Sorry for Daine's meltdown and all, I'm still experimenting with characters. Again the characters may be be weird because of my own story characters. Also thanks to Sarcastic Rabbit for betaing.

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Chapter 15 Refuge

Numair sighed for the hundredth time that day. Instead of the comfortable silence in which he and Daine usually traveled, their journey was awkward. Neither had spoken much since the night in his room two days ago.

Daine saw pain and sadness as weaknesses and was shamed by her display of emotion. The mage, on the other hand, was busy trying to figure out how to bring a heartwarming smile to her beautiful face.

Maybe discussing the topic was what they needed to do.

"You know Daine, it's completely natural: the thing with your animals getting smarter."

Daine lost her frown and stared at him, confused.

"I have a theory."

"You always have a theory," she interjected with a smirk.

"Quite true," Numair amended. "Anyway, I was looking up some texts in 'The Chronicles of the Banjiku' and 'Mythology of Magics: The History of Different Gifts.' This is really quite a fascinating book, since you can learn a lot about how the different aspects of magic split into--"

Her cough startled him out of his ramblings.

"Anyway, my theory is that since it is Wild Magic, you can't help your effect on the animals. I would assume that Brokefang becoming smarter has to do with your blood. This alteration of animals who come into direct contact with Wild Mages is mentioned by Boazan the Sun Dancer, whose eagle could speak ten languages after drinking his tears. So it makes sense that with your magic's nature, the animals that you come into contact with will be smarter."

"But I hurt them," Daine whispered.

"It won't hurt them," he reassured her. "You help them, actually. There are legends describing.... super animals that hunt with incredible skill and are impossible to find. Your wolves are actually better off than others of their species since, from what you have told me, they probably won't starve and can defend themselves."

"But Brokefang was so unhappy and scared when I saw him," Daine countered.

Numair shrugged in reply and pulled his long nose. "I'm afraid there is nothing we can do Daine. It may have been the suddenness of the knowledge, as he did ingurgitate--"

"Inga, inurgy, ingu-what?" Daine looked adorable when trying to use big words.

"Ingurgitate: it means to consume or, in this case, to eat or drink. Now, seeing as how your wolf friend did consume your blood, this increase in intelligence would be much more rapid as opposed to, say, the palace animals, to whom you merely speak." He had noticed in his stays at the palace that many of the animals were quite intelligent. "Have you ever heard them complain about their new way of thinking?"

Daine scowled slightly at being beaten. "No." She stayed quiet for a moment, then smiled. "So they'll be alright?"

"All of the animals are fine: better than fine. As I said before, there is mention of animals that hunt incredibly well and are impossible to track; they are very smart..."

He stopped, realizing that Daine had dismounted in a clearing on the side of the road. Apparently she had tuned him out. He really had to pay more attention.

He was lifted out of his musings by Daine's hand brushing past his and grabbing Tang's reins. Kitten, eager to get out, jumped out of Daine's saddle bag and started running around the clearing.

Knowing his job, he quickly lit a fire and put the noodles on top to start cooking. The young dragon stared up at him with big amber eyes until he relented and slipped her a piece of jerky from his breeches pocket. She crooned and curled up in his lap.

"She really likes you." Daine smiled at him from across the clearing. Her slender hands brushed down Tang rhythmically, working out the dust. "You're like her Da."

Numair stared down at the nearly-asleep dragon, who trilled her agreement softly and turned over. Trying not to disturb the reptile, he pulled the soup off of the fire and started spooning it out into bowls.

Daine reached out to grab her bowl of soup and accidentally brushed his hand with hers. The feel of her hand seared his skin and he dropped the bowl, the contents landing all over his shirt and an indignant dragon.

Kitten trilled and leapt out of his lap.

Daine stared at him, trying to hold back a laugh. She had good self-control: only a giggle escaped as he surveyed the mess. His breeches were clean since the contents had landed on Kitten, but his shirt was soaked in noodles and water.

Sighing, Numair started to unbutton his shirt. He glanced at his companion: she was beet red from trying not to laugh. She busied herself by cleaning up the campsite, something that she did when she was uncomfortable. He walked over to his saddlebag and pulled out another shirt.

When Numair returned, Daine had placed his shirt on a nearby rock to dry. She had also dished out more soup for them and was eating heartily, her cheeks still red.

"Sorry." Daine smiled awkwardly as she handed him a new bowl of soup. Numair sat down at the other end of the log and started to eat.

As soon as he put his bowl down, Kitten collapsed into his lap again and went to sleep. (

Daine cleaned off the dishes and stuffed them in a pack before relaxing against a log. "So these people we're escorting: who are they?"

Numair shrugged. "Academics, professors; maybe a few slaves and nobles, but Ozorne seems to have run out of royalty. Lindhall has left the rebellion in good hands."

"Rebellion!" Daine sat up fast and stared at him with wide blue eyes: beautiful eyes, Numair thought.

"Not a rebellion exactly; more of a resistance. They get people out of the country, mostly slaves, but sometimes a person is at risk for treason and they have to escape."

"Like you." Daine's voice was sad. Numair nodded solemnly.

"So you know a lot of these people."

"No, actually. From what I've heard, most of them have only graduated or been hired in the last few years. I'd already left."

"You've only been here a year."

"Before escaping, I spent four years in Ozorne's dungeons. They're-- horrifying. The cells are designed so that you can't use magic in them. For four years, it was like some part of me was stripped away. I think it was Ozorne's idea of fun to torture a person like that; to watch them break down in captivity. When I was finally released, I was so weak. They had to hide me so that I could actually survive."

Daine stared at the fire long and hard before whispering, "I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. Besides, knowing that I'm helping here in Tortall helps a lot, and so does all the extra training. I can now pretend to know what I'm doing!" he added with fake enthusiasm. "On top of being handsome and powerful, I can pretend to shoot a bow."

Daine grinned in spite of herself. "Good night, Numair." She moved over to where her bedroll was set up.

"Yeah, 'night," he replied; but Daine was already asleep.

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8/26/09

The end of another chapter, remember to review and check out Goldenlake (the link is on my profile.