It was a damned stupid thing to do and she knew it. Evvy was a street kid, and she'd survived by her wits. She knew better than to follow a boy anywhere, especially outside of the walls. I've grown soft, that's it. Soft and stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She'd become so comfortable with Briar that she naturally thought all the mages at Lightbridge would be like him. Only a spoiled and soft, rich kid should have been so stupid, but never Evvy. Jared had wanted to show her something – something he said no stone mage should ever miss, and like an idiot she'd followed. One boy had turned into three and all possessed the magic that she did. There would be no place to hide, no way to escape. She'd be like those girls she'd seen so many times in the catacombs – broken and bleeding and wounded from the inside out.

Evvy reached with her magic, hoping at least to slow them down. The stone welcomed her, bent to her will. But each barrier she built was taken down by the other stone mages, one by one. She tried to fight smart, but they could feel the stone as completely as she, and three against one makes for terrible odds. Evvy didn't hope for a savior – it wasn't in her nature. She fought until her magic was worn down and then she huddled, drained, preparing for the worst as the three predators closed in on her. Evvy clutched at the vine necklace that Briar had given her and tried to send her mind someplace else – so that she could be separated from what would come next. But it didn't work like that, she was too scared. And she could still feel the sensation of ripping clothes and grabbing hands.

Fear lurched and took control; it swelled with the last dregs of magic from a pool she thought had been exhausted. Spikes grew from the stones and impaled the ravenous attackers, who were distracted by their own evil. Then Evvy collapsed, lying unconscious in a granite graveyard.

When Briar followed the distress call that Evvy had not known she sent, he found her lying in a heap surrounded by three corpses. "Oh, Evvy, no," was all he said before he gathered her in his arms and took her from the scene. It would take everything he'd learned to get her out of this. She'd killed three nobles' sons, and even if they were the worst examples of humanity, it was going to be an uphill battle.

Briar reforged a connection he'd long ago closed off and sent out a distress call to the three people he trusted most. "Help me help her, please." He knew instantly that they would.