Balor's Needle and Brokefang's Call

The last day of Summer when Daine was 14 . . .
Corus, The Royal Palace


Daine slammed into someone, spilling her part of her uneaten dinner on him and herself. She raised her large blue gray eyes, which were framed with long eyelashes, to take a look at the misfortunate person, which was a long way, since that person towered over her by more than a foot.

She gasped, " I am so, so, sorry, I didn't see where I was going," she exclaimed.

A swarthy man with a powerful build, smiled down on his student and gently pushed her away as she tried to clean his shirt with her napkin.

Inwardly, he sighed, but his dark eyes remained unperturbed. "It is alright."

Daine looked at his ruined silk shirt and winced, "It's ruined."

"Really, it is alright. I am going to mess myself later either way when I go and watch the tri-annual Lositan meteor shower. Now," he said in a firmer tone. "Let's clean up and meet at the bottom of Balor's Needle to watch the meteor shower. It would be your first glimpse of such a phenomena in Tortall."

"Balor's Needle?" Daine asked quizzically.

"It is the highest place in the palace and we would only be able to get a good view from there," Numair said.

"How about the Lasiton thing?" Daine asked.

"Lositan meteor shower," Numair corrected. "This event only happens once in three years. It promises to be a spectacular sight." The bells rang, heralding the inevitable approach of evening.

"There will be other mages and academics there, you need to make yourself presentable. Go, or you will be late," Numair said.

"The mess…" Daine said.

"I'll get someone to clean it up," Numair said and gave his reluctant pupil a push to the door.

"But-" Daine said.

"Go!" Numair said in a tone that Daine was beginning to recognize as his "I-can't-be-swayed-so-you-are-wasting-your-voice-if-you-argue-with-me" tone.

And so she did.


Following the directions of a grouchy servant by the name of Gower, Daine found her way to Balor's Needle. The sight of a looming spindly spire greeted her, with a fragile looking staircase snaked around it. She gulped. It looked a long way up and not as sturdy as she would like.

"Don't worry, it is more sturdy than it looks," a man said suddenly, causing Daine to jump as she thought herself alone.

Daine turned around to locate the source of the voice. It belonged to a stocky round-faced man, whom Daine didn't recognize, "That staircase isn't for everyday use," he continued, " You'll be pleased to know that we, will be going up the staircase on the inside."

Numair came up behind that man and clapped him on the shoulder. "I see you have met my student, Veralidaine Serrasri. Daine, this is Haralit of Aili, dean of magical studies at the royal university of Tortall."

Daine blinked, surprised and said, "Hello."

"Hello, nice to meet you," Haralit said, he offered Daine his hand and she shook it.

"Well, since that's done, let's go," Numair said and headed towards the foot of the stairs.

As they passed the foot of the spiraling staircase, a strong wind blew her brown hair and caused the spire to creak. Daine looked up and gulped. She felt incredibly relieved that she wouldn't have to climb them!

Haralit touched her shoulder, "Are you alright?" He asked with concern.

"Yes sir, I was just thinking about those stairs," Daine said.

"Don't worry, you won't ever be forced to climb those," Haralit said assuredly.

"Thank Mithros for that!" Daine said and followed Numair into the tower, leaving a laughing Haralit.


Daine looked around and saw an assortment of academics, mages and astrologers. Numair was deep in discussion with a mage draped in black and gold robes. Daine walked to the other side of the area, where it was less cramped and after reminding herself not to look down, she appreciated the Tortallian scenery. A curvaceous blonde and her raven-haired friend talked near Daine, who being downwind, couldn't help but overhear their conversation.

"Jassia, I never knew you had such an interest in astrology," the raven-haired woman said. "I remembered that you always said how useless the stars are. " the woman added skeptically as she raised an eyebrow and said, "And my… isn't it chilly in that outfit?"

Daine took a discreet look at the pair. "Jassia" who looked in her early twenties, was dressed in a simple, well-fitted blue dress, which skimmed her fantastic curves and had a plunging neckline. She had long blonde hair which cascaded down her back and blue eyes that was accented by her dress. A Mage robe marked of an Adept's rank was draped carefully over the blonde's shoulders. The raven-haired friend with dark brown eyes, was more practical, wearing her mage robes over a pair of breeches and shirt.

The beautiful blonde responded by flinging her long golden tresses over her shoulder and replied, "Well Gitina, in this case, astrology may prove to be useful especially," she added with a predator's smile, "If it can help you snare a man."

There was amusement in the raven-haired woman's voice. "I almost pity that man, and he would be?"

Jassia leaned closer and said, "A very lucky man." She looked around and said, "He's here. Feast your eyes on him. Over there, left corner, the one talking to Ketaran."

Daine had a queer feeling, but she had a feeling she knew who the "lucky man" was. She turned with dread and was proven correct in her hunch.

"Numair Salmalin!" Gitina said with surprise.

"Shush!" Jassia said, clenching the other woman's arm with a vice like grip. Though a short distance only separated them, Numair was oblivious to the women's scrutiny as he was standing upwind and the noisy wind carried away Gitina's words.

"My, my, you are aiming high," Gitina said cattily, but grinned. "Black robed mage, in the King's private council. Not forgetting that he is soothing to the eyes and has a mysterious past." Gitina proved to have a flair of drama as she threw her head back with the back of her right hand to her forehead, she said, "The typical tall, dark and handsome stranger." Jassia swatted her friend, who grinned and said with raised eyebrows, "A fine catch if he ever could be caught…"

"Don't be silly, I just want to get… acquainted with him," the blonde said huffily. "But if he wants more, I am more than happy to oblige…" The women grinned at each other.

"And what makes you think that he would show an… interest in you?" Gitina asked.

"You know very well, he goes for shapely blondes," Jassia sniffed. "And I think I fall into those categories."

"Well, that's true…" Gitina said reluctantly. She slid a look at Numair and sighed. "Too bad I don't fall under those titles. Anyway, best of luck."

"I don't need it, but thanks," Jassia said, tossing her hair. "Well, I better start, or when the Lostian meteor shower starts there's no way to get his attention."

The two women walked away, leaving Daine in mixed feelings. It was the first time she had ever heard, or rather overheard a woman talk of such, blatant interest in her teacher. She shook her head and sighed, it was none of her business, really. She pushed the thought away from her mind and admired the picturesque view of Tortall.

The sun had just set, sending orange and yellow rays into the darkening skies which were tinted with pink.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" a deep voice said behind her.

Daine jumped and thought, 'It must be surprise-Daine-day.' She turned and saw the King of Tortall leaning companionably on the railing. When he noticed that she was staring at him, his teeth flashed against his black beard.

"Isn't it?" King Jonathon repeated.

"Yes, your majesty," Daine said resignedly, the nobles here do persist in acting in such a funny manner, not like the ones back home!

He asked her on her studies and Kitten. However, Daine noticed that he seemed preoccupied. She thought to herself, 'As Grandda used to say, if you can't beat them, join them.' She told him that he seemed rather far off and he sighed.

"You're very perceptive, for your age," King Jonathon said and he remained silent for a while. Daine thought she might have offended him and was about to apologise when he said, "A very disturbing piece of news have been brought to my attention. In March, seven young women and men of Queen's Riders had disappeared near the North Eastern border."

Daine looked at him in surprise, she had not heard this bit of news before. "The Queen's Riders? How did the queen react?"

"Well, she told me that something mysterious is happening as many groups of Queen's Riders have been there and gone out safely. How the whole group could have suddenly disappeared without a trace is beyond her understanding. To placate her, I sent a group of Tortallian soldiers to have a look. They found nothing and returned."

The King paused, but Daine sensed that he had more to say.

"To make things more complicated and puzzling, twenty soldiers from the Tortallian army had vanished in the same vicinity in July. I must say that Thayet showed great restraint in not saying 'I told you so'. Alanna, of course, enjoyed rubbing my nose in that." He sighed and looked down at her with a smile.

Daine squirmed under his scrutiny and asked, "Have you used magic to find them?"

"No, it is not possible, it is near the City of Gods," the ruler said.

"But why?" Daine asked curiously.

"Oh sorry, I forgot that you are new in Tortall. You can't use magic to scry there because of the aura from the City of Gods." King Jonathon told her.

"Sorry to interrupt your conversation," a man suddenly said behind her. Daine turned in surprise, she had been so absorbed that she did not notice him. He was tall and big, with chestnut hair and eyes. She looked at him and recognized him as Gareth the younger.

"But there is something which warrants your majesty's attention," Gary said.

Jon sighed and said, "I bet this issue can be solved tomorrow, right?"

"But it is better to solve it today," Gary said firmly and taking the king's arm firmly, steered him to a secluded corner, holding a stack of papers in the other hand. "Sorry, but I'll return him after this," Gary said over his shoulder.

It took some time for Daine to realize that Sir Gareth of Naxen, one of the king's closest advisors was talking to her! "Take all the time you want," Daine said, but Gary seemed to have not heard it. Daine sighed and turned to look at the scenery again, dusk has fallen and the sky lost its shimmering glow of the setting sun. She turned to look at Numair, who was now talking to Jassia.

She thought to herself, 'It is none of my business. Ignore them.' She turned away uncomfortably, trying to dispel the weird feeling she had in her chest. Daine sensed a bat flying past and called it gently with her mind.

Wing brother.She sent.

Where? Who? What? the bat sent out skittishly.

Friend, here. Daine sent soothingly.

Soon, Daine was holding the bat in her hands and they starting talking.

Newcomers in woods. the bat sent.

Newcomers? Daine inquired.

Two wolves. bat sent. some say that they say they are on journey. Find someone.

Daine perked up, surprised. Wolves? Who are they looking for? She thought quietly to herself, 'It couldn't be. Could it? No. Impossible.'

A girl. Two legger. I don't know her name. They say they from Long Lake Pack. They funny. Talk to other animals. Ask about girl.the bat sent.

Girl? Daine sent, with a creeping feeling of looming knowledge of who the wolves might be.

That they looking for two legger who talk to animals. Used to be from their pack. Used to be from Galla. They have to pass message to her. bat sent.

Daine's heart stopped and she sent anxiously Where are the wolves now?

In the forest, halfway through the woods to here. the bat sent.

What are they called? Daine asked, her heart in her mouth.

If I remember correctly, it is Feetfeet or Footfeet or something like that and Russle or was it Russia? the bat sent slowly.

Is it Fleetfoot and Russet? Daine sent dazedly.

Why, yes, yes, that's it. Fleetfoot and Russet! the bat sent excitedly.

She took deep breaths of air and thought to herself, 'Fleetfoot and Russet has traveled here to look for me. Numair did say that I won't lose myself in the pack again. I hope nothing bad happened to the pack… but then, they wouldn't come to look for me if they didn't need help…' She shook her head and reprimanded herself, 'Stop blabbering. Take things slowly. First things first, I have to locate Fleetfoot and Russet.' She took a grip on herself and thanked the bat. With wishes of good hunting, she let him fly back into the night.

She spread her magic out towards the Tortallian forest. She crossed her fingers and hoped that the wolves were within her range. She asked the forest animals about the wolves and piecing together their directions and descriptions she managed to locate the elusive wolves. Fortuntately, they were near the edge of the royal forest and at the edge of her limited range.

Fleetfoot? Russet? Daine sent.

Who? What? Russet snarled.

It's me, Daine. Daine sent.

Daine? Daine? We can't see you! Where are you? Fleetfoot whined.

I am using magic to talk to you. Daine sent. Listen, I'll explain things later. What is the message? Is the pack alright?

The pack is fine, but not for long. Russet sent. He sounded tired, like he had been on a very long journey.

Brokefang said to bring you back. Humans are ruining the valley. Talk to two leggers on our behalf. Fleetfoot interrupted.

Anything else? Daine sent.

No. That's message. Fleetfoot responded.

Why are you in Long Lake? Diane asked.

We flee hunters. Moved off. After you did. We found good hunting grounds by Long Lake. Russet sent.

Daine immelediately felt guilt. She had caused the hunters to go after the pack because they had helped her avenge her mother's death. She must go and help them…. but how?

Where is Long Lake? Daine asked.

In Dunlath Valley. Near North eastern border. Russet supplied.

Daine felt a prickle of apprehension when she heard "North eastern border" and she thought quietly to herself, 'Could it? No, it couldn't be. Impossible. It is probably just a coincidence.' With that, she pushed that thought out of her mind.

Wait in the royal forest. I will try to come as soon as possible. Daine sent, then with a touch of her wild magic, pressed gently into their minds, Do not come out. Hunters might kill you.

The wolves agreed. We hunt now. Fleetfoot sent.

Hungry.Russet yipped.

Daine and the wolves decided on a meeting place and time. She then bid them a good hunting and she returned to reality. She came out of her trance, realizing her shirt was soaked in sweat. She made a mental note to herself : 'I have to talk to Numair later.'

A hand touched her arm and she literally jumped. She turned to see Haralit.

"Sorry if I frightened you, I was calling your name, but you seemed to not have heard." Haralit said. " Are you all right? You look, well, tired." And he thought silently to himself, 'haunted.'

"It's alright. I'm all right. Just tired, I guess," Daine said with difficulty. She was really quite bad at lying!

Haralit seemed to sense that she wanted to be left alone and said, "Well then. The Lostian meteor shower should be starting really soon. It would last about four hours."

Daine tried to smile. Haralit was being really nice to her and she should try to make an effort to be amicable. They engaged in light conversation. A big hand gently touched her shoulder. By now, Daine turned expectantly, unsurprised. It was Numair.

"Haralit," Numair said in acknowledgement. "Well, Daine, the Lositan meteor shower should start very soon. Now, to be exact."

As if his words were a signal, a falling star streaked across the black sky, which was soon followed by another. Soon, burst of glowing stars were hurled across the Tortallian skies.

Daine was amazed, "It's beautiful."

Numair smiled down at her and said, "I did tell you it was not a sight to be missed."

Haralit said, "Indeed, I have never missed a single shower unless I can't help it."

Daine said, rather absentmindedly, "Now I know why Ouna says that you dirty yourself to sit on the grass to watch meteor showers."

"What?" Numair said, looking at his student.

Haralit who had heard, laughed.


Daine looked discreetly around, everyone was looking intently at the skies, though for various reasons. Not all were there for own personal pleasure, but some for academic purposes. She saw a few astrologers and mages scribbling notes and talking in low tones.

Jassia was staring at Numair.

Daine was unpleasantly reminded of the way a hunter stalked his prey. 'It is none of my business if he gets chased by that blonde.' Daine thought. An unbidden thought raised unpleasantly to the surface, 'Or if he wants to.' She mentally shook her head and thought, 'Besides, he's grown up, he would be able to handle it.'

Daine leaned towards Numair and nudged him gently to get his attention.

"Hmph?" He inquired, preoccupied, not taking his eyes from the glittery display.

"I really need to talk to you later," Daine said.

"About?" He said.

"Two wolves, from my pack. I mean, Snowsdale, my hometown. They are here, they want me to help them," Daine said.

Now that got Numair's attention, he finally tore his gaze from the sky and said incredulously, "They traveled all the way from Galla?"

"No, they soon moved to Tortall after I left. Dunlath Valley," Daine said.

"Alright," Numair said and returned his attention to the spectacular sight.

Satisfied, with a sense of relief, Daine tried to enjoy the rest of the meteor shower.


After the magnificent display, people slowly drifted off. "Wait here," Numair said. "I just remembered that I have made a previous… appointment."

Before Daine could say anything, he started off in the direction of Jassia. Daine quickly looked away. "Are we supposed to meet them?" Numair asked when he returned.

"I arranged to meet them at midnight in the Royal Forest to give them a reply," Daine said and added worriedly, "they want me to go back with them."

Numair sensed her anxiety and ruffled her hair. "Don't worry Magelet, we'll see what we can do."

Daine inwardly gave a sigh of relief, she was worried that he might not understand. She was surprised though, that he said, "we", but was comforted by the thought.

When they finally reached the bottom of the stairs, Numair said, "I think the first thing we should do is meet them and receive a clearer picture of the situation. Then we can decide on what to do next. Besides, it is nearly midnight."

Daine nodded and thought, 'Why does he want a picture for?'

He looked her over and said, "It would be cold since it is reaching autumn. You might want to get your cloak. I have to get mine. We'll meet at the horse pastures as soon as possible."

"How about Jas - " Daine blurted out before she could stop herself and corrected herself quickly, "Er…your appointment?"

She tried her best to look innocent as Numair looked down at her suspiciously and he said enigmatically, "I broke it. Come on, it is close to midnight, we better get a move on."

She nodded and set off towards her room.


With her cloak draped around her, Daine rounded the corner and bumped into someone.

It was Jassia.

"Sorry, I was not seeing where I was going," Daine muttered quickly, keeping her gaze away from the blonde and was about to go round her when Jassia grabbed her wrist.

"Wait a moment," Jassia said. Daine stopped and looked at the blonde whose face showed great displeasure.

"I recognize you and the game you are trying to play," Jassia hissed.

Daine blinked, surprised and thought to herself, 'What game?'

The blonde raked her gaze over Daine, who squirmed and said viciously, "You are just a scrawny girl, a charity case." The blonde pulled Daine closer and said, "Listen, I don't care what you think of me and it really doesn't matter. Come between me and Numair and I'll crush you like the parasite you are."

"Wha, what?" Daine stammered, shocked.

"Don't act innocent." Jassia snarled. "Let me tell you the facts. You are hardly any competition for me to fight for Numair's affection. And this is one game you can't possibly expect to win." With that, the blonde released Daine and stalked off.

Daine took deep breaths, thoroughly shaken by that encounter. She thought to herself, confused, 'Why on earth is she warning me off for? She's just being stupid. I am not interested in Numair in that way! She can have him for all I care. I just hope he sees through her…'

She walked absentmindedly towards the horse pastures, rubbing her wrist where Jassia had bruised her. Numair was there waiting for her.

She must have shown the results of the ordeal with Jassia as he asked with concern, "Are you all right? You look rather pale."

Daine nodded, thinking, 'I better not tell him about that embarrassing incident with Jassia the jealous. I hardly see her and I don't think I'll ever see her again. Besides, that whole conversation was very stupid.'

Before Daine could react, quick-eyed Numair grabbed the wrist that she was rubbing. She winced. "What happened?" he asked, worried, examining her wrist.

"I, er, accidentally, um, slammed the, er, door in, I mean on, my wrist," Daine stammered, hoping that he would take the lie at face value.

He looked at her for a long while, his expression unreadable, then he said, "You better show that to a healer. Come on, let's go meet your friends."

Daine inwardly gave a sigh of relief as she led the way to the arranged meeting place, not seeing Numair's thoughtful look…


Note : Most of these characters exclusively belong to Tamora Pierce. For the curious, this fanfic has been chiefly inspired by various random quotes, which are NOT necessarily linked and for the sake of saving space, I shall only state the main ones, which inspired this fanfic…

In Wild Magic, Ouna said, "He goes for shapely blondes…"
In Wolf Speaker, Brokefang's thoughts to himself, 'He had sent his best travelers, Fleetfoot and Russet, in search of a two-legger who once belonged to his pack.'
Daine had said to Numair, "When I asked the king, he said something about the City of Gods, and an aura, but then we got interrupted and he never did explain."
In First Test, it was mentioned, 'Balor's needle was the tallest part of the palace…mages used it to observe stars or to work spells of long-seeing that let them view the countryside around the palace and capital.'