Disclaimer:Anything you recognize belongs to the esteemed Tamora Pierce. I am only borrowing her amazing creations. I do not profit from this, so please do not sue me.

A/N: I said I would be quick, but I meant to be quicker. Sorry folks; between one thing and another, this got pushed back to the end of the list. Well, here you go people: the third chapter. Thanks again to all those of you who reviewed my story, it really does motivate me to write.

Et voila!

Her gems were complete, stored with enough power to double or perhaps triple her spell-casting power. It had taken most of the afternoon, but Tris was finally satisfied that these gems would be stable enough to withstand the transportation and the spell.

She was packing her things to take to the Citadel when Briar knocked on the door. Tris opened it to see Briar balancing at least four books on medicine in one arm and a large bag in the other. The bag was already mostly full with clothing and other necessities. Briar grinned, flashing white, even teeth in her direction.

"Hey, Coppercurls. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

She put a few more books into the single bag she was taking, turning slightly to hide the smile that was pulling on her lips. Briar had not used her nickname in a very long time. Tris took it as a sign that his anguish over Yanjing was receding a little.

Still juggling his books and bag, Briar walked over to Tris' bed. He set the contents of his arms down, nearly dropping everything in the process.

Tris stifled a laugh. Briar was usually so graceful.

He caught her eye with one of his own. "Did your stabilization spell work?" he asked as he vainly attempted to stuff the rest of his books into his already stuffed bag.

"The stabilization spell worked. I have yet to test the stone's power reserves against such a powerful spell, but all of my previous attempts have worked far better than I hoped. With a little luck, the spell won't kill me," Tris joked.

Briar looked her in the eye, and for an instant his normally green eyes were some how much darker and sparking with some type of energy. His expression changed so quickly that Tris almost missed it, dark and intense, then light and playful again.

"Not funny, Tris."

"What would I do if you weren't here to be sure I cleaned my room and folded my socks?" he joked.

She half-grinned at him. It was a private joke they shared, back when they had first moved in together and allocated the domestic chores. Tris remembered the heated debates over whose turn it was to handle the laundry.

Tris completed her packing and closed her bag, tying it off with a cord spelled to open only for her. She turned to Briar, who was still foolishly attempting to stuff his bag.

"Oh, give it here," she said, knowing that he had come so that he could convince her to spell his bag like she had done to hers. Spelled to enlarge itself internally to fit its contents, she only needed one bag in which she could fit all her possessions. As an added bonus, the bag weighed almost nothing.

Briar's hands brushed hers slightly as he handed over the bag, but Tris was too busy starting the spell to notice the way the flowers on his hand reacted to the accidental touch.

Tris muttered a spell for enlargement and another for durability, adding to Sandry's protection in the fabric. As an afterthought, Tris cast a spell for cleanliness and fresh scents over the compartments where Briar could keep his herbs and plants. She knew from experience that some of the vials contained nasty-smelling extracts. She handed the pack back to Briar, who fit the rest of his books in it with ease.

"What do you make of the Duke's attack?" She asked him as they walked down to the kitchen for an early supper.

Briar frowned slightly, "I think there is more going on than we are seeing. I feel like there is a large conspiracy that has just become active. Who ever the attacker was, he or she had to be an extremely powerful mage to baffle the guards, healers, and the magical protection around the Citadel."

Tris agreed. "My problem is, I can't think of anyone with that amount of power who is close enough to Duke Vedris to initiate that type of attack and get out unnoticed."

"Perhaps he is still in the Citadel and the guards haven't yet found him."

Tris shivered at the thought. This mysterious mage frightened her more than ever before, not that she would let Briar know that.

"Let's hope that Sandry will know more when we join her tomorrow."

A/N: So? What do you think? Review and maybe I'll let you have the next one.