If you read this before I rewrote it, go back and reread the first three chapters. Otherwise you'll have no idea what I'm talking about.
Home sweet home? As in, Daine used to live here before she came to Galla?
I slid off Darkmoon and approached it slowly, hanging onto the hilt of my sword. There were quite a few bones scattered about, as if wild animals came here when they were finally ready to die. I wouldn't have been surprised—Daine had that kind of effect on animals, as well as a few people. She would probably be very comforting if you were dying… but I didn't want to think about that. I wasn't ready to go, and neither was anyone close to me, not even Darkmoon, the daft horse.
Numair and Daine had also dismounted while I inspected the house, and he was holding her close, whispering into her ear. She looked broken. I would be too; if I had to see a shell like this and know I had lived in it for most of my life.
As I watched, Daine pulled herself away from Numair and ran into the house. He didn't follow.
"Go after her," he finally said. "She won't want to see me."
"You may be surprised," I was tempted to say, but I left him there, with three horses and the love of his life's old home.
"It has so many memories," Daine whispered. She was tracing patterns aimlessly onto the dust that coated the floor.
"I know, Wildmage," I replied. A bit of her past and a bit of her future, right there together.
"This was the kitchen. Ma had a lot of spells on it, to make sure it didn't go up in flames from some mess that could easily have been made in there." A tear fell down to hit the ground. Her back was still near me, and I walked to put an arm around her.
"Daine, I'm going to tell you a story about the bravest girl I know. The bravest girl I could ever hope to know, really. She was only a poor girl who didn't know anything but the life of a bastard child when I first met her, but she was willing to save my life and the lives of many others.
"Her best friend was a pony named Sky. She met a wizard called Nummy, who told her she had a special brand of magic, which meant she could heal animals and speak to them. She and Nummy fell in love. One day, the not actually evil yet slightly corrupt king ordered them to the village the girl had grown up in.
"The villagers were as cruel as ever, and the girl became angry and sad after seeing the ruins of her home, so she called on her magic and took the animals away, causing the people to almost starve to death, until the girl brought back the animals because she was compassionate."
Daine watched me for a few seconds. "Thank you, Alanna," she whispered. "There were more tears on her face."
"It's no problem, youngling," I said. "You're better than them. You hold the power here, Daine. Just always bring the animals back."
"It's hard. It's so hard to want to let them live."
"It is hard. Daine Sarrasri, but I have confidence in you. In the end, you will do what you feel is best. No matter what, I will support you."
I left her there to consider what to do, my joints creaking. I wasn't as young as I had once been.
"Is she better?" Numair asked when I emerged from the shell of a house.
"No, Numair, she isn't. I don't think she'll be better until we're back in Tortall," I replied. "She needs to think now, though. She could kill them all easily, you know that."
He nodded gravely. "I do. She can't sort this out on her own, though. She's not—"
I cut him off. "She's not a child, Numair. She's a real person, with real feelings. You can't always make her decisions for her. Let her decide. She will make the right decision. Both of us know that, and we can always stop it before it gets too far out of hand."
A sparrow flew past us, and we both stopped to watch it. The sparrow, which some believed a sign of hope to come.
"We will get through with this, all of us," I promised as the sparrow darted through a window, towards Daine.
"No!" She screamed, and neither of us thought. We just ran to her.