by Amanda Reppening
A brief note...
Disclaimer: I am not trying to infringe on Tamora Pierce's copyrighted characters, Daine and Numair. She owns them. I don't.
It was gone. Missing. It had been in the log when he left, where was it now? When Weiryn found the one who took his dagger he was going to be quite upset. He was quite upset now as he searched the area around the log where he had left it. It was, of course, nowhere to be found. Well, this was not over. The god of the hunt was going to find this particular prey. Make no mistake about that.
After her last class that afternoon, Veralidaine Salmalín decided she was tired of feeling sick and took herself to a healer.
"What's troubling you?" the healer, a woman with a pleasant spirit and a kind heart, asked.
"I don't know what I've got," Daine said, "but it feels like spidrens are dancing on my head."
Mistress Marlah smiled. "How long have these creatures been taking this rude liberty?" she asked, handing Daine a mug of steaming peppermint tea.
"A few weeks, now I think of it," Daine said, sounding surprised. "I hadn't realized it had been this long."
Still looking unconcerned, Marlah took both Daine's hands and closed her eyes.
Daine could tell she'd gone into a healing trance. She waited patiently until Marlah opened her eyes with a strange smile on her face. She stood and left the room returning with a pendant on a gold chain and a small leather pouch. She handed both to Daine, the strange smile never leaving her lips. "The pendant is for morning sickness, and the tea is for aches and pains. That won't be enough for the whole nine months, so feel free to come back whenever you need more."
Daine was quiet a few moments while she figured out what Marlah was saying. When it finally sank in, all she could say was, "I'm going to be a Ma."
"You already are," Marlah corrected. "Motherhood begins with pregnancy. It doesn't stop until you die."
"Even then, who knows," Daine mused, thinking of her own ma. Suddenly a panic: "How am I going to tell Numair?"
Marlah thought for a moment. "Slowly and carefully," was all the advice she felt qualified to give.
"Sarra, I don't know who it was, but they're not going to get away with it," Weiryn said to his wife as he paced the living room.
"Love," Sarra said, trying to reason with the outraged god. "It was just a dagger. There are certainly worse things to have stolen."
Weiryn didn't say anything as he left the house. Sarra assumed he went to find the culprit, whoever they may be. "Oh, this is not going to be good," she said aloud to no one in particular.
Not wanting to go to their apartment in the Masters' quarters of the Royal University of Magic, Daine went to someone she knew could give her good advice on how to break the news to her husband. Lindhall Reed lived on the floor directly above them.
"Why Daine," he said with a smile when he opened his door. "What a pleasant surprise. Do come in."
Daine entered and sat on a chair, facing her friend. "I have a question," she said slowly when he'd seated himself as well. Daine shifted a bit before beginning. "I've just come from Mistress Marlah's," she said.
Lindhall looked slightly concerned, "Are you sick?"
"Oh no," Daine said. "At least, not like what you're thinking." She took a deep breath. "Numair and I are going to have a baby," she said when she'd finally gotten up the courage.
Lindhall was out of his seat and hugging her before she knew what was happening. He's pretty fast for his age, she thought with a smile. "Oh congratulations, my dear! What did Numair say?"
"Well that's why I came here," Daine said when he was sitting down again. "I wondered if you could give me some idea of how to break it to him."
"Why just the way you did to me. Trust me, he'll be excited."
When Numair came home that afternoon, Daine was, as usual, hunched over her desk working on homework. He came in quietly and kissed the top of her head, not wanting to disturb her studying. As he went into the bedroom to change, she put down her pen and followed him. "I don't understand why they make us wear these stupid robes while we teach," he was saying when she came in. "They're so heavy."
"It *is* November," she reminded him. "I should think you'd be grateful it kept you warm."
Numair pulled on a clean shirt and breeches as he said, "Outside, it may be November, but believe me in that robe it's July. I shudder to think what it will be like in Indian Summer at the beginning of the next school year."
"Well by then the baby will be here and you'll have more things to worry about than hot robes," Daine said, trying to sound flippant. "Whose baby?"
Daine looked at the floor. Numair had never been one to miss details. "Um, ours."
Numair stopped buttoning his shirt and turned from the mirror to look at her. "Ours?" he said quietly. Daine nodded, not sure what to think of his reaction. In two long strides, he crossed the room between them and swept her up in a passionate kiss, his lips pouring love, acceptance, comfort, excitement into hers.
When he finally finished, she wasn't much more than a pool of custard. "I take it you're excited," she said, relying on his strong arms to hold her up.
He ran a big hand down her cheek. "Oh Magelet, I-"
He never got to finish the thought. For just then there was a loud crack of thunder outside and the earth shook mildly beneath their feet. Numair ran to the window and looked out into the darkening sky of late afternoon. "Mithros, Mynoss and Shakith," he said under his breath.
"What?" Daine asked, coming over. "Horse Lords," she breathed when she saw.
Above the snowy hills and bare trees, it was as if the barrier between the mortal realms and the realms of the gods had become a window.
It was still there, none of the immortals were escaping into the world of humans, but looking up into the sky, Daine could see everything that was going on there, and it didn't make her feel very secure. It was war. All out war. None of the great gods were there, but all the minor gods including all the animal gods were at odds with each other. She couldn't hear what was being said (or rather screamed), but magic flew everywhere, singing fur and burning holes in clothing.
"I'm going to talk to Linhall," Numair said, turning to leave.
"What can I do?" Daine asked, desperate to help her animal friends.
"You can stay here where you'll be safe," Numair said in reply to her question.
"I can't just stay and do nothing. I have to help!" Daine glared at the closed door a few moments before turning back to the window. "Green Lady," she called softly. "Ma, I wish you were here."
Suddenly the room was filled with a soft, comforting breeze. Daine turned to see the Green Lady, the goddess of childbirth and home arts, her Ma standing before her, her green dress ruffling in the breeze. "Sweetling, I'm glad you called," Sarra said. "I'm afraid you're the only one who can help."
Gesturing at the sky outside and the ensuing fight, Daine asked, "Ma, what's going on? What could happen that would cause that much unrest?"
Sarra looked mournfully outside. She sighed. "Weiryn did it all by himself," she said. "It most pains me because it's so petty and stupid. It's all about a dagger that was, he thinks, stolen. He left it in a log one day and someone took it and he accused someone - I forget who now - and everyone took sides. What you see is the result of your Da's temper."
"That's all over a dagger?" Daine asked incredulously. "A dagger that he's not even sure was stolen? That is among the most ridiculous things I have ever heard, Ma!"
Sarra looked mournful, "I tried to talk to him, of course. He wouldn't listen."
"Can I come and help?" Daine asked. "Numair's making me stay here and I think I'll go crazy if I don't do something."
"I shouldn't go against Numair's wishes," Sarra said, "but as I said, I fear only you can help. Weiryn thinks the world of you and I think he'll only listen to reason coming from you." She sighed again. "So with that..." she snapped her fingers and suddenly they were in the middle of the battle, everyone all around them screaming at each other. Bolts of magic flew through the air, going around Sarra and Daine and into their targets.
As they went in search of Weiryn, Daine surveyed the fight. There was her badger friend, the duckmole, the goddess of house cats, Old White the wolf god and his mate. None of them noticed her, they were all so involved in the fight. Only gods, she thought, would get so wrapped up in who stole a dagger.
They finally found the hunting god over in one corner of the battle field, overseeing the destruction. "Da, stop this right now!" Daine said when she was within earshot. "Did you know it's causing havoc in the mortal realms as well?"
"Daine," Weiryn said in reply. "Of course I know. But someone stole my dagger, and I have to find it."
"I don't suppose it occurred to you to simply ask around to see if anyone had seen it or knew anything about it," Daine accused. "Of course you had to start a fight so huge it ruined a perfectly good moment for me and Numair. And who knows what all at the University was interrupted. I bet all kinds of folk will have to start projects all over again because of you." She turned and looked at the beetle again. "Now who all have you got involved in your petty little disagreement?"
"Everyone except the raccoon," Weiryn said. "No one can find him. Badger says he probably went to sleep for winter early. He does that every few centuries."
Without a word, Daine went off in search of the first raccoon, the god of all raccoons in the mortal realms.
Lindhall pulled another scroll off a shelf, "Perhaps we can-" he stopped when, Numair put a hand on his old master's chest.
"Stop," said the younger mage. "Look at that." he pointed vaguely out Linhall's window.
Lindhall did a double take when he saw what was outside. Through the crystalline barrier he could see Daine talking to Weiryn. "Oh my," he said. "That doesn't look safe."
"I told her to stay home," Numair said heatedly. "She can't be running around in places like that!"
"Why ever not?" Lindhall asked. "She's old enough to take care of herself. And she is with her parents."
"Because she's pregnant!" Numair said, feeling exasperated.
"So?" Lindhall asked. "Would you lock her away in a sterile room until the baby is born?"
"If I could," Numair said, "yes."
Lindhall chuckled. "Well, I can see you're going to be a force to be reckoned with where this child is concerned. But perhaps we don't need to take any action now that she is there. Let's watch and see." That said, he pulled a chair up to the window and proceeded to watch the scene in front of him as if it were a play on stage, not a world-threatening situation.
Numair paced the room.
She found the raccoon in a cozy little den in the woods surrounded by all the shiny little things he had picked up over the seasons. Thimbles, pins, bits of glass and broken china. And in one corner, a dagger with an ornate handle. Scowling, Daine shook the raccoon awake.
He yawned at looked at her. "Is it spring already? I feel like I just went to sleep a few days ago."
"You did," Daine said. "Where did you get that dagger?"
The raccoon looked at the knife. "That? Oh I found it in a log somewhere. Why? Did it belong to somebody? Oh I'm always getting into trouble because I take things that belong to people."
"Well you've stirred up a fine wasp's nest this time," Daine told him. "There's quite an argument going on about who took that thing. You better come fix it."
"What kind of argument?"
"The kind with violence and outrage. It's messing things up in the mortal realms too. Now come on." She picked him up, the knife in his mouth, and carried him to her father.
"There you are, coon," Weiryn said when he saw them.
"Here's your thief," Daine said, plunking the animal down on a tree stump. "He didn't know it belonged to anyone. Raccoons take things that look pretty, and the hilt on that dagger fair sparkles in the sun. It was all quite a misunderstanding, and I demand you fix this right now, Da!"
Looking determined, Weiryn strode to the center of the fighting and spoke a word in Old Thak. There was a huge boom of thunder and a bolt of lighting came down to strike the ground in front of the god of the hunt. When it had dies down, the place was strangely silent. Without a word, Weiryn threw the dagger down so it was sanding up in the ground. Everyone gathered around to see it as if they never had before.
"What happened?" someone asked.
"Where did it come from?" asked another.
"You found it?"
"It was never lost," Weiryn said. As if that explained everything, he picked up the dagger, sheathed it, and began walking home again.
"Kit, your father makes no sense," the badger told Daine.
"I know," Daine said with a smile. "But I wouldn't have it any other way. Can I go home now, Ma?"
Sarra smiled and snapped her fingers again. How come I could never do that? Daine wondered as she felt herself drawn back to her apartment in Corus.
She'd barely been home half a second, when Numair came bursting through the door and swept her into his arms. "Don't ever do that again. Ever," he said into her hair.
"Nice to see you too," Daine muttered, her voice muffled by his shirt.
"I don't think I'll be able to handle being a father," Numair said, loosening his grip.
"You can do it," Daine said. "Think of it as an adventure."
"What was this?" Numair asked, gesturing outside.
She considered a moment before saying, "That was just life."