A/N: The famous scene. I'm really enjoying writing on all these famous semi-canon moments (unicorn fever, Perin, etc.) that I've never addressed before, though as a whole some of those scenes have been addressed very widely by the fandom as whole. Well, here's my interpretation of what Numair saw that night by Temptation Lake, when even a mage as great as he could not resist wandering into the water...
Characters: Numair, Daine, Broadfoot, Badger, other
Time: Beginning/middle of Realms of the Gods
Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to Tamora Pierce, not me.
It felt strange tonight, to open his eyes and not immediately see Daine through the darkness. He usually slept facing her when they were camping, so he'd know at a moment's notice if she was safe and sound. But now, he forced himself to stay on his other side, lest he end up watching her for less noble reasons. Like admiring how pretty her cheeks were, with long eyelashes and curls of hair shadowing across them. Or the gentle rise and fall of her shoulders, down to her hips, her legs, all underneath a thin blanket. Was she cold? Her pink lips were slightly parted.
No, his better half commanded. She is your student, your friend, nothing more. Think of other things.
Staring at the stars, Numair let his Gift seep out in tiny trickles from his body. The Realms of the Gods were sure to be full of magical secrets and welcome distractions. He could analyze his surroundings with his power to take his mind off her. Passively, so as not to upset any gods, Numair studied their little clearing, every tiny rock and bush to the grand lake behind them. Something was off about that lake, he noted. Off even for the Divine Realms. But he couldn't place it. Disappointed, he withdrew his magic, flipped over, and blocked all thought from his head as if he were meditating. It was mildly successful. He thought he might have fallen asleep, save for a rustle of cloth nearby bringing him back to alertness.
Now he had a reason to look at her. But when he sat up and turned around, her bedroll was empty. Quickly he glanced around, worried – and then he saw a vision to make his heart stop.
Daine was standing at the edge of the lake. She was completely nude, wrapped only in a ghostly, ethereal mist, her pale skin glowing like the light of the Goddess. She was slender, but undoubtedly a woman grown; her small breasts were perfect and round, her waist narrow and flaring into her hips. Her eyes were dark and inviting, and she extended a hand to him, imploring. Black water lapped at her toes and ankles.
"Come with me."
Alarm bells echoed in Numair's head. This lake is called Temptation Lake for a reason. This cannot be real.
But I never drank the water, he argued with himself.
And Daine… she looked so real. Those stormy blue eyes were hers, those small but strong hands, those slim legs and sloping shoulders, all were exactly hers. Without his mind telling them to do so, Numair's legs began to move, leaving his conscience behind. As soon as he was close enough to reach out and grasp her hand, Daine stepped back, making him follow her.
"Daine," he whispered, captivated. Her eyes were sparkling.
"Come. Follow me, Numair. We can be together. Come deeper…"
Even her voice was perfect, though softer, sultrier than usual. In his entire life, he had never wanted anything more than her, right at that moment. His entire being ached for her. Blindly he followed her into the lake, barely noticing his wet breeches, not even caring when the water began to creep up to his legs, his stomach. Reeds and mud tried to pull at his ankles, but he pushed forward. Daine was so close now. Her expectant smile drove him mad with longing, and when he reached out to hold her, she was wonderfully solid. Her arms and body wrapped sinuously around him, her bare legs tangling between his, her skin smooth and cold.
He should have noticed then. But Daine's proximity was too intoxicating. He ran his hands over her gentle curves, feeling her grip around him tighten, almost painfully close. He searched for her face, meaning to kiss her, but found that she kept darting out of view. Her lips found his skin instead, whispering against his neck, her teeth tickling him and sending shivers down his spine. Her embrace was so tight, and then her teeth bit hard into his soft flesh…
Something strong and hard slammed into his side, wrenching him from Daine's grasp. Forced underwater, Numair coughed and spluttered, and when he opened his eyes again, even the soft morning light nearly blinded him. He struggled to focus, and to stay afloat, because something was trying to pull him away, pull him under, and it wasn't Daine anymore.
The creature that had been Daine was screeching. Discolored, fleshy, and monstrous, it seemed to be fighting some underwater attacker. One of its tentacles was still fixed around Numair, trying to drag him towards it, but then some large animal ripped the tentacle with its teeth and drove the monster away. Numair tried to move, to swim, but his body seemed to be frozen, his mind going hazy. Water filled his lungs. A small arm wrapped around his waist, and distantly he felt himself being pulled toward shore, until his feet found solid ground amongst the reeds. Whatever had brought him to safety vanished into the bushes. Through-half closed eyes, Numair caught sight of wet brown curls whipping around a tree trunk. Daine.
Nausea overtook him. Mustering all his strength, fighting to stay conscious, Numair staggered out of the lake, fell to his knees, and heaved, expelling mostly lakewater and last night's meal. Coughing, Numair chewed a handful of green grass to clean his mouth, then stumbled his way back to their camp. The rocks he had heated for their comfort last night were cold. How had that much time passed so quickly? How was it morning already?
"Had a fun night, did you?"
Numair glanced down. The badger was glaring at him, as fiercely as any badger god could glare. Numair raised a weary eyebrow. "I wouldn't call it 'fun,' exactly."
"You would have, though, if Daine and Broadfoot hadn't woken you up. You'd also have ended up dead."
"What held me, then?" Numair said, ignoring the jibe. "I never requested temptation - "
"But you got it anyway," said the badger. "It was Chaos that took you. You mortals are half-Chaos by nature. It's easy to for you to be drawn in."
Curious, ashamed, and concerned all at once, Numair opened his mouth to respond, but was distracted by a rustle of leaves behind him. "I think I hear - " he began, turning around, anxious to make sure Daine was all right.
Once again, Daine stood before him, completely naked, save for this time she had the badger's claw necklace round her throat, falling neatly between her breasts. And this time, there was no questioning the reality of the situation. Numair flushed bright red and whipped around, hearing her curse and stomp away to get dressed. Gods, if she knew what I saw, what I did…
He stopped there. Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to call on the gods right now.
As she shouted details about the Chaos vent that had leaked into the lake and poisoned it, Numair sighed and picked up her boots. When she emerged, fully clothed, from the trees, he handed them to her with an apologetic smile. Her cheeks were a little pink, but she seemed no worse for the wear. Immediately she fixed him with her stoniest glare, and Numair winced before she even spoke.
"Are you sure you didn't drink from the lake? That creature looked to me like a blue, naked female with a big chest until Broadfoot changed my vision. She looked like just the kind of female you might want to be tempted by, Master Salmalin."
She didn't look like that, but she did look like just the kind of female I'd be tempted by, he thought, blushing again, but out loud he assured her that he had not tasted the lakewater and requested temptation. "I tested it with my gift, and sensed that there was something very wrong with it. You know, magelet, the gods may be losing ground against Chaos."
To his relief, talking to her shortly became as easy as it ever was; they discussed Chaos and the gods and continued on their way. He enjoyed her company too much to let guilt prevent him from being with her. He tweaked her nose, making her smile, and decided that the sooner they put Temptation Lake far, far behind them, the better.