Live a life
Not a shadow
Don't let your memories shape tomorrow
Because you don't even know what's going to happen today.
-- Kitty Ryan, 2003
Part Three of Three
Genre:Romance/Humour/ a touch of poetry
Authors Note:I know how disgustingly irritating it is to have an author proclaim that their work sucks when they publish it here. So, I'm not going to do that. I also, coincidentally, don't think this sucks. I do, however, think it is an indulgence, which contains more than the healthy level of smaltz and fluff. However, a few people (*looks at Ruth, pointedly*) wanted me to put this up. So I have, and you've been warned. Also, as well as being a spin-off of Focus, Volney Rain's family has turned up here courtesy of Hundreds of Colours; Millions of Shades. Go on: read 'em both. You know you want to…*review harpy mode*
On the morning of Midwinter, a man awoke to the sound of birds.
Birds, of course, were a normal thing to hear of a morning, or an afternoon for that matter. But--a bleary eyed Numair sat up as the logical part of his brain began to work --they didn't usually sing in harmony.
One of the birds--they were all, it seemed, sparrows, this one with a white dot on its head - stopped singing, and picked something up -- dropping it on his lap. The little creature then rejoined the chorus, watching Numair with beady black eyes as he gently picked it up, opened it, and read:
I'm sure you're as sick as I am of people complaining about your strange idea's of time management --'specially in the morning. I thought these friends of mine would be a lovely thing to wake up to; and always at the right time. If you'd like them to stop singing all you have to do is ask (politely!) But be warned, if you go back to sleep again, they'll peck you.
And another thing: I'm also thoroughly tired of your wonderful, long-suffering horse being a martyr and putting up with your ideas of riding. A very good handbook should be found in the top, left-hand compartment of your clothes chest.
Midwinter Luck to you, love. May these careful plans on my part help in making your New Year a bright one.
Post Script: Have a look at your door when you get the chance, will you?
Well, that was…unexpected.Numair thought, dark eyes skimming over the small piece of parchment to make sure he'd read the thing right. But, then again, perhaps it wasn't. The mage smiled, shrugging off the bedclothes and swinging his legs around to hit the floor.
On the morning of Midwinter, a young woman--disguised as a hump in the middle of a bed - awoke to the sound of furious knocking.
"Mmpheh?" The hump moved slightly--scattering animal's right and left. "Go…'way!"
The knocking continued, "no."
"Miri…go back to bed."
"Don't want to."
With agonising slowness, the hump arose. Revealing a slight young woman in a nightdress, with sleepy blue-grey eyes and her hair sticking out at all imaginable angles. With a groan, Veralidaine Sarrasri threw all her safe, warm coverings on the floor and--almost falling out of her bed--stumped towards the door. "This'd better be good, Miri," she muttered, flipping the latch. Then staggered back as a pair of freckled arms threw themselves around her neck.
"Daine: that sad, sad attempt at poetry next to my bed was a bloody awful thing to wake up to," Miri said loudly, disentangling herself and walking into the room. "You have no taste in Midwinter gifts at all.
"Oh?" Daine, despite herself, had to grin. "You seemed so interested in my poetry last night."
"When you were going to give it to someone else!"
"Come on, it wasn't that bad."
Miri snorted. "'And on this Midwinter morn' so fine, two people! (A boy and a girl) said things divine, for that is a rhyme!' Do I need to recite any more? I have five pages of it, and if it's the only way to convince you of your inability --"
"All right, all right! It's fair terrible."
"Terrifying, you mean."
Daine sniffed, turning her back on the green-eyed girl. "And to think," she said wonderingly, "I was going to give you a proper Midwinter gift."
"Don't think - do."
The Wildmage said nothing in response to this, but simply rolled her eyes, and turned her back on her friend and bent down over a large teakwood chest that had taken up residence near the door, and started to fiddle with the lock. Miri whistled.
"Has Numair seen that particular view of you, Daine? That would be enough of a Midwinter gift on it's own, you know. Men appreciate that sort of thing."
"Go and get a horse to step on you," said Daine, opening the lid of the chest. "The sight of you hopping about in pain would be something I'd appreciate. Aah! Here we go…" Smiling, Daine straightened up, holding a small drawstring bag--which Miri immediately snatched out of her hands.
"Ooh, pretty!" She said, looking at the bag. "What are those things printed on it?"
"They're giraffes," said Daine, grinning. "I got the bag from Carthak, ages ago now, you remember? It's what's in the bag that counts."
"You think I don't know that, Salmalìn?"
Daine glared, "Sarrasri. The moment--if it ever comes--I decide to change my name, I'll tell you."
"No, you won't. You'll keep it from me for spite, and we both know it."
"Just…open the bag."
"You really ought to try swearing sometime, Sarrasri," said a suddenly reflective Miri, as she gently tugged open the bag. "It really is bloody libera-- Daine!"
Daine allowed herself a smile. "Oh," she said. "Really?" She just opening her mouth again to comment on how Miri had abused her so harshly. How she had been cut to the quick concerning her taste in gift's only ten or so minutes before; when her friend flung her arms around her neck again, sending her stumbling backwards into the bed. The only thing she said then was a small sound, which is best written as "ghni…"
Miri held 'it' reverently in her hand, watching as it caught the early morning light. A thin silver bracelet made up of tiny links, with a collection of charms spaced evenly along it. A dolphin; a seagull; a fishing boat, a starfish and--for some reason--a cat. Examining each link and charm with the utmost care, the girl slipped it on her wrist and hugged Daine for the third time that morning, very gently.
"So, you like it then?"
"Of course I do, you lummox, I adore it. Now," Miri changed her tone from enraptured to a conspiratorial whisper, "what did you get Numair, then?"
Daine told her.
There were many loud exclamations.
"I am exceptionally glad that you are happy with my humble work, Mr Peregonis. The next time you are in Tortall you must come again, mmph-hmph?"
Volney Rain, who had been up since down, waved the young, satisfied member of the Provost's Guard out of his home, between the brewery and the apothecary of the Middle City, and smiled. It was good that people liked his work, these days. It was a nice feeling on a Midwinter morning--however freezing. At least the gale had gone its merry way. As soon as the old man had closed his door, he went to one of windows, pushed aside a canvas, and looked out. The messenger birds hadn't arrived yet, it seemed. Volney Rain looked away again, and gently replaced the canvas. Well, I have all day to wait. "Mmph-hmph."
On the morning of Midwinter, a pallid, apathetic Evin Larse was woken up from dreams of Skinners and Stormwings and screams and death, by a voice he knew far too well.
"Commander Larse!" The voice echoed through hallways and bounced off tiles, it made serving girls shriek and it entered the young man's head with as much force as a weighted hammer. "Ri-ight! Times past I could get your slow and uninspiring arse out of bed faster then you could complain, and that was no mean feat." The man leered at the blond youth, looming over him all the while. "And I can do it again, hear?
Evin groaned. "I'm not a trainee, Sarge. What are you doing in my room."
"Your room?" Sarge roared, "Oh no my boy, this isn't your room. It's a room you currently occupy at the Rider's expense! You belong in a tent!"
"I hate tents."
"Well, lambkin, you belong in one. You're a Rider."
"--A Rider! A Rider in command, Mithros help us, and your not going to get anything done lazing about!"
"I quit, remember?"
"If you mean that pitiful letter of resignation you put on Buri's desk…"
Evin put his head in his hands, and Sarge put an arm around him, letting him weep.
Miri, flushed and happy, left Daine's room after half-an-hour of gushing. The bracelet glittered beautifully on her wrist, and she loved the world. When an errand-boy ran headlong into her halfway down the corridor, she gave him a silver Noble and a pat on the head. There would be know riding through layers of muck today, no need to spur on an exhausted horse or sleep in a cave. Miri lived for the holiday season. It was only when she came to her own quarters in the Rider's Barracks that she remembered she wasn't sharing her favourite week of the year with everything she could have wished.
So, when Sarge came out of Commander Larse's room, he saw Miri waiting on the threshold, stone box in hand, and let her in.
She didn't come out of there for quite a while.
But when she did, she was smiling. Even though the box remained un-open, and her name was no closer to being changed.
Daine had just got her bootlaces tied when the tiny, grey-eyed errand-boy knocked on the door.
"Letter t'Mistress Sarrasri, if it pleases yeh. From Master Sal'mlìn"
The young woman smiled, and opened the door. "Thank you, Kerry."
As the boy left, Daine made sure he was five coppers the richer.
After reading the letter, she wished she'd made it fifty.
"Did you give it to her, Kerry?"
"Aye, I gave 'er t'message, sir."
Numair smiled broadly, and fished out a gold Noble. "Here you go, lad. You deserve it."
Kerry Livensson had never been so rich in his life.
I could have a feast, with all this,he thought happily, skipping off back to the kitchens.
Numair, meanwhile, was going over the letter he had written in his mind. He remembered every word, and quietly hoped she would, too.
Imagine a scene straight out of the desperate pages of the romance section of your local bookshop. Imagine the tall, dark, handsome man and the pretty, slim woman with the most beautiful eyes in the world. Imagine hands, and mouths and a strong regret on the part of the man that he'd put his shirt on that morning.
Too happy, uncomplicated and romantic to believe?
However, in the case of these two, this Midwinter, it was reality.
"You didn't mean everything you wrote! You didn't!"
Smiling warmly, Numair leaned down to kiss Daine's eyelids. "So, you liked it, then?"
The girl shrugged out of his grip, to throw a pillow at him. "Oh…you…"
"Oh me, what?"
"You impossible, Trickster-cursed…wonderful…"
Numair kissed her again, properly this time. "Midwinter Luck, lo--"
"--Don't say it!"
"Why ever not?"
"You haven't go my gift, yet."
"And you're going to remedy that, so I can kiss you again?"
Daine smiled, blushing a little. "More than that, I hope."
Bemused, the greatest mage in the world allowed himself to be lead by the hand out into the main corridor. Where he saw that something very strange had been done to his door. A new name had been engraved into the brass plaque on the door, looking all clean and new and shining brightly.
It was a name he knew very well indeed.
In the end, Daine had to tear his eyes away from it, so that he could look at the real thing. "Midwinter Luck, love."
It was the evening, and no message had come. Sadly, Volney Rain started to lock his doors and windows, and put his favourite pen back into its case. There was nothing for him to reply to, with it.
Tiredly, he set about bolting the last window. The wind was cold, though the gale had passed, and one could never be truly safe in these lawless times, even a harmless madman like him. Thoughts of Numair, and of the little velvet box flitted though his mind. At least one of us has come up in life since we first met, he thought idly, trying to block out images of back streets and collapsing over bars in disreputable taverns, and being hit by ill-used juggling balls as he tried to sleep.
Stop dreaming, old man. Let Midwinter be special for the young ones. You can't paint when you're bitter.
Feeling utterly depressed, but seeing sense in his internal dialogue, Volney turned away from the window.
Eh?He turned back again, quickly enough to make his back complain. He knew that voice.
"We gonna see Zio Volney, Mama? We gonna see my Zio?
The voice was thin and piping, slightly distorted by the wind. A child's voice: followed by a deep, musical laugh that he hadn't heard in years.
"Of course we are, mio bambino. Even though he has done niente to deserve it."
"You gonna yell at him, Mama?"
"Yes. But I'm going to hug him first."
Volney Rain ran to his door, cursing his slow hands at the lock, and let his family in.
The place in which this story is set, and the characters within it, are the creations of one Tamora Pierce, I understand and respect this and do not claim them as my own. The poem, and Volney Rain's family, are mine and are to be treated as such.