zodiacal_light: AU: Because everything's better with zombies. (AU)
Daine is very much not sure what to make of Tortall. It's better than Galla, so far, but that's not saying much, and is probably unfair; the folks in Cria hadn't hunted her like a dog, either. Maybe that was just a Snowsdale problem.

Or maybe it was just what people did, to folks who ran mad with wolves. Maybe she really was no better than an animal, and dangerous like an animal, and should be put down like an animal. (She tries her damndest to bury the image, but in the back of her mind she's remembering the bandits, and how the wolves wouldn't have gone after them without her urging them on. She shivers, and the image sinks away.)

As they approach Corus, Daine slants a look at Onua, wondering how long it will take for the madness to rise up again.

***

It is NOT madness. For the last time, Daineā€¦

Daine clutches the badger's claw that hangs from her neck and eyes the badger himself suspiciously. "I ran with the wolves," she says, much more calmly than she would have had she been awake. "Cloud had to bite me to make me remember I was human."

The badger sighs gustily. You lost yourself in your magic. You lost track of who you were. That doesn't have to happen next time.

"It's not that easy to keep track of myself, then!" It still isn't a shout, but it's closer to one than she's ever managed in this muted inner space. "And I don't have magic anyway."

The badger cuffs her. Daine. For the last time. You DO have magic, you just don't have the Gift. Your magic is with us, the animals; you can listen and hear us, talk so we can understand, heal us even when we're on the brink of death. It's what I've been trying to get you to DO, these last few weeks.

Daine scowls. The badger, unperturbed, swats her again.

As for your so-called madness, are you the strong-willed girl who walked halfway across Galla during spring thaw for a better life, or are you a mouse?

"There's nothing wrong with mice!" Daine squeals, outraged, and wakes to the bemused agreement of one of the barn cats.

***

When Onua offered to keep Daine on, Daine was overjoyed. That was exactly the kind of job she'd hoped for, when daydreaming on the road.

The reality of the job is different than she'd hoped. Oh, most of it is fine; Daine gets on well with all the ponies, and has developed her own bellow, and most of the Rider trainees have learned to mind her.

But on the ride to the summer training site, griffins swoop overhead and when Daine screams, outraged, when no one will listen to her - the horses do.

So do the griffins.

The trainees, Buri, Onua, Sarge, Sir Alanna, and the Queen all stare at Daine as she translates what the animals are saying to her. She is blushing hard; so much for her secret.

Finally, Thayet moves to stand in front of Daine. "You had best learn control, mistress," she says, dark eyes hard.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Onua says, cutting the Queen off before she can scold Daine further.

This softly-spoken question stings more than the Queen's hard eyes do. "I didn't know how. I wasn't even sure I really had magic, until now."

Alanna claps Daine on the shoulder. "That's okay," she says, steering the girl back towards the wagon. "You know now, and even if it isn't normal magic, the basics of training it should still be the same."

Hesitantly, Daine smiles.

***

Daine has never been in a real battle before. The Stormwings before don't count; they were just nuisances, more like eerie bandits than a real battle.

But Pirate's Swoop is under attack by the Carthaki navy, Sir Alanna is gone to fight some ogres at another fief, and a weird fog has rolled in, draining off the Gifts of all the healers and warriors they had left.

The keep's holding out, but it won't forever, not under the onslaught of catapults and blazebalm and sundry immortals, and Daine for the first time since coming south wants to go home.

The animals are all clamoring in her head, and suddenly, something slips deep inside Daine, and she loses herself inside her magic for the first time since the wolves.

The animals, enraged, turn on any enemy they can, drawing on Daine's magic and her mind. The soldiers ringing the Swoop break and run, but they cannot escape the unnatural assault, and even their own horses turn on them, killing and disabling most of the ground troops.

Reinforcements arrive in the form of Sir Alanna and the King's Own, and a bored kraken.

***

The Ninth Rider Group vanished near Dunlath half a year past. Two months past, twenty soldiers also disappeared in the vicinity. Now, finally, the king sends someone to investigate.

Sir Alanna is possibly not the best person for the job, but she is bored and is also the only one willing to put up with Daine, who is going to Long Lake whether or not anyone else wants her to. The wolves came south, far out of their territory, to seek out her help, and she will not disappoint them.

It doesn't take the two of them long to find the craters filled with the charred remnants of the missing Riders.

It also doesn't take them long to get thrown out of Dunlath by an angry Lady Yolane.

"Hmpf," Alanna says, hustling Daine up a game trail towards the edge of the valley. "I will say, though, that that's the most polite booting-out I've ever received." She grins impishly at Daine's incredulous look.

Alanna crosses out of Dunlath, resettling her sword. She turns back to Daine, who has stopped dead. "Girl, come on. You won't be able to help your wolves alone. We have to call up Raoul."

Daine bites her lip and looks over at the pack.

Alanna reaches a hand back impatiently. "Remember you're human, Daine," she says quietly. "We have to deal with them using human methods."

Daine nods, and steps forward, and slams into empty air.

Alanna's hand shoots out and hits solid nothingness, and Daine can see her straining. Faint multicolored sparks - yellow, pink, brown, orange, red, black - flare to life when Alanna probes the invisible wall with her Gift.

"There's nothing for it," Alanna mutters. She looks at Daine. "Stay here, and stay hidden, and stay safe. I'm going to the City of the Gods for mages; we'll have this down in a week."

Daine nods, and rejoins the pack.

***

The week goes by rather crazily. Lady Maura runs away and joins Daine in her cave - not entirely willingly, but Daine is not about to let the girl get into trouble, and Maura won't go back and can't leave the valley anymore than Daine can. Some monster tries to track down and kill the wolves when they decide to get creative and start stealing tools; Daine manages, barely, to use her magic on the monstrous beast and redirect its focus onto the battle mages down at the castle.

It irks Daine greatly that she can't persuade the creature to stop hunting the thieves. Tampering with its mind, which is what redirecting that focus amounted to, doesn't sit well with her. When an inhuman shriek echoes through the mountains, followed closely by an explosion, Daine feels even worse.

The week doesn't end on a better note. Alanna does come back, along with the Own and the promised mages, but they are not enough to crack the barrier.

Daine, shakily, volunteers to sneak into the castle and destroy the barrier's anchor. Maura describes for her where the mages' workshop is, then trots off to go "cause a distraction."

***

Maura's distraction is quite effective, and quite explosive. Everyone's direction focuses outward; Daine, using her newly-mastered ability, scampers up to the turret workshop as one of the castle cats.

She scampers straight into another of the monsters.

Daine has never really tried to use her magic while in a different form; somehow, she doesn't expect it to work. It works fine, though it takes just as much effort to manipulate this monster as it took to manipulate the last one, and soon the beast is thumping off down the stairs to hunt down one of the mages, convinced he is a thief.

The monster makes it to the bottom of the stairs just as Daine makes it to the workshop door. The door, to Daine's great surprise, is not only unlocked but ajar.

The monster sticks its head out into the hallway just as Daine turns back to human and shoulders the door open.

An explosion blows the monster's head off. Daine freezes.

Footsteps start up the staircase. Daine is suddenly thankful it's curved; whoever it is can't see her yet.

She scrambles inside and locks the door behind her. Quickly, she runs over to the crude model of Dunlath on the far table, skirting cautiously around the evil-looking brew bubbling by the window.

Daine hurriedly surveys the model. A dome of black fire glittering with sparks of other Gifts is clearly anchored into two jewels. Looking around, she sees a heavy butcher's knife; she strikes one gem with the tough handle right as the footsteps reach the workroom door.

"I could have sworn I warded this," comes a man's warm voice. The knob jiggles.

The small magical wall is still there, though it looks weaker. Of course both gems have to be smashed, Daine thinks frantically.

Her eyes fall on the bubbling pot. She's seen enough over the last week to know it's far more dangerous than the wall; she has no time to take care of both, but in a split second, Daine decides to gamble on the wall being weakened enough already.

She pushes the pot over right as the lock clicks. She is up on the window ledge by the time the door swings open, and she is already blurring into golden eagle form when the dark eyes register her presence and widen in shock.

***

It's almost anticlimactic. Alanna manages to take down the broken wall all by herself; the stress of anchoring the whole wall means the anchor can't hold up to extra strain. Yolane, Belden, the mercenaries, and the mages are rounded up without much fuss; the only fuss, really, is Tristan Staghorn, self-proclaimed head of the mission, who tries to blast the whole group of the Own.

Alanna, Daine thinks, looks a bit too gleeful when she skewers that pompous ass.

"I blew up a granary," Maura says when Daine asks, and Daine is so distracted by this answer that she doesn't notice the weird-looking hawk until it is well past them, out of the range of a bow.

Daine gapes, then whirls to stare at the captured mages.

Sir Raoul notices her look. "What?" he asks, shifting to grip his sword.

"Where's that other mage?"

***

It is strange to be back at the Rider barracks after the month she's had. It's autumn; the trainees are now assigned to groups, and there's a lull while the teachers all catch up on their other work before active recruitment starts again.

Daine is irritated with herself. This is the life she wants, the life she dreamed of even before the bandits, working with horses, valued for her expertise.

She is so bored.

She also can't stop thinking about Carthak - Carthak that sent war barges to assault Tortall, Carthak that unleashed the immortals on Tortall, Carthak that tried to foment rebellion and undermine Tortall from within.

Daine loves her adopted homeland, and each day she broods on this, she grows angrier and angrier.

It doesn't help that she still feels guilty, for letting that mage get away. Who knows what kind of information Carthak has now?

"Daine?" Onua calls, eyes worried.

Daine turns.

"The Queen wants to talk to you," Onua says.

Anything would be better than brooding more. Daine puts down her brush and follows her friend.

***

It's been a year since Dunlath, and though Daine knows, having been somewhat involved in the preparations, just how long it takes to prepare an embassy to Carthak, it still feels like too long.

I want to see this Ozorne for myself, Daine thinks. I want to see this self-important vulture who preys on my home.

The last person she is expecting to see is waiting on the imperial galley, standing just apart from the other mages.

Daine can't quite repress the hiss that escapes her when she sees the missing mage from Dunlath, standing there cool as you please behind the prince, dark eyes glittering with amusement as he takes in the expressions on Daine and Alanna's faces.

"Welcome to Carthak," he says pleasantly enough, when he's (re)introduced to the Tortallans. His eyes linger a moment on Daine's. "You are the one with wild magic," he says, and it is not a question, though no one had mentioned her magic during her introduction. "We should talk later," he adds, moving back slightly at a soft cough from the herald.

Daine's mind reels. To her surprise, she notices the prince is looking at her intently; when he catches her gaze, his eyes flick in an unmistakable warning towards the black-robed mage, who is studiously pretending not to notice. Daine gives him an almost imperceptible nod, and Kaddar turns his attention back to the proceedings.

Arram Draper, Daine thinks to herself. Yes, we should talk later.

She forcibly keeps from clenching her fist, and tries not to think about the havoc her new borrowed power could wreak.

This is a diplomatic conference, after all.

Daine

Jan. 7th, 2011 07:07 pm
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
This is the one post I was dreading the most, and the reason I've not posted more head-canon stuff is that I sort of feel like I ought to get through the heroines, more or less, first. (Well, except for Thom, and Numair's the next post slated.)

I love the concept of Daine. I like her a lot in WM, and I think she's a fine secondary character in later canon.

I cannot stand the later three books of her quartet, and she is a large part of why. (The really horribly done cutesy animals are the rest of the reason. WM gave me hope; WS took it all away again.)

First, what I like. I like the sweet, somewhat shy commoner of WM. I like how in WM we see how she has troubles identifying with humans, and overidentifying with animals, and it's all treated like just more, well, problems that she'll have to overcome. (Numair's random curing her madness was a touch too pat for my tastes, but bearable, especially since WM makes it pretty clear it doesn't cure her of her identification issues.) I love the idea of her magic, and watching her tentatively explore it was hella fun.

And then boom, in WS, we no longer have Daine, we have Generic Spunky Heroine (Ecowarrior Subtype). There is no progression from Daine in WM to Daine in WS, psychologically; nothing that we're shown. If there is one thing I absolutely demand in stories, it's a sense of psychological realism; I can assume a lot, but you can't just expect me to assume necessary character growth. I have to see it, and we never do with Daine, not between any of her many changes.

Let me interject here: I am passionately, rabidly environmentalist (though of the "use all of the animal and kill it humanely" subset). But if there's one thing I loathe in fiction, it's the ecowarrior, especially the one who Has A Magic Bond With Nature. Daine in WM was most definitely not this; her overidentifying with animals was a problem. In WS, we suddenly get a really obnoxious aspect of Later Daine: her overidentifying with animals leads to her fucking up with humans - and the narrative treats this all as totally right.

We see this same obnoxious trait over and over again in EM, where Daine repeatedly does things that jeopardize the diplomatic party of which she's a part. She may not be an official negotiator, but you know what? That doesn't matter. There are standards of behavior expected of all members of a diplomatic party, and Daine's not excused just because she's "only" there for the Emperor's birds.

Later Daine is also incredibly judgmental. She (really rudely, esp. for a member of a diplomatic party) decides to teach the boys a lesson in EM - and I hated the sense that I was supposed to cheer her on, just like I hated the sense that I was supposed to root for Daine being an utter ass and jeopardizing the Dunlath mission because the wolves wouldn't understand. Daine, honey, that's what explanations are for.

Most irritatingly, Daine is incredibly judgmental towards Varice. This bugs me greatly for reasons I'll expand upon in a Varice post, but what really irks me is how the text gives Daine what's supposed to be this character-growth moment where Daine realizes she's being judgmental ... except Daine comes off as incredibly condescending. And she's condescending towards her mother, too.

Daine, to me, is the most Sue-ish of Pierce's heroines after Aly. (All Pierce's heroines are Sue-ish. It is, admittedly, part of being a hero ... except Pierce's heroines never really struggle, and are never really wrong. Unconvincing lip service is paid to both notions, and it's never really less convincing than here with Daine.)

Daine being godborn just felt really tacked on, and irked me. Pierce has this trend, with Tortall, of never really being able to write commoners without making them noble or better; the only two commoners, eventually, are Daine and Numair - and Daine's (unconvincingly) godborn, and Numair is so damn powerful and such a fixture of Jon's court that he might as well be noble.

I also loathe to no end Daine/Numair. Honestly, I knew pretty early on that Daine had a crush on Numair, but it never ever felt like real love to me, even though all of the fourth book was contrived to take Daine and Numair away from the main action and force them into a really squicky romance. (It's not the age gap that bothers me, so much - it's that RotG reads like she's still his student. And it all still reads as a crush.)

This is all probably why I have a tendency to break up Daine and Numair in my fics, or never have the relationship form; I see it only forming under really contrived circumstances. Also, no matter what Pierce says, Daine is not mature for her age; she's really rather immature.

Daine/Numair is like Alanna/Jon - they don't really click, and the relationship is bad for both parties. With Alanna/Jon, Pierce actually took a step back and really thought about it, and broke them up; I wish she'd had the insight to do that to Daine and Numair.

...I just realized another reason Daine/Numair squicks me: Numair is just about the only person Daine hangs out with, after WM where she spends time with Onua. Sure, lip service is paid to Daine still working with Onua later - but we never, ever see that again. It's the Daine and Numair show, and it creates this feeling that Daine is only ever around him. The world of TIQ is really claustrophobic, basically, and Daine/Numair is now starting to seem incredibly creepy to me.

Daine, by the way, is superb with a bow, which feels very Sue-ish, the way it's handled. She's the commoner girl SO GOOD she leaves everyone in awe - oh, please. (Incidentally, anyone else note that throughout the Tortall books, it's the ladies who don't/won't/can't fight who get scorn and condescension? The Tortall books are very clear: girls, if you don't want to fight, you're useless and silly.)

And, lastly, I hate the dehumanization of people in the later books. "Two-legger" sets my teeth on edge; calling all the animals "The People" and acting like they're more worthwhile than humans drives me nuts. In WM it was interesting because Daine's tendency to do this was treated like a problem, which it damn well is. The later books throw that all right out the window and expect us to be on Daine's side on all of this - sorry, no. Humanity will always come first for me, and I find the dehumanization we see in TIQ morally repugnant.

Also, wtf is up with acting like humans aren't animals? Or acting like animals are all morally right and wouldn't understand attacking others of their own kind? And while we're at it, can Daine's magic please stop randomly changing to fit the plot? And could more animals than rats hate her, or be suspicious of her? Also, it'd be lovely to see some kind of animal that she can't control; her perfect ability to control all vertebrates is a large part of what makes her so Sue-ish.

OMFG, how did I forget the one thing that made me start actively disliking Later Daine? The fucking temper tantrum she throws in the Carthaki palace. You cannot convince me no one died in that dinosaur rampage; you cannot convince me that the devastation she wreaked was justified. Why did she pitch such a colossal fit? She thought Numair was executed. Okay, you know what? I can understand that, especially for someone who really isn't shown to have much of a moral compass beyond "whatever the animals want is awesome!".

Then the text turns it into a joke. Daine is worried people back home might be upset; every Tortallan in the envoy is all "don't worry about it at all, dear, it's just a story to them". Kaddar and the text act like it's amusing that anyone could possibly want Daine punished for destroying the Carthaki palace, killing God knows how many people, while part of a diplomatic envoy suing for peace. Um. Am I the only one who wonders why it's so cute and okay and funny for Our Heroine to destroy a palace, when it was so Hideous and Awful when a certain smiling duke tried that in Corus?

Let me stop while I'm ahead and simply say that any argument that hinges on Daine being forced to by the Hag, or being distraught, or any other such excuse that lets her off the hook for her actions does. not. work. for me - unless you are willing to make the same excuse for Roger, who was out of his fucking mind at the time. I'm sorry, but madness is more justifiable for me than a fit of temper. Oooh, gee, Numair died. Well, honey, what are you going to do when he eventually does buy the farm? Trash Corus if he died in bed? Rip another country to shreds if he dies on a mission?

The Daine who throws that temper fit I unabashedly hate. If it weren't for the fact that her character as written is so damn disjointed that I can't really connect the Daines of each book, it would ruin her character for me entirely.

I have no head-canon for Daine, other than that I'm starting to become convinced she's some kind of sociopath, and I'm starting to become more and more certain that her marriage with Numair falls apart real fast. (I suspect she'd just take off one day and leave him with the kids. I ... don't really see her being mature enough to raise them.)

I want to reiterate: I really like the idea of Daine. I like to explore her interactions with characters not named Numair in fics; I like to see how my AUs would affect her plot. I think her story and character were horribly mishandled, and part of what angers me so much with the later three books is that I can almost see what Pierce was going for - and it fails miserably for me.

***

My Fics
Canon compliant:
None yet.

Allegiance AU:
Difference - Daine comes to Tortall. Things are different, in this world.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Weird Folk - Ten friends Daine makes in Tortall.

Snake in the Grass AU:
Daine is an important secondary character in the foundation fic for this 'verse.
The Morning Star - Thom is stuck visiting his family at the Swoop when a certain fleet attacks it.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
Daine becomes a pretty major secondary character in this 'verse.
Fools in Love - Daine asks an impertinent question.
The Way to His Heart - Numair can cook a grand total of three things.
zodiacal_light: AU: Because everything's better with zombies. (AU)
"What is this?" Thom asked, poking the stuff in the bowl with his spoon.

"Soup," said Numair, giving Thom a funny look. "Good soup," he added when Thom glanced at him.

Thom looked at the bowl. Gingerly, he stirred the liquid, watching as even more random unidentifiable bits rose to the surface. It didn't look like any soup he'd ever had; it looked, rather, like someone had run mad in a vegetable garden.

***

Numair only seemed to be able to cook three things: soup, which never looked like any normal soup; rice, which was never just rice; and these weird little meat things wrapped in flatbread. None of them ever turned out the same way twice.

Of course, that wasn't all Numair ever brought him. Frequently, he'd show up in Thom's office with a barely-cooling bundle of something from one of Legann's food stands - a turnover, maybe, or dumplings, or a cup of yet more soup held gingerly in long fingers, or whatever new food Numair'd seen that he'd wanted Thom to try, bustling in all excited like a child with a clever treasure. Sometimes, he'd crash into Thom's office at a rush, somewhat late and a bit disheveled, sheepishly setting down a plate of something clearly swiped from the palace kitchens or whatever lunch he'd been forced to attend.

At first, these midday interruptions had annoyed Thom, as much for what they implied as the interruptions themselves. He was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, he'd finally ranted one day to his sister, he didn't need the court's newest darling mage taking pity on him. Alanna had raised one pointed eyebrow, for once not yelling back, and said tartly that maybe if he didn't consistently skip lunch people wouldn't feel so inclined to feed him.

It wasn't until a day four years later, when Numair actually failed to stop by, that Thom realized he'd gotten used to the mage's noontime interruptions whenever they were both at Legann. But then Daine scrambled in, bright and cheerful and completely out of breath, and set a bundle smack in the center of Thom's desk.

"There," she'd said, absently tucking a flyaway curl behind her ear. "Numair said to give that to you, and to say he's sorry he couldn't drop by himself, but some idiot student - not me! - just blew up his classroom."

A heaviness Thom hadn't noticed until then fizzled away, and he opened the bundle.

"Those're fish pasties," Daine said, pointing. "I taught him my ma's recipe. Oh, almost forgot." She leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Thom's cheek, grinning. "That's also from Numair, even if he didn't say it."

She skipped out of the room, leaving an utterly flabbergasted Thom and two cooling pasties behind.

***

Thom caved to Numair's expectant gaze like he always did, and gingerly tasted the soup. "It's good," he pronounced finally. Better than Alanna's cooking, he didn't add. That was a low hurdle to jump.

Numair's wide smile, sudden and brilliant as the sun through rainclouds, warmed Thom more than the soup did.
zodiacal_light: Humour: Because angst is not jolly. (Default)
Master Thom was glaring daggers at the tall man leaning smugly against the paddock fence. Numair, entirely unrepentant, murmured something to him and cocked his head, raising a jaunty eyebrow.

Daine watched with wide eyes, too far away to hear the words, as Thom bristled like an offended hedgehog and turned away from the mage, oh-so-casually leaning on his stick - on Numair's toe. Numair winced and jerked his foot back, flailing about dramatically and nearly falling over the fence backwards. Thom, now the one sporting a smug smile, shot an amused glance back over his shoulder at him.

As the mage and cunning man continued their melodramatic exchange, Daine called back to the stables, "Hey, Onua?"

Onua emerged from the stables, dusting off her hands. "Yes?"

Daine resettled herself on the fence, and nodded at the men. "Remember how I asked you, back when we was coming here, what Master Thom's type was? It wouldn't happen to be tall, dark, and magely, would it?"

Onua looked at the two men, who were both now staring at Daine, and grinned. Daine followed her glance and blushed; she hadn't meant to be that loud.

Thom had frozen and stared at Daine, face pale, before turning his head almost involuntarily to look at Numair -

- Who was grinning down at him with the faintest traces of pink in his cheeks. Numair raised an eyebrow in silent query - Well? - and Thom went beet red - which, Daine noted in amusement, clashed horribly with his hair - turned on his heel, and stormed off towards the palace as fast as a man with a bad limp could storm.

Numair watched him go, shaking his head and grinning like any smitten fool.

"I'm sorry," Daine said, voice tiny. "I didn't mean to upset him."

Onua laughed. "Don't worry about it, Daine. It's about time our resident curmudgeon caught a clue."

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zodiacal_light: Humour: Because angst is not jolly. (Default)
Alix

October 2013

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