The last chapter... I want to thank everyone who has made it this far. You guys have been awesome, I really enjoyed all of your reviews and I wanted to thank all the anonymous reviewers that I couldn't respond to. Another big thanks to my betas; Sweet Sassy Sarah, LunaSphere, Katiebug, and Etariel. You guys were the best betas I could have possibly asked for.
Raeg sat by Periann's bedside, having flatly and repeatedly refused a bed. He only had a few cuts from the shattered glass and some bruises from falling over. The healers had finally brought him a chair and made him promise not to leave it until they were sure there were no side-effects from that madman's power. They had also refused to answer any questions about Siri— Tris— and since he had had to choose between being with Peri when she woke up and searching the school for Si— Tris, dammit— he had taken the chair.
The infirmary was filled with noise. Everyone who had been placed under the fear-magic was awake now and crammed into this room. The lanterns that had been lit flickered madly and bounced shadows around as healers rushed in front of them. Raeg rubbed the hand that wasn't clutching his sister's across his eyes. He had a massive headache. Well, no wonder; in one night he had been hit by a powerful spell, had passed out, and had been knocked around by a blast of what had to be weather-magic.
Which had him thinking about Tris. Ravenfeather had reached them just as Tris passed out. With a panicked look that Raeg had never seen on him before, he asked Raeg if he was all right, checked both girls and summoned some help. Waiting for the healers to come, Ravenfeather had looked at Tris and laughed, of all things. Seeing the expression on Raeg's face had just made him laugh harder.
"Short for Trisana, no doubt," Ravenfeather had murmured as the infirmary staff rushed into the room and everything clicked into place in Raeg's mind.
"Peri!" Raeg's eyes snapped open and he leaned over the bed, looking at his little sister. He smiled. "You're all right. You're all right?"
"Yes. My throat hurts. What happened?"
"You were kidnapped—"
"Oh! I remember! Who was that? Where is he?" Peri looked around at all the other people. "What happened to everyone else?"
"There were explosions, and the mage who grabbed you had some kind of mind magic— no one is really sure, yet."
"Where is he?"
"Don't worry. Siri— Tris got him with his own power—he was still out when the professors got him."
"Periann!" The voice rang out over the weather and human commotion; the fear clear in its tone.
"Father?" Peri asked weakly, raising herself up on her elbows. The man pushing his way towards the bed looked sort of like her father, in the way that you could tell that siblings were related. Instead of neat, oiled hair this man looked as if he had just climbed out of bed. Instead of his impeccable uniform, he wore a coat over what looked like a night gown. Instead of his neutral, guarded face this stranger wore a look of fear and anxious relief. He reached the bedside.
"Peri," he gasped, pulling her into a hug.
"Father?" she gasped, hugging him back awkwardly.
Raeg attempted to edge out of the room before he was involved in the scene in any way. His luck completely failed him, and he was noticed by one of the healers, a strict young man with a carrying voice.
"Sit!" the healer commanded. "You have had massive shocks acting the hero as you were, and I want you seated now! Or you're going into a bed!" Another healer called for something from across the hall.
"Now!" the healer shot at Raeg as he rushed off to help.
Raeg looked over at his sister and father, who were both looking at him. He didn't dare meet his father's gaze, but didn't move away, either.
"Father," Periann interrupted. "Don't say a word. I mean it." Both her father and brother stared at her as she continued in a voice full of authority. "He deserves so much more than what you've done to him, and he just saved my life and he should get a minute without your criticisms. So just don't."
"Periann—" Their father started again, but she shook her head violently, wincing and clasped a hand to her forehead. Raeg moved forward, grabbing a cold water bowl off the table behind his chair and wringing out the cloth.
"Lay down, you silly girl," he commanded, keeping his voice light. "I don't need you to protect me. I'm fine."
"Liar," Periann whispered, but she was worn out and her strength was gone. After less than a minute she was asleep.
"Can you stay until she wakes up, or should I?" Raeg asked, turning to put the cloth back into the bowl without looking at his father, who stood watching him from the end of the bed.
"Raeg." There was no solidity to the voice, but a gentleness that Raeg had never heard with his name from that mouth. Despite himself, he met the gaze of older eyes that matched his own. There was a moment that stretched, everything unsaid, every hurt, every regret jammed up into it so that neither of them could speak to break it. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, his father broke the stare, looking at the bed into his daughter's face.
"I can stay," he said, the old authoritarianism seeping back, despite his appearance.
Raeg stood to leave without a word, squeezing his sister's hand one more time before he turned away.
"Raeg," he turned again to look at his father, his eyebrows raised in question. "Dinner, this Sunsday," his father continued. "She would enjoy you being there." His eyes didn't falter, and Raeg thought— hoped— that maybe it wasn't just about her. But that hope was a little too fragile in the angry face of the past.
"I might be busy,he replied, instead, turning and walking away.
"'Might'?" his father asked, his single voice sounding lost in the noise of the infirmary. Raeg didn't turn this time. But when he had snuck out of that hall –the healer's back was turned- and was in his dorm, in the bed that had belonged to him longer than any other, he allowed the hope to bloom, just a little.
Tris woke slowly. Sounds came first, whispers in her ears that didn't connect. The warmth came next, blankets across her waist and legs, sunlight on her right side. After that she realized that her eyes were closed and that she was lying in a bed, the sounds became words from people talking softly at a small distance. Tris kept her eyes closed. She didn't want to think about any of it.
Plus, her head was pounding as hard as it had when she had tried to stop the tides nine years ago. She wasn't enjoying the feeling. Tris felt for her center and wrinkled her nose in distaste. She would be doing no blasting for a while, unless she wanted to go into the store of magic in her hair, which she was smart enough to realize was a bad idea.
She felt movement in the air beside her, heard a creak of furniture by her ear. She realized that the voices had stopped.
"Just a minute with her," the voice was soft, obviously whispered by whoever had sat down beside the bed. She kept her eyes shut, berating herself for being immature and unrealistic, but refusing to open her eyes and look at Ravenfeather just the same.
"I had a talented student. I thought that there was something off about her. She didn't seem like the other first years; she knew too much, had too much in her eyes." He paused. Tris wasn't sure if he was searching for words or if he was waiting for a reaction, but he carried on without waiting for her to acknowledge him. "I think that I reacted badly. Instead of supporting this student, I isolated her. Instead of helping, I hindered. And I'm afraid that my actions may have had a role to play in this… in this giant mess. For that, I am very sorry. Truly sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Tris said, her voice harsh from sleep. Ravenfeather chuckled. She opened her eyes and sat up, not looking over at him, but not hiding anymore. She was so sick of hiding.
"You were right, you know. I'm not who I said I was."
To her surprise, Ravenfeather nodded. "I witnessed the last little bit of your weather magic and heard you tell Raeg your name," he explained. "I know enough about the events of the last few years to have heard your name." There was silence and Tris waited for the fear, the anger, the jealousy to start.
"Can I see that amulet now?" Ravenfeather asked.
"It's been bothering me for months," he admitted. "And since the secret's out, I thought I might be able to look at it."
Tris wordlessly slipped the necklace over her head and handed it to him, staring as he examined it. His grin grew as he turned it over in his hands.
He didn't care about who she was, or what she could do.
The door opened and the headmaster, made older by the events of the night, and a new, very familiar figure.
She took a deep breath and looked up, meeting the black eyes of Niklaren Goldeye, who was staring down at her with something that resembled fury. Tris didn't say anything. When Niko looked like this, the four shut up and let him yell.
Better you than me, her foster-siblings sent as one.
Ravenfeather stood up to greet the new arrivals.
"Here she is, Niklaren, relatively unharmed, as I promised," the headmaster said.
"Thank you, Threidin. May we have a moment?" Niko said, his voice cold. Ravenfeather dangled the amulet in front of her.
"You can keep it," Tris said.
He grinned, delighted at the thought of a new toy. "I will see you in class," he said, following the headmaster from the room.
She knew that, no matter what Ravenfeather believed, no matter how little he cared about who she really was, she wasn't staying. She quickly wiped away a tear before Niko could notice. This whole place was… a dream. And Trisana Chandler didn't indulge in dreams.
Niko sat down quietly in the vacated chair and smoothed out his pants. Tris watched him, worried as he took time over the details. He was thinking, she knew. When he got very finicky she knew he was trying to find a way to talk to her. Like when she had asked an awkward question growing up. She knew to wait, to not push him into speaking his mind. The silence stretched.
"I was on my way to Summersea, barely two weeks away from Discipline, when I got the vision of you being attacked by that… mage," Niko spat out the word. Tris winced. "Can you begin to imagine, Trisana, the amount of fear I carried on the journey here? I could not tell how far it was in the future, I didn't know if you were all right. And when I rode up to the school and saw the destruction…."
"I am so sorry, Niko," Tris said, looking at her lap. "I was stupid. I never should have come here, it's—" She looked up, out the window, anywhere but Niko's eyes. If she looked there she would see that he had known all along and she didn't want to see that reflected with love and sympathy. She couldn't take it. "It's just not going to work. I can't be someone I'm not." She shrugged, as if her heart wasn't breaking.
"What do you want to do?"
She wanted to go back two days and redo the entire thing, keep Peri from going out. She wanted to be friends, maybe more, with Raeg. She wanted to be Siri, actually be Siri, to have that life and that history and that soul. She wanted to not have had this gift. But right now, most of all, when she knew she could have none of that, she wanted her family.
"I want to go back to Summersea," she said, looking out the window. "I want to go home."
It didn't take long to pack. Niko quickly acquired a servant's help and an extra horse. Tris managed to get all of her possessions without once running into Raeg, Periann or any of their friends.
Coward, she called herself, because she couldn't take the changes she would see in their faces.
Its better this way, she lied.
The stable hand helped pack everything onto their packhorse and Tris and Niko, rode out of the stables. City workers were already rebuilding the damaged areas, increasing the mosaic charm of the campus. Tris stopped her horse, looking back at the buildings one last time. Niko stopped his horse beside her, waiting until she was done with her goodbye.
A wind blew over the buildings and ruffled her coat and Niko's hair.
"You should have seen her, Peri," Tris squeezed her eyes shut as Raeg's voice came to her. She didn't want this, she didn't want it to happen again. She didn't want to know. She didn't want-
"She was amazing."
Tris gasped, staring straight ahead. The breeze brought her nothing else, but it didn't need to. She was amazing. Amazing. Tris was.
Tris looked over at Niko, and looking at the slightly satisfied smile on his face, she saw that he knew she wasn't going anywhere. Slightly annoyed— she thought he could have saved her the packing— she raised an eyebrow in question.
"This school was never right for me, you know," Niko said. "But it's doing wonders for you, and… maybe it's doing what I couldn't." He smiled in a self-conscious way as his thoughts turned inward.
Tris, without thinking too hard about it, it was easier when her thoughts were muddled with pleasure from overhearing Raeg's praise, said, "You are the best teacher I will ever have, Niko."
He turned away, rubbing his hand over his eyes. After a moment he turned back towards his student, smoothing his hands along his now more salt-than-pepper mustache. He smiled. "And you are the best student I will ever have, dear Trisana. Thank you. There's more out there in the world for you, I know that."
"Do you see it?"
He smiled his mage-smile, looking into her eyes. "Every day," he said, like a promise.
They rode back to the dorms and were unpacking when Peri found them.
"What are you doing?" she asked, looking in panic at the bags.
"No!" She strode over to the nearest bag and started taking the objects out of it. "You aren't running away. You are my friend, and you are not going to disappear without a word!"
"Peri—" Tris tried again. Niko was watching them silently, a smile trying to not flicker over his features. Peri hadn't noticed him.
"You were going to just leave? Leave the school, and leave me and leave Raeg? Without even a goodbye? Well, I won't allow it!"
"What's going on?" Raeg stood at the door, surveying the room.
Niko's chuckle escaped him, distracting them from their anger. "I'm going to leave you to this, Trisana. I will have a rented house in town for a week, so I'm sure to see you again before classes begin. It was very nice to meet you two," he said, nodding to the embarrassed Peri and Raeg. "Hopefully we'll have a chance to be introduced at a later date." Tris nodded and he slipped out of the room.
"You're not leaving?" Raeg asked. Peri seemed too mortified to think of the words.
Tris shrugged. "If you had let me get a word in edgewise you would have known sooner. I can't pretend to be someone I'm not, but that doesn't mean I can't stay here…" Peri squeaked, her embarrassment forgotten. She hugged Tris quickly and turned back to the bag she was unpacking, pulling out the items with more care.
"I'm glad," Raeg said, stepping closer.
Tris smiled, looking away. "Me too."
"'Tris'?" Peri didn't stop unpacking as she asked the question Tris had been fearing. Tris took a deep breath. There was a lot of explaining to do but none of it really seemed to matter.
They were still here. They had come to find her. That was what mattered.
They had a week off while the school was put back in order. Raeg and Peri were angry that she had almost left without a word, but they forgave her quickly enough. Their questions lasted a majority of the night as she told them most of what she had been hiding. Most of it… Some things still couldn't be aired so soon after the fresh pain that fear-mage had caused, but when Raeg took her hand while she told them of the reactions of the southern mages to her power, she thought that it wouldn't be too long before the old wounds were healed again.
Without being forced into anyone's company by classes, Tris avoided who she wanted to avoid. Ironically, Peri was the only girl left in her dorm. The rest had been pulled from classes by their parents after news of the night's events had spread. Peri didn't mention what she had said to her father to stop him from taking her home, but it was another example of the newfound backbone she hadn't known she possessed.
Tris stayed in Peri's room, away from the rumours that were spreading through the school. Her solitude lasted only one night. Raeg showed up the next day with Dominik, Tridian, and Eurey in tow. Without a mention of her sudden name change, they made a mess of the noble girls' common room and made bets on whether or not spring midterms would be cancelled. The next day, Grenda and Maret found her and joined in with their group. Around dinner, Thierry and Amnie arrived with plates of food stolen from the unemployed dining hall. Raeg grinned at her from across the room as they laughed at one of Tridian's stories and Tris smiled back. Life at Lightsbridge couldn't be better.
Well, Tris thought, following her friends up the stairs to their wall, her skirts bunched in her fists. Not all of it.
There were stares and whispers when they went out into the school. Peri made faces and Eurey made rude jokes, and Raeg actually took her hand and it didn't matter so much. It wasn't so much their acceptance, which she had always had at Winding Circle, but her reaction to all her fears being laid before her. The pain was still there, but it was dulled by the expression of it. There were things that mattered more. Tris made it up the stairs and walked towards the view, entranced.
I won't be Siri anymore. Never again. Her friends stood along the wall beside her, quicker up the stairs than she could be, especially after her time in the infirmary. Grenda stood with Anmie, laughing as Tridian, Maret, and Dominik playfully kept Eurey away from the wall's ledges. Peri leaned against the wall, looking out over her father's city, less bitter than sweet now that Raeg had come home for his first family dinner.
She felt him move up behind her, the smirk becoming a smile as he tried to surprise her. She looked over her shoulder at him.
"Don't be so smug," Raeg muttered, caught in the act. "I'll get you one day."
"Not likely," Tris scoffed, thinking of her visions and hearing, as well as an ex-thief foster-brother. She leaned on the wall to look up at him.
"It's coming!" one of the boys down the wall yelled. Everyone gripped the wall, bracing themselves. Along with a flurry of wet snow, the wind blew towards them. Raeg reached out quickly, grabbing onto her and pulling her into a hug as the wind hit, freezing cold and nearly strong enough to take them all away.
"The unsuspected can always happen," Raeg whispered into her ear, holding tight as another gust of wind blew along the wall, sending their friends into shrieks of laughter.
Tris agreed wholeheartedly, leaning into Raeg's shoulder. Like lightning from clear skies, the unsuspected flashed down, changing everything. Tris's grey eyes looked up into the laughing face of the one who had seen her at the worst time of her life, and would still hold her up in the wind. This, Tris knew, as he leaned in for a kiss, was what she had been waiting for.