Disclaimer: I disclaim the characters and setting.
A/N: I've noticed there are not many Maximum Ride cross Tortall stories. Well, I'm going to change that because I'm obsessed with both of them.
I'll try to write as in character as I can. I just re read this from the beginning, and it gets better trust me. More in character with longer chapters. Hope you decide to stick with this story.
Note: In this story, the Flock have never been to 'our world'. Now, I know that sounds crazy, but they weren't made by crazy, whack-job scientists – they were made by crazy whack-job mages.
Understand? Hopefully you do.
Yes, well, anyway, the Flock's characters and characteristics are all the same, well, meant to. My writing may stuff em up a bit.
Max and the Flock still need to save the world, they have the same powers.
Reviews and flames are invited,
Over and Out,
Numair frowned enviously at his wife, who was riding on Cloud, as if she were born in the saddle, like it was the most comfortable thing in the world, being on a horse. His horse, Spots, was used to his riders unco-ordination in the saddle, and was trying his best to help Numair along. It didn't help, though. Numair would rather be at home, in his tower, reading a good book or be on the couch in front of a warm fire cuddling with Daine then out in the cold on an uncomfortable horse.
"Don't look so glum, Numair," Daine said. She beamed at him and he felt his mouth respond to her smile without meaning to.
"Only you could be so comfortable on a horse, out in the cold, in the middle of winter," he said rather glumly. "I, however, being a sensible person, would rather be indoors in front of the hearth with a good, big, fire blazing."
Daine laughed at him. "I'll just have to warm you up tonight, won't I?" she teased. Numair blushed.
"Have you heard anything from the People?" he asked instead of responding to her teases. Lately the People had been coming from all over the Realm to see Daine with strange reports of Stormwings who were People. Daine had been anxious to see what was going on, and King Jonathon had approved her wishes to investigate this new oddity.
Daine's forehead creased in worry. "Yes, but its all much the same as before. Stormwings who are People. I have never heard of something like this before. I'm worried," she said, turning to look at Numair. "Have you found anything in all your books?"
Numair sighed. "No, Magelet. Sorry, but there's nothing of the sort mentioned anywhere. I can't even find myths or legends that mention anything like this. I've looked everywhere I can think of, but I haven't found anything."
It was getting dark now so the pair found a clearing with a stream nearby to set up camp for the night. Numair set out their tent and bedroll, before warding the camp. Daine rubbed down Cloud, Spots and Mangle while Numair made them both an evening meal and set up the fire. Once she was done, Daine went and sat down beside the fire to watch him work. He put the stew over the fire to cook and sat down beside his wife. She scooted over so her head rested on his shoulder; he wrapped his arms around her, breathing in the scent from her hair and sighed contently.
"I love you, Daine," he murmured. "My wife," he added in a whisper.
"I will never tire of hearing you call me that," she said. "Not ever."
"And I will never tire of calling you that, sweet," was his response.
Two days later they arrived at their destination – an out of the way piece of forest that was deserted apart from animals. Superstitious folk believed it to be haunted, and since they were the only village near the forest, they stuck to their beliefs and never entered. Upon hearing Numair and Daine's destination, they tried to warn the folk of the terrible creatures that dwelled there. The pair was not to be swayed though, and set off into the forest at first light the next day. The horses stayed behind at the village since the forest was much to thick for them to make passage.
"Shh, Numair," Daine called to her husband as they trudged through the undergrowth. Numair wasn't offended at her shushing him – it happened often, most of the time when he was in the middle of explaining something related to history or magic. Sometimes, when the People were talking intently to Daine and she needed to concentrate on them, she would shush him. He immediately cut off his sentence and stopped walking, since she had too.
Daine concentrated hard on what the hawk was telling her. When it was done reporting what it had seen, it flew off and Daine turned to Numair. Seeing his puzzled, concerned and loved filled expression, she sighed and told him what she'd heard from the hawk. "She said she was flying, looking for food for her nestlings when she saw the People-Stormwings flying overhead. She flew closer, but not to close, to get a closer look. She says their wings are feathers, not metal, and they smelt like the forest, not like how normal Stormwings smell. She said a male started to fly towards her so she flew back to her nestlings with the rabbit she had caught. According to the hawk, they didn't have sharp metal teeth like Stormwings, they looked completely like a Two-Legger, oh, sorry, a human."
"That almost sounds like a . . . a human bird?" Numair asked, frowning. "I don't think that's possible. With our cells having . . ." Daine tuned out the rest of his lecture. Instead of listening, she heaved her pack higher onto her shoulders, and set off into the forest again. Numair, still deep in his one-person discussion, followed suit.
Around midday, they stopped and ate a light lunch. They set off again, knowing they could only go so much further without returning to the village again.
When Numair said, "We'd cover so much distance if it weren't for this dratted forest," Daine stopped and slapped her forehead. They were dolts! Why hadn't she thought of this before?
"Numair, lets go back. We can rest up and head out again tomorrow," she paused, seeing his frown and reached up a hand to smooth it. "We can just fly over, first thing tomorrow. We'd cover much more ground; get a look at the entire forest, and save a lot of time. Besides, we're going to have to turn back soon."
"How very smart you are, Magelet," he said, grinning before bending down to press his lips to hers in a kiss.
She grinned up at him. "Only because I have the best teacher."
"Who might that be?"
"The Badger," she said, and grinning wickedly, leapt out of his arms to race through the forest like a deer back the way they had came. Numair had a moment to envy her agility before he crashed through the forest after her.
Cloud, Spots and Mangle eagerly greeted them upon their return to the small village. Cloud, even though she wouldn't admit it, was pleased to see Daine and the Stork-Man back with them safe. News among the animals had spread about the Stormwing People. They couldn't help but be a little bit worried for the Girl Who Is People when she went looking for this new oddity.
"You really ought to stay away from that forest – its haunted. It's not safe for a lady like you, and the mans a bit old to provide proper protection for you. Whats a pretty little thing like you doing with an old man like him, anyway?" a man from the village said to Daine the next morning when she announced that he shall mind the horses while they went into the forest again.
Numair flushed angrily, and Daine laid a hand on his arm. "I can protect myself well enough. I am a Wildmage. My husband here, Master Salamin, is a highly qualified and powerful Gifted mage. And he is no more older than you, thankyou very much. Now, excuse me," she said politely, and stepped around the man and walked out of the village, hand in hand with Numair.
She looked at her husband. His jaw was clenched – he was angry. She knew comments like that upset him, although they didn't mind her at all. "Numair," she said. He looked at her and she could tell by the fire burning in his eyes that he was very angry from what the man had said to them.
This will not do, Daine thought to herself. She stopped and took both of Numair's hands in her own. He looked down at her, expression fathomless. "Numair," she began again. "You really shouldn't let things like that worry you. You are not old in my eyes. I don't care what other people think, and neither should you. I know, and so do you, that you could protect me better than anyone else. You stop me from doing rash things; you help me in more than physical ways. I'd be lost without you," she said, and his expression softened. "We belong together. Nothing will ever change that." She thrust her chin out stubbornly and her eyes flashed as if she were challenging someone to defy her statement.
Numair felt his heart melt. He took her face in his hands and kissed her softly, then more roughly and passionately. She was his Magelet, his Daine, his wife, his Wildmage. She was his. Eventually, they broke apart, aware that they had things to do today. She straightened her hair and her tunic, which were ruffled after her kisses with Numair.
"C'mon, dolt. We've got business to do yet today," she said, gently whacking his arm. He cleared his throat, took her hand, and set off towards the forest. Once there they both shed their clothes and changed into their preferred bird shape – hers a golden eagle, his a hawk. They had decided not to fly from their camp in the village since the villagers were too superstitious and most definitely would kick up a fuss.
I hope we find these People Stormwings today, Daine thought. I'm fair tired, though I can't see why.
Mage and Magelet flew over the dense forest, searching with their sharp birds' eyes. Half and hour later they flew over a clearing. In the clearing stood a mage with maroon fire cracking in the air around him. He was of an average height and stocky build although most of his plump form appeared to be fat instead of muscle. He had red hair and freckles and wore an ensemble of clothes they'd seen in the village – well worn, tattered, comfortable breeches and an old stained, dirt streaked tunic. He stood over a small girl who was curled into a ball on the ground, cringing. She had the dark skin of the Raka from the Copper Isles and wild curly hair, which had twigs and bracken all threw it. She had purple bruises all over her body – some in the shape of hand marks.
Without a word, Daine and Numair dived towards the ground. This was not acceptable. They landed in the trees, which lined the outer edge of the clearing. They were still unnoticed by the mage and the young girl, who seemed to be about fourteen. Looking around, Daine noticed five other children. They all showed the signs of abuse and were as equally ruffled as the girl in front of the mage. None, however, had the same raka skin as the other girl.
"I have told you over and over not go out when I'm gone. You are forbidden to go flying. I will beat you from here to next week, Mithros mark my words I will!" the mage screeched in a deep, gravely voice. It was when he raised his hand up and brang it down on the girl, that Numair leapt from the tree, landed on the ground still in hawk-shape and then shape shifted back human. The man looked at him, stunned, and the little girl took the chance to half crawl, half drag herself over to the other children. A blonde girl, who looked around sixteen, hugged her close as the girl wept on her shoulder.
"What, in Mithros' name, do you think you're doing?" Numair demanded. He seemed not to notice that he was stark naked after being in hawk shape. Daine shape shifted back human, standing beside him on the ground for neutral support. She, too, was stark naked but seemed not to care. "You've beaten her half to death!"
"She's my creation," snarled the man and shook a fist at Numair. "Now get off my land before I turn you into an apple tree."
"What were you doing," Numair said coolly, stepping forward.
"I was punishing my property for disobedience. Now, you've missed your chance. I'll make you an apple tree and take your lady friend for myself. Nice body she has, decent bed warmer," the red haired mage snarled then grinned wickedly. Daine couldn't prevent the shudder that ran down her spine.
Daine, having married Numair and been taught by him for many years, had picked up some of the old, ancient, powerful language that was used now. The man shouted something in Old Thak but before whatever he'd said could take action, Numair had also shouted something in the same powerful language. The air sizzled, cracked, and boomed so loud that Daine thought she had gone deaf. The grubby, bruised children shrank back against trees at the edge of the clearing, whimpering.
The other mage's maroon fire cracked and lashed at Numair. It met a black shield. "Daine, move, get behind me, now!" Numair shouted desperately. She mutely moved behind her love.
More words were exchanged in Old Thak, and before she knew what had happened, Numair was a statue. Before she could scream, however, the rock shattered and Numair was once again wholly human. This latest attack seemed to anger Numair because he shouted something so harsh and powerful sounding that the ground at their feet split. Lightning cracked down and struck his foe, successfully defeating him. As his foe fell dead to the ground, Numair fell also. He, however, was not dead. He was merely unconscious. Daine fell down beside her husband and turned him over in her arms. "Numair! Numair!" she screamed.
"M'okay," he mumbled, momentarily gaining consciousness. "Just, drained, tired, don't leave, Daine," he mumbled before fainting.
"I won't," she murmured, holding his head in her lap. "Not ever."
She called a hawk down do her and had him retrieved her and Numair's clothes. Once she had thanked the hawk for retrieving these vital essentials, she dressed Numair and herself.
The six children sat at the other end of the clearing, still terrified and unable to move from the shock of what had just happened. I'm still not sure, myself, Daine thought to herself. Slowly, however, they edged their way over the fire Daine had built, to warm themselves.
Who are you? A female voice asked Daine. She looked around, trying to find the animal responsible.
Who's there? She mind called.
Me, said the eldest blonde girl sitting opposite her on the other side of the fire. I am People, too.
"You are another Wildmage?" Daine asked out loud in confusion.
"Not a Wildmage. I am animal. I am your wing-sister," she also said out loud. With that, she stood, rolled her neck and then shoulders and extended one fifteen foot tawny, speckled wing. "My name's Max. What's yours, Girl Who Is People?"
Daine's jaw dropped open. She shut it. All great gods look at that! A human Stormwing who is People, she thought. "Daine," she croaked out. She cleared her throat and tried again. "My name is Daine."
Daine sat, staring at the winged children across the fire. They sat, huddled together. The oldest girl, the dirty blonde one – Max – was checking them over for broken bones.
She reminds me of my Ma, Daine thought. Ma always did those things for me. Now that Daine had noticed the girls' mother-like qualities, they stood out like a star against the midnight sky. She hugged the younger children, murmured soothing words to them and dried their tears. She kept glancing at Numair. Daine, seeing these glances saw the fear, grief, hope, and anger in her eyes when she looked at the black robe mage.
"He's dead, isn't he, Max?" a little blonde haired boy asked.
"Shh. Yes, he is. We're free now, Gazzy," was her whispered reply. Daine only caught it because she had changed her ears to bats and her eyes to those of a hawk. She didn't know if the mage had another companion nearby.
"Where will we go, Max?" a tall boy with strawberry blonde hair and pale skin asked. Daine looked into his pale blue eyes and realised that they were unseeing. He was blind, and yet he walked around unhesitant. Daine put it down that he knew the clearing exceptionally well.
"The Voice told me to go to see the King, in the capital, Corus. We'll go there. The Voice said Tarloy would die in battle, and he did, today. I think we should listen to what it has to say," Max said.
Daine turned over what she had said in her mind as she stroked Numair's hair – the mage was still unconscious. As far as Daine knew, the Voice was the Voice of the tribes for the Bazhir. But she didn't think these people were Bazhir. Also, the Voice was the King – Jonathan. He was also in Corus at the moment so he could've said for this young girl to go see him but Daine couldn't make sense of it. The girl, Max, also hadn't sat by the fire when she conversed with the Voice, the King. Daine knew that if a Bazhir wanted to talk to their Voice, they did so by fire, in the evenings.
Numair groaned and tried to sit up. "Shh, don't sit up," Daine whispered, still stroking his hair. "You've had a serious draining," she added once her love opened his eyes. He tried to say something, failed, tried to clear his throat then tried again to talk. "Drink," Daine ordered, holding a water flask to his lips. He gulped it down in two sips. Daine reached over and retrieved the second one for him to drink from. Once that was done, he cleared his throat and asked, "Are you okay? What happened to the other mage?"
Daine shuddered, remembering the sound of the word and what had happened when Numair had fought the marron-gifted mage before. "He is quite dead. I'm fine," she said. Seeing his dubious look she added, "Really," and bent down to lightly kiss his lips.
"Who are you?" Max demanded, staring at Numair. "You are not People. Your dangerous – you killed Tarloy."
"Numair Salamin," Numair sighed, sitting up. "Of course I'm not People. I won't hurt you," he said. He looked Max over, clenched his jaw and hissed, "Not like that mage did," through his teeth.
Max, standing in front of them but out of reach, folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah," she said dryly. "You're a mage. All mages are trouble."
"Not all," Numair said. "I won't hurt you, either. I'm not like him." He jerked his head towards the mage who was lying at the side of the clearing, as far away from them as possible.
"You're a mage. You're dangerous. Dangerous to me. Dangerous to my flock. Don't try to deny it," she said.
"Your flock?" Numair asked, confusion evident in his deep voice. Max's face closed down. She stared at Numair. "What?" he asked.
"You're a mage. You cannot find out, or you will hurt us," she said. The other children, who had drifted closer as the conversation commenced, nodded their own agreement.
"Daine," Numair whispered. "What's going on?"
Daine glanced at the winged human Stormwings who were People. She bit her lip, thinking. "Numair, I – I," she stuttered, still unsure of what to do. They were part People and had put their trust in her – she could not betray that. Numair trusted her, too, and wanted to know what was going on. He wasn't like the other mage. He wouldn't hurt them. "I can't say. They're part People, I can't betray their trust. I'm so sorry," she finally said. She looked at him, pleading for him to understand.
Numair nodded then sighed. "Wildmages?" he whispered in her ear. The children looked at him intently. Daine shook her head.
"You can tell him, he wont hurt or betray you," she told them. "I trust him with my whole being. He wouldn't hurt anyone – human or any of the People."
"He likes knowledge, doesn't he?" Max shot back, quick as lightening, staring at Daine, although they conversed about Numair.
Daine sighed. "Extremely so," she said.
"Just how I expected. Imagine what he would do if he got his hands on us. Imagine how he would try to 'learn' from us," she said. "Exactly like Tarloy did."
Daine was already shaking her head before she'd finished talking. "No, never like Tarloy. He'd ask some questions, that's all. He'd watch you fly, not do experiments on you," she said.
"Fly. Experiments. Ask questions. Information. What in Mithros' name is going on here?" Numair demanded.
Daine looked to Max pleadingly. "You can trust him, Max." Max shook her head vigorously. "Do you trust me, wing-sister?" Daine asked. Max nodded. "Do you trust my judgement?" Max hesitated, then nodded again. "Do you believe me when I say this mage will not hurt you in any way?"
Max hesitated. She glanced at her Flock. They all stared at her. "Angel?" Max finally asked.
"Yes?" the small, cute, blonde girl said.
"Can we believe her? Will he hurt us?" Max asked.
"We can trust her. We can trust him, too. He is very confused and wants to know whats going on. He's catching on anyway, seeming how we called her our wing-sister and about how we are part People. We should tell them," Angel said, blue eyes wide and innocent.
Max sighed. She turned to Daine and Numair who were still sitting before her. She looked at Daine long and hard, her gaze thoughtful. When it shifted to Numair it turned calculating. "Alright. If he takes it the wrong way, he's drained so we could easily take him out," she said. She sat down and the Flock followed her. "Okay. So. You want to know it all?"
"Yes, thankyou, Max," Daine said. Numair put his arm around Daine, hugging her too him and nodded mutely.
"We are Tarloy's experiments. He was an extremely powerful mage. He made us by grafting animal cells into our cells when we were but babes. He said he was doing it in the name of Mithros and the Goddess and said that if we objected or killed him, we'd be damned for all eternity. He made other experiments, too, but they were all sorry creatures and we were the only ones to survive past infanthood. We are part bird, thus part People and part human. We're genetic freaks. Any mage in the world would want to learn from us, Tarloy said so himself. He told us he would be famous, would lead the world into the next age. He was stark raving mad," Max said. "We don't trust. You can't make us stay with you. We're free. You wont take us to 'learn' from. We will never be captives again," she set her jaw stubbornly and added, "Never, ever, again."
Numair and Daine sat there, mouths hanging open in shock at this latest revelation.
Daine and Numair travelled with the bird children on the way to Corus. The bird children would only turn up to sleep the night with the two mages and for food. Other than that, Daine and Numair were left alone with Cloud, Spots and Mangle for a quiet journey to the palace. The children flew in the air high above them.
Daine heard the warning calls from the People and murmured under her breathe to Numair, "Someone's here."
"Who?" Numair asked as his black Gift appeared around his hands.
Suddenly, a group of bandits jumped out from the bushes surrounding the road. Daine instantly had bow and arrow in her hands, shooting their foe. Numair summoned his magic and shot it at the hill bandits.
There were only ten bandits left. Just as Daine was loading her bow with another arrow, ready to shoot the lead male, he shot at Numair. Numair had his shield up so Daine wasn't to worried. They always tried to kill the mage first, and they always hit Numair's strong shield. Daine saw the arrow out of the corner of her eye and gasped in horror. It was a Stormwing fletched arrow, a mage killer. It raced straight at Numair, breaking through his shield. Numair cried out as the arrow hit, but still managed to shot down his attacker with a bolt of black fire.
Six thumps announced the Flocks arrival. Daine hardly noticed. She raced to Numair, praying he was all right. Thankfully, Spots had reared when the Stormwing arrow was shot so Numair hadn't received an instant death. Instead, the arrow had imbedded itself in his tan arm. Daine looked around frantically, remembering the bandits.
"We've got them," Max called as she kicked a bandit.
Daine nodded, not realising that the other girl was engaged in battle and unable to pay attention to her response. She spun around to Numair and broke the arrow shaft off, and cut strips out of her tunic to stop the bleeding.
Once that was done, she came to her senses and picked her bow up off the ground, ready to shoot some bandits. Max, Iggy, Nudge, Gazzy, Fang and tiny little Angel were just kids. What was she thinking, leaving them to deal with the bandits alone? They were probably dead.
"Hey, hey, don't shoot," Nudge said, holding up her hands when Daine swung around towards them with her bow raised and ready.
Daine lowered her bow, stunned. All the bandits were dead. They had killed nine bandits on their own. How? Daine wondered. They don't have any weapons.
"What happened?" Daine asked.
Nudge shrugged. "Killed 'em," she said bluntly.
"How long until we reach Corus?" Max asked, looking at Numair.
Daine bit her lip, also staring at her beloved. "We would've been there by nightfall, but with Numair shot we'll have to go slower but by then the blood loss . . ." her voice trailed off as she stared at the bird children in horror. "Oh no. No, no, no."
Max, sensing Daine's distress through their connection they shared because of their links to the People, walked over and laid a hand on her arm. "What can we do?"
"He needs to get there, now," Daine choked out and then started sobbing. Numair swayed in the saddle, groaning and she caught him and helped him stay seated.
"We'll take him," Iggy said, stepping forward.
Daine looked at him blankly, still sobbing. "What?"
"We'll fly with him to Corus," he said. Max glared at him but being blind, he didn't see it and continued on, "We could be there in half an hour."
Daine still sobbing nodded weakly.
"Iggy!" Max hissed at him. "What are you doing?"
"Max, he's dying," Angel said. Her and Gazzy stared at Max with wide, blue eyes. "We have to do something."
Max looked at Numair, groaning in his saddle, supported by Daine who was still sobbing and trying to stop the bleeding. She sighed. "Fine. We'll go now."
"How?" Daine chocked out.
"We'll fly," Max snapped at her.
"No, well, yes, but how will you get him in the air?" Daine asked, clutching onto this little piece of hope with everything she had. She'd do anything to stop Numair from dying.
"I'll take his arms, Fang'll take is legs. We'll manage," she said.
"I'm coming with you," Daine said as she helped Fang get Numair out of the saddle.
"We can't carry you both," Iggy said.
"But she can fly, too," Nudge chirped.
"Okay, Fang, you get his legs. Angel, lift his middle 'till we get in the air. I've got his arms," Max said.
Daine turned to the three horses. I have to go. Can you make it to Corus? I'll come get you as soon as I can, Daine mind-spoke the animals.
Yes, Cloud said. Hurry or your Stork-Man will be not-breath.
I wont let him die, Daine thought to the horses as much as herself as she hurriedly tugged off her clothes.
"Oh, he's heavy," Max said as she lifted Numair into the air with Fang's help. "Really heavy."
"Too heavy for you?" Fang asked, grinning crookedly at her as they continued to rise.
"No," she said, scowling. Daine turned into a raven and rose into the air after them.
Daine had to fly fast to keep up with the bird kids. They had bigger, stronger wings then her and with every beat of their wings, Daine had to do three to keep up. She decided it was much to hard and changed shape into an Albatross's. She was now large enough to keep up, her wings being as big as young Angel's.
Daine grew more worried by the minute. Numair had stopped groaning now, but his jaw was clenched hard. He had turned a sickly, pale grey colour. Daine prayed to every god that she could think of that they'd make it to the palace in time. Corus grew bigger with every flap of her wings.
"Where do we land?" Max called out to the giant bird flying with her Flock. "Lead the way."
The Albatross Daine flew in an arc, heading straight for the grand double doors of the palace. When she saw the guard on the wall pull out a bow and arrow, aiming at the bird kids, Daine changed her voice box to a humans and called out, "Nathaniel, don't shoot. It's me, Daine. They're not Stormwings. Get Duke Baird, Numair was shot by an arrow."
The guard looked a little shocked, but called out to a page all the same. Daine led the flock around until they were in the first landing space available – the training yards. No one was in the archery range so they all landed there. Daine, who had grabbed a dress of a clothesline from the Lower City, disappeared behind a bush and reemerged in a human form.
"Can you go get Duke Baird? Please?" Daine asked a palace cat. It yowled before sprinting off.
"What now?" Max asked, laying Numair on the ground.
"Duke Baird, the palace healer will come and fix Numair," she said. She knelt down next to her husband and stroked his sweat sleek hair back from his face. "Numair, Numair, it's all right. You're going to be fine," she murmured to him, tears trickling down her cheeks, leaving stripes in her mud-streaked face.