul'. I don't like the 'sir', unless you're in trouble. Any friend of Numair's is a friend of mine."

"Yes, sir," she said anyway, to their amusement, and resolved to just be honest. "This is really a strange place! Knights who say call 'em by their first name and wizards that light tinder and Queens that run around dressed like real people—"

"It's not that bad," Sir Raoul protested, sending Thayet a smirk. "But I suppose with Jon up on the big chair, normal and peculiar do swap places."

Thayet shook her head and appraised Daine. "No wonder Alanna and Numair like you. You have a very unusual way of looking at things!"

Daine blushed; and hoping for a distraction, got one. Two boys, both of them running, skidded in front of Raoul, in time for him to mock bellow, "Gimlyn, you brute! Why aren't the two of you at lessons?"

The taller of the two – Gimlyn – smirked. "We heard you'd returned, Raoul. You promised a skirmish before you left. We're here to gather recompense."

Thayet hid a laugh behind her hand, while the younger boy squirmed. He was looking at Daine with curious grey-eyes when Raoul placed a heavy hand on either boy's shoulders. "You can demand payment after I've been fed. Now if you want that to happen quicker, you'll alert the cooks."

It took only one nudge before both boys twirled and dashed off, the younger one loudly concluding, "That must be her, Gim—Daine. And we should take the shorter path!"

Thayet reprimanded Raoul about not speaking to the boys in such a manner, but the Knight Commander only shrugged good-naturedly and bid them farewell. Daine, feeling dazed at all the attention, allowed the Queen to steer her through a door and into the Riders' chaos.

Daine cursed herself. Stupid, stupid girl! Why didn't I keep the blasted bow nearby? The Stormwings were closing in on her, and while grateful for the help of the horses and the dogs, she also feared for their safety. Zhaneh Bitterclaws was a menace, and her Stormwings could easily damage the weaker of Daine's defenders.

Moments later, arrows shot by Onua accompanied the sparkling black fire that arched towards the dark morning sky. Elegantly, they struck the Stormwings in their target with easy precision. Before Daine could sigh in relief, an additional flock of Stormwings crowed into the fight and her body locked in panic. How many of them were there?!

Darkmoon came then, saddled and trailing his reins. He leaped to seize a Stormwing by the leg, unafraid and invincible. Shaking his prize like a terrier, he snapped its neck. Other war-horses followed, and behind them, Sarge, in only a breechclout, ran with a fistful of javelins. Each time he threw, a Stormwing went down.

Daine could see their attackers being assailed in pairs. The extra help balanced the odds, but they were far from defeated. It was only when purple fire – Alanna's magic – entered the fray that Daine was able to collect a breath. The purple fire twisted around Numair's black lightning like a vine, dusting their enemies in half. Unexpectedly, a thunderous explosion of power overtook the commotion, and everyone – Daine, her companions, the Stormwings – covered their ears from the force.

The tortured shrieks of the enemy were trapped by brilliant blue magic, causing Numair's face to relax.

Daine could feel Numair's exhaustion, as if it were seeping through her own bones. The sapphire fire being produced in rays by the bearded man behind the fence was trouncing the remaining fiends in the air. Daine slumped out of exertion, her hand wiping the sweat from her forehead.

After exchanging a joke with Numair, who she was much glad to see again, she checked Onua. The K'mir woman was resting against Tahoi, looking beat, but thankfully free of injury. In front of Onua, Alanna leaned against the bearded man whose blue magic was fading. They must have been out riding when the attack happened, for both wore riding clothes.

Minutes later, Daine watched, entertained, as Darkmoon approached Alanna's bearded friend and butted his head against the man's chest. The notion knocked a resting Alanna from her perch and onto the ground. As the knight sprung up quickly, red-faced, the man laughed and Daine found Cloud nuzzling her in concern.

Numair rose beside her. "The nobles will complain that you got them out of bed."

"Will I get into trouble?"

"Let 'em complain," Sarge laughed, having heard. "It's good for them to be up in time for breakfast."

She carried out several tasks for the rest of the day, including thanking the dogs and horses who had come to her rescue, and helping Kuri to clear a ground-floor store-room. By suppertime, she was ready to collapse and roll into her bedroll, bow at the ready. She had learnt her lesson well, and even packed spare arrows. When her friends departed after their meal for lessons, Onua pulled her from the mess hall.

Daine protested when they went in the opposite direction to her room. "There's somebody who'd like to meet you," Onua explained. The woman knocked on a door and without waiting for an answer, pushed Daine in and followed closely behind. "I brought her. Are we late?"

"I just got here."

Daine, previously sleepy, was indeed now awake. The most handsome man she'd ever seen sat at the table, his eyes curious and attentive as he watched a servant place a freshly baked cake in front of him. While it was being sliced, he looked up at them with a grin, and Daine wanted to melt to the floor. Her young heart started beating loudly against her will, and she worried that the others would hear.

Standing to his feet, the stranger loomed over them a good head and shoulders. "You must be Daine," he said. "You may not remember me from before—you were busy."

Frowning, she focused her eyes on him intently, examining his blue-black hair and sapphire eyes. When her memory clicked, she inhaled sharply. "You were with Ala—Sir Alanna earlier, sir. You threw lightning." She had assumed he was much older, but seeing him now, his beard absent, she realised that she'd been sorely mistaken.

Her hands twisted nervously as he pulled out a chair for her. "That's right. Now help yourself to some dessert. Onua."

Two more servants entered, a bowl of cherries and a pitcher of juice being added to the table. "Your Majesty." They bowed deeply, and the man thanked them kindly before studying the cake. He took a few long seconds to decide which of the identical cake slices he wanted.

"Gods above! You're the King!" Daine didn't bother concealing her cry of shock as she jumped up.

King Jonathan of Tortall grinned, then waved his hand casually. "It's all right—please sit. Otherwise good manners say I have to get up again, and I'm tired."

As Daine sat, half-mortified and half-amazed, the door was flung open loudly. "You sound old, Jon," Alanna the Lioness said, strolling into the room without a care. "You should stand. You're the King—don't be so spoiled."

Onua winced at Alanna's remark, and poured a cup of juice for Jonathan in sympathy. Daine gaped when the Lady Knight plucked the cake slice from King Jonathan's hand and finished it in three large bites. The King went slightly pink in embarrassment, and Daine felt her heart go out to him… if it hadn't already.

Alanna picked up another piece, eyeing Jonathan and Daine in suspicion. "What? I'm hungry. I'll have you know that it's hard to eat when you have to maintain table manners in front of the court."

Daine thought she heard King Jonathan murmur, "Since when did you care about upholding etiquette?" but she couldn't be certain. The knight chewed thoughtfully before collapsing onto a spare chair. Alanna, Daine observed with amusement, sat like a boy. It was an effort just to comprehend how ridiculously real the woman was.

"You should be more reverent in the King's presence, Alanna." That was Onua, with a proposal that Daine felt could entice a glare or a lifted chin. Alanna chose to bare her teeth instead, especially when Jonathan inclined his head in agreement.

"Daine likes me just fine, sire. She doesn't insult me by hinting at the absurd."

"Only you would believe sitting like a lady to be absurd."

"I'm glad you know me so well." There was a wealth of smugness in Alanna's next words. "And look: Daine's smiling!"

Daine quickly pursed her lips and admired the cherries in her hand. They tasted very nice, if she said so herself, when accompanied by the sweet juice. The adults snorted, and sorting themselves, steered the conversation to a more serious topic. Numair joined them shortly, and Daine felt a low thrum in her gut, welcome and warm, at the concept that she was sitting at a table, sharing dessert and revealing parts of her story to the most influential characters in Tortall's politics.

And they wanted her, Daine Sarrasri, to aid them by means of her wild magic.

Buri was grumbling under her breath as they slowed. Daine wondered why Buri's packs were so heavy and visibly close to bursting, considering that the woman and Sarge had insisted on packing lightly.

The journey to Pirate's Swoop was leisurely, and Daine spent most of it riding alongside Numair. Somewhere along their track, Sarge impatiently took the heaviest of Buri's packs and attached it to his own saddle. Buri protested that she could carry them fine on her own, but his silent look had won out in the end. The nasty face Buri made discreetly behind the man's back had Numair and Daine in stitches as soon as he moved out of ear shot.

Daine and Buri made small talk, upon where Buri told Daine how she had come to Tortall with Thayet. "And then Thayet married, and started the Riders. The formal title is Queen's Riders, but since our queen is busy elsewhere, she's only a figure-head. Thayet, for all purposes, is commander-in-chief; the King thought it a fitting honour." Something personal passed through Buri's eyes, as if remembering the past. She shook it off right away and patted Daine's shoulder. "We're always glad to welcome youngsters like you."

As midday approached, the road narrowed to lead into thick forest that crowded them left and right. "I'll keep the Queen company. Stay alert," Buri advised, and trotted her horse forwards where Thayet and Alanna were leading.

Daine turned to Numair for clarification.

"Precautions are necessary. It's better to be prepared for any surprises that may jump out from the trees." Numair's eyes were trained around him carefully, and she knew that he'd feel a whole lot better if he could simply release the black magic from under his hands to form protective walls around their party.

Ahead, Alanna rode at the helm and barked orders to the riders; Thayet, Buri, and Onua flanking her. Daine frowned, but then shrugged. There was no use overthinking things. Instead, she made friends with Numair's patient gelding, Spots, and told him that he deserved a carrot for bearing with such an ungrateful rider. In the end, she even gave him one.

Pirate's Swoop stood fortified and daunting; it was a solid castle surrounded by impressive walls. The Baron of Pirate's Swoop evidently kept his home in fighting order, and Daine could see just how fitting it was that Alanna reigned lady over this domain.

"Welcome to Pirate's Swoop, Daine," Buri smiled, her horse being relieved of its burden as servants swarmed out into the courtyard. Numair and Onua stretched, their faces peaceful at finally having reached their destination. Men in gold-trimmed brown ran up to Thayet, bowing repeatedly as they spoke with her. Thayet signalled Buri, and the second-in-command turned in her saddle. "Riders, this way!" She and Sarge led the trainees to long, low buildings along the wall: stables by the look of one, barracks by the other.

Still in awe, Daine hurried to catch up with Onua. As she adjusted her bags, movement caught her eye: a flag being run up on one of the three towers. When the breeze caught it, she grinned: it was a gold lioness rampant, on a red field, the same as Alanna's shield. A brown flag decorated with a gold key whipped on its neighbouring tower.

"No flag for the Queen?" Daine asked.

Onua, hearing Daine's query, had the strangest look on her face. Daine bit her lip. Had she inadvertently asked something wrong?

"—bad enough that the whole palace knows where the training camp is, without crying it from the towers." That was Numair, whom, having sorted out his affairs, trailed behind them. "George has made this place strong, but why ask for more trouble? The lioness rampant is literally a red mark for enemy spies, or attack, for that matter. You don't need the royal flag for that."

Daine smirked, unsurprised. Alanna attracted more than enough trouble than Jonathan and Thayet probably would have preferred. Before she could voice this thought, additional action in the air had all three of them turning. The royal emblem ascended the final, and now occupied, tower. Blue and silver thrashed against the abruptly harsh winds.

Onua shook her head, and Numair whistled. "I guess I spoke too soon…"

"Of all the gods! Jonathan of Conte, you are a dead king!" Alanna's furious swearing could be heard in all corners of the fortress.

"Come, Daine. We've arrived at the right time." A newly excited Numair took her elbow in his large hands, pulling her away from Onua. "Have you got your battle armour ready?" he questioned. Her uncertain look made him chuckle.

Onua's previously bewildered face had cleared. Daine wanted to ask what the King had to do with a flag being raised for the Queen, but the wide smile the woman gave Daine was amused and fond—and completely sidetracking. "Oh, Daine. You aren't the first. I'm afraid you're in for a big surprise."

Come what may, Daine didn't feel too thrilled.

As they entered the stables, her attention swung immediately to a livid Alanna. The Lady Knight stood straight, her feet firmly planted apart. One hand clenched at her waist as the other pointed accusingly at the spectacular war-horse that loomed over her.

Darkmoon whined from his stable two doors down, but was ignored. Alanna was busy interrogating the black beauty with a gold mane and tail. Thayet and Buri, and several stable boys and servant girls stood around, watching with various degrees of interest.

"Where's your master?" the Lioness demanded. "When I lay my hands on him, he'll be wishing he knew the diff—"

"And what's this?"

The voice was strong and deep, successfully lifting the hairs on the back of Daine's neck. A tall man with brown hair and piercing eyes was leaning against the gate. He was dressed casually, but Daine knew his identity immediately: the Baron, Alanna's husband.

Alanna's face softened faintly, and an almost guilty expression flew across her face. The knight was about to retort—Daine was positive—when another voice came from the opposite entrance.

"This would be my fault, I suppose."

Jonathan of Tortall strode forward, and Daine's heartbeat picked up speed. He greeted everyone, with only the stable boys and maids bowing in return. His eyes stalled before bravely swinging to the now re-angered Alanna. Daine didn't blame him: she'd rather clean horse droppings than be on the receiving end of the Lioness' fury.

The King didn't waste time. "Lady Knight, spare Tempest. He's not as young as Darkmoon. We agreed that you would rein in your—feelings—until the object of your anger is in sight, and the dispute can be settled diplomatically."

"The object of Alanna's anger," Numair calculated, "would be you, Jon."

"Object of your anger?" the baron groused, and scoffed. "Nay, victim sounds more honest." Daine had to bite down on her lip hard to stifle the giggle that was threatening to erupt. "I'm George, my lady," he whispered, winking at Daine. "Baron of this charming practice court." She shook his hand gladly.

"I'm Daine."

"This object is in sight, I assure you." Alanna's violet eyes were pointed right at the King. He didn't look very happy. "Why aren't you on Progress? You've made the Swoop a prime target for—"

"Settle down, you barbarians!" the baron ordered. "I don't wish to hear any more. My lovely wife is home, and I'd like to celebrate that with no troubles, if you don't mind."

Alanna huffed and crossed her arms. George straightened before curving an arm around a coyly smiling Thayet. With a flourish, he pulled her into his embrace and turned them, so his back faced their audience. Applause and teasing filled the air as he kissed her in earnest. When they finished, it was tough to tell whose hazel eyes were gleaming brighter.

"Quite a show, wasn't it?" Numair asked Daine, shaking his head.

Daine, beyond confused and fairly scandalized, managed a dry "Does anyone in this land act like they're supposed to?" before everything went black.

When Daine awoke, she was lying on a bench with Numair's cloak bundled under head for a pillow. Numair, unaware of her conscious state, was saying incredulously, "She raised the prices of mere silencing charms by that much? Shakith's tears! Whatever for?"

"She's not making any profit with them. She's in danger of losing her entire supply—for free—to one royal couple, who, I've been told, are adept at spectacular verbal matches in their chambers. She just hasn't the heart to tell them herself."

"So she asked you to do it then?" Alanna replied, her voice dismayed.

"Me?" Thayet asked, affecting an innocent tone. "I never…"

"You don't fool me, Thayet."

"Grandma Eleni really is upset about her silencing charms, Aunt Alanna. But she doesn't want to upset or offend you."

"You know, too, Kally?"

"Everyone does. Except for you—and Uncle Jon. Lia and Thom say you're the most oblivious people in the world."


"Daine?" A large hand slid under her neck to help her into a sitting position. Numair peered at her closely, and she blushed, finding it hard not to stare into his brown eyes and their tiny golden specks. A small, tense minute passed between them, before Thayet laid cool fingers to Daine's cheek.

"You're all right?" At Daine's nod, she let out a sigh of relief. "You gave us another fright! Not enough sleep, I think, and we travelled quite long. I doubt you'll be the only one. A hearty meal and a good night's sleep is the best remedy."

"Shall I tell Da that Daine's awake?" Daine focused on her surroundings to locate the new voice, and found a pretty girl fidgeting on her toes. She gave Daine a tentative smile, and Daine could match tell-tale hazel eyes and a proud nose. She returned the smile with one of her own.

Thayet replied in affirmation, and Kally flounced off, her long black ponytail swinging behind her. Daine's gaze strayed to Alanna's once Kally disappeared into the Swoop. In that instant, everything she'd built up in the past month was broken down—rearranged.

Odd pieces began making sense: the extravagant wedding band on Alanna's ring finger, the most controversial and eclectic monarchy in all history, those matching riding outfits on the morning of the Stormwing attack, I'll have you know that it's hard to eat when you have to maintain table manners in front of the court, Buri's heavily packed bags, a royal flag ascending, and but she doesn't want to offend or upset you.

It was clear now that Thayet was not the Queen that Daine had been serving. It had been Alanna all along.

The red-head shot her a grin. "Did George and Thayet overwhelm you?"

No, Daine thought. You did. "Something like that, your Majesty."

"Your Majesty?" Alanna repeated, distasted. "Perhaps you do need to eat. You've never used that before—please don't start now."

"I won't," Daine pledged, and crossed her fingers behind her back. No one had to know exactly how foolishly close Daine had come to mistaking the Queen of Tortall for someone else.

Relaxed, Daine waited for Sir Myles of Olau to seat himself comfortably in the chair opposite. A low fire burned in the hearth, and Skysong let out a contented burp from where she lay across Daine's lap. The dragon's eyes watched curiously as Sir Myles arranged the blankets around his granddaughter. Princess Marinie's big, blinking violet eyes watched Kit just as intently.

"Da, da, da, da," the baby whimpered, her chubby arms flailing and reaching for something out of her grasp. By now, Daine knew it was the eleventh-month-old's universal call for Jonathan.

Sir Myles hushed Mari, his beard tickling the baby easily into laughter. "We'll be going home tomorrow, little one. Your da will be close to follow."

Daine watched captivated, and pondered about her Grandda. "How long does Progress last, sir?"

"A month, mostly," he replied kindly. "Their delay this year wouldn't affect it, so I see no reason as to why Mari won't be reunited with her da before long." That explained the king's presence during the first week of the Riders' stay at Pirate's Swoop. Daine had speculated about that, understanding from Sarge that the Riders went on training camp at the same time that the king rode out for Progress.

Unexpectedly, the baby sat up in the knight's lap and caught Daine's attention. "Bab a nng g! Rugh rugh ba ye ye?" she asked.

Daine summoned her most enthusiastic expression—Mari made it so very easy. "Yes, princess! I'll be going with you tomorrow."

"Mg toot iki lee na hom na son, da da da ro brgn jyo. Fr cho!"

Daine went to reassure her princess. "I promise. And your ma and your da, too, have a room just for me in the palace." Daine refrained from telling the baby that she also had her own chambers set aside in Pirate's Swoop, as well as Numair's towers. She giggled then, knowing that Alanna had been right when she had said that her husband would do anything for Daine if she needed a place to live or work.

Mari grinned, satisfied that Daine and Skysong would also be at the Palace. Patting her grandfather's cheeks, the baby snuggled closer and closed her eyes.

Sir Myles whistled in admiration. "I'm certainly glad you'll be with us on the way home."

"She's easy to love," Daine confided, and blushed. "Her smile is enough to win me over."

"And so is her nonsensical talk. While I'm happy that Jon has finally given Mari the attention he never allowed himself to give to his older children, you're the only one besides him and George who can carry a conversation with her and not look a silly fool."

"I'm younger than you are," Daine said shyly, causing Sir Myles to snort out loud most uncharacteristically.

"That's what everyone's telling me lately." At Daine's yawn, he gave her an amused look and kissed Mari's hair gently. "Now, where were we?" He was referring, of course, to the unofficial history lessons he'd been giving her for the past three nights since his arrival. Sir Myles was vastly learned on Tortallan history and politics, and his storytelling was fascinating enough to have Daine disobeying Onua's orders for an early night.

"You'd just finished on the King's coronation, and the Dominion Jewel…"

"Ah, yes. The next historical, or moreso political, mark following that was Alanna's appointment as Queen. It came as a shock to court. All of them were under the impression that Jonathan was still courting Thayet and harbouring plans to bridge Sarain and Tortall through marriage. But once the heralds had—"

"Wait!" Daine cried, her interest piqued. She fought off another cursed yawn threatening to rise. "The King and Thayet courted? And then he chose to marry a knight? You aren't going to leave this story out, are you?"

It was impossible to tell what Sir Myles was thinking. After a calculating look, he shook his head. "But that's another, different sort of, and altogether long story."

"Please. And I have time, honest."

"I thought you wanted to know of Tortall's history?"

"They are making history!"

He scratched the back of his head, tamed merriment in his wise eyes. "I suppose I can. But only if you rest. We depart early in the morning—it shall be a tale for the long journey ahead."

"Great!" she grinned in triumph, but shook her finger sternly to remind him of his promise. Sir Myles chuckled and waved her off, just as Alanna was entering the room. The queen immediately ordered Daine to bed, complaining that she wished to avoid Onua's wrath. Daine complied happily, and fell asleep as soon as her head hit her bedroll. That night she dreamt of Tortall. She danced with dragons and mages and knights and princesses, and all the things that made up home.