A/N: Reading Tammy's new collection of short stories inspired me to resolve the cliffhanger! Please read and review- I know I'm slow about updating, but reviews do spur me on somewhat.
Also, since I don't think I've said it in a while, I'm not Tamora Pierce. If I was, I would already have an advance copy of Mastiff.
Irnai looked at her teacher, startled. Beings? What in the name of Mithros was that supposed to mean? However, before she could ask any more questions Numair turned and left.
Silently cursing her teacher's lack of explanation, Irnai gingerly eased herself out of bed and put on clothes, trying not to make her head, now with pain and the strange whirring, worse by moving. However, curiosity eventually overpowered both magical and physical senses, so Irnai pushed open her door and went to meet her teacher in the drawing room.
The sight that greeted her when she rounded the corner was one of the strangest she had ever seen- and that was saying something, given she had been living in the capital of Tortall for months. Despite the early hour, the entire Salmalin family was awake, including Sarralyn and baby Rikash. In fact, the children were being held by two odd strangers who were sitting on drawing room chairs. Rikash was in the arms of a pretty blonde woman wearing a green veil and dress with patterns that shimmered and moved. Sarralyn, for once looking neat and well behaved, perched on the knee of a half-naked man with green tinged brown skin and, Irnai was startled to see, antlers. At their feet, Kitten went nose to nose with a badger- but he was unlike any of the other animal friends of Daine's she was accustomed to. He too shimmered with silver light.
Irnai now knew what the whirring of her magical senses meant. These were gods. They must be Daine's parents and her guardian. She had heard stories about these beings from Numair and Daine, but to see them in person was an entirely different thing.
Just as her head began to whirl, Numair came over and steadied her. She was glad for this, because at that moment the man holding Sarralyn (if you could call someone a man when they had antlers springing out of their skull) spoke.
"Ah, here is the one of Shakith's that you've been teaching, Numair," he said in a voice that boomed in Irnai's magic as well as her ears. What was Shakith again? she wondered. No sooner had she thought it then the god's voice boomed again, "Shakith is the goddess of seers, little one." The god looked sharply at his son in law. "I would have thought you would have taught her that by now."
"I did, thank you, Weiryn," Numair said patiently. "I think she's just a little overwhelmed at the moment." Keeping a grip on Irnai's shoulder, he said more formally, "Irnai, please allow me to introduce you to Daine's parents- Weiryn, god of the hunt, and Sarra, the Green Lady, goddess of healing and gardening. There is also Daine's guardian, the male badger god. They are here to meet Rikash. Friends, this is my student, Irnai of New Hope, a young seer."
Three pairs of immortal eyes locked on Irnai. She felt sick at their gaze, almost as if they could see down to her very bones and look at everything she had ever done, thought or said. Was this what people felt like when she looked at them with her magic? She wondered. The shock of gods speaking directly to her and reading her mind was too much for Irnai, on top of everything else. She began to tremble, though she tried to hide it, futilely, from those all knowing eyes.
The Green Lady, Sarralyn's namesake, rose to her feet and handed the baby to Daine. "Come here, child," the goddess said. Her voice, instead of booming like her husband's, felt like a comforting wave to Irnai's magical senses. Irnai obeyed, unable to hide her trembling any longer. She could feel Daine and Numair looking at her with concern.
The goddess reached out and put her hand on Irnai's forehead. Instantly Irnai felt coolness in place of her week's old pain. The pain was still there, but it felt as though it had been pushed back to the edges of her mind. She blinked, more clearheaded than she had felt in months.
Sarra looked down at her, warmly. "Now, dear one, that's better." Then she looked sharply up at Daine and Numair. "How could you let the child overwork to this degree?"
Daine and Numair looked at eachother, startled. "Ma, what are you talking about?" Daine asked.
"She is wan, tired. Her brain is fuzzy and in pain. It is close to reaching the breaking point. There are too many influences for her here, with all the people crammed like rabbits in a warren." That mind voice came from the badger god.
Numair came to stand beside her. "Irnai, is this true? Why didn't you say something?"
"She is only a child, Numair," Sarra said. "Shame on you two for not keeping a better eye on her. I know you have had much to deal with in the past months with a new baby and all, but…"
"This is a critical time for her magic. She is young to have so much and it is easy for her to overreach," Weiryn boomed. "They could not have known, my dear," he said to his wife. "Well educated as they both are, few mortals know how to handle seers like this one."
"And Irnai should have told her teachers when she started feeling sick," the badger added, glaring at Irnai.
"Sorry," she squeaked. "I- I thought it would go away. I didn't want to bother anyone." Her excuses for not speaking up sounded hollow to her even as she said them.
"Irnai," Numair said, a touch of exasperation in his voice. "This is the kind of thing we would want to be bothered with."
Daine reached down and patted Irnai's shoulder while balancing Rikash in the other arm. "There now, it's alright. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, when your magic's so new and so strange. Everyone makes mistakes, especially early on," she said. "I did. I'm certain Numair did too." Her husband shuddered slightly. "That's why you have teachers to help and protect you. It's just that you were doing so well that neither of us imagined there could be anything wrong. Next time, let us know right off what you're feeling if it's not normal."
"I will," Irnai promised, looking at both of her teachers.
Numair looked back at his mother and father in law. "Thank you for telling us about this. What do you recommend we do now?"
Instead of answering, Weiryn rose, set Sarralyn on the ground and came over to stand next to his wife. He spoke to Irnai. "Irnai of New Hope, we bring you a blessing from Shakith, goddess of all seers." The blessing manifested itself in a small silver ball of light that travelled from Weiryn's outstretched hand to spread over Irnai's forehead. Once again she felt a comforting coolness that eased her pain. "She implores you to call on her as you travel along this difficult road."
The Green Lady took her husband's place. From somewhere unknown she had produced a cup of liquid. She handed it to Irnai, who sniffed it warily and looked up at Daine's mother, her face questioning. "This is a healing draught, young one," Sarra said. "It will put you in a deep sleep that will help you heal completely." The goddess looked back at Numair and Daine. "She'll sleep for at least four days," the goddess told them.
By the time she wakes up, you had better make arrangements to take her out of this overcrowded two-legger rat-warren or she will just get worse again, the badger told them.
Leave the palace? Irnai thought in sudden horror. Leave the place she had come to know as home? Leave all of her new friends? Leave Daine and Numair? That wasn't fair!
Reading her thoughts, the badger turned towards her. Don't fret. It may only be temporary- there are less two-leggers here in the summer months. Now be a good kit, listen to your teachers and drink Sarra's potion.
"It will be alright, Irnai," Numair echoed. "We'll figure things out. Drink your potion."
Looking from her teacher to the gods, Irnai knew it was best not to argue. While trying to bury angry thoughts- Why did her magic have to always ruin everything?- Irnai took a large swallow of the liquid, then another and another until it was gone. The last thing she remembered was Numair catching her before magical sleep- dark, comforting and painless- engulfed her.