Chapter One


Tris was alone, suspended in a mute world of black and grays. Wind whipped her braids around her face, lashing the trees into a fury far over her head. They stretched and groaned—silently—and what was left of their new spring-green snapped back and forth like tattered banners. She was on a wide country lane, the remnants of some stone wall hedging her in from the left. The right, through the tidy border of larch, was open pasture.


The redhead grabbed the folds of her cloak in a white-knuckled grip and kicked up her heels to run. Roots tripped her, and she fell noiselessly to the ground—

"TRIS! Damn it, Coppercurls, couldn't you have nice, quiet nightmares like everyone else?" There was a breeze on her face and she opened her eyes to her foster-brother's scowl.

"What happened?" She rasped, raking a hand through her braids to check their wards. All in place, but her hand shook.

"You were yelling loud enough to raise ships, merchant-girl," Daja muttered fiercely, crossing into the room and hunkering down at the foot of the bed. She laid her staff across her knees, forcing Tris to lever herself up sitting against the pillows to avoid being thunked. The red-head glared at her sister but Daja simply smiled unrepentantly and smoothed a finger over the designs on the staff's end.

Briar left and reappeared after a moment with a chair, which he straddled as he turned and looked at the girls. "So spill it, kid."

Tris glared at him and fumbled her spectacles onto her face. He came into focus and bars of white moonlight falling through open window threw his features into sharp relief. His expression was more open than she'd seen it in awhile—there were parts of Briar she simply couldn't share anymore—and kind. She sighed.

"Nightmare," Tris said, balling up a strand of the breeze that fluttered her curtains in her palms.

"Tell us something we didn't know, saati," Daja said impatiently, but tacked 'saati' on at the end to soften the words. Tris drew herself up some more and threw a glare at the other girl. Hmphing softly, she continued.

"I was in the county somewhere—looked like Emelan. Couldn't be sure. There was a storm—" She stopped, smothering the tremor in her voice.

"Oooh, storms. Scary thing, a storm, for a weather-witch." Briar's teeth were a white crescent in the dark and Tris eyed him darkly. He leaned forward, balancing on the chairs hind legs and took her hand, squeezing. She squeezed back and he dropped it.

"It was silent, and I guess that was the worst part." Tris shrugged, running a meditative finger up and down the ridges of a braid. "And I started running. Roots tripped me—and I woke up. Not so bad as nightmares go, I guess."

"That was all?" Daja asked, stifling a yawn with a large, calloused brown hand. When she saw her friend's outrage, she offered a smile. "Look, I know about nightmares. They don't always have sense in them."

Briar let the chair fall back onto all legs and rested his head on his crossed arms. "Me too. I've some teas that might help, if this 'comes a regular thing."

Tris shook her head and drew he legs from under the blankets, swinging them to the ground. Little Bear lay stretched across her slippers and moved with a grunt as she rolled him over with a foot. She rose, slipping her feet into the kidskin—a gift from Niko, some years back—and crossed to the window. The view still took her by surprise sometimes because it wasn't the one from Discipline, but it was still nice.

"There you go, Coppercurls." Briar swung a leg over the back of the chair and rose, graceful as a cat. Daja caught Tris's eye and rolled her eyes. "You're color's better already. Now, if you'll both excuse me, I'm going to go catch a few more winks before Rosethorn comes to haul my weary hide down to the Water Temple come morning."

"More work?" Tris asked, glad to be moving away from the topic of her nightmare. As the terror was fading, she found embarrassment in its place—she didn't like causing a commotion.

"We're doing a little herb zapping. They need to be at peak—we're shipping them up the coast where there was a case of an outbreak of something. I dunno—I only just kept my dearest, most tireless mentor from racing up there and dragging her most not tireless and rather long-suffering student along with her. I'm a martyr, you know—" Briar flashed Tris another grin and she gave him a small smile in return. As he passed out the door, he tugged on the end of a braid.

"We know," Daja said with a grin, sliding off the bed and arching her back in a stretch. "I think I'll go down to the smithy—there's a project in the works and I need a bit of quiet before the day starts. Want to come, Tris? I could set you to work pulling gold while I set up."

"Are those guild toads still after you?" Tris asked, shutting the door behind Briar and tugging up the end of her nightdress. She'd lost her shyness of changing in front of her sisters some time ago, and Daja moved to pull the curtains to give her privacy.

"Yeah." The Trader ran a thumb over the end of her staff, frowning. "They'll leave off eventually—once they figure I'm not doing any harm."

"I guess. I could always—"Tris shrugged into a sturdy housedress, struggling for a moment to pull the narrowest part over her bust. She was the only one of the whole group to be of the 'busty persuasion' as Lark called it, and it irked her to no end. "I could always grouch at them a little if they bother you too much, you know. Just point me."

Daja laughed, leading the way out of the room. "Don't tempt me, merchant-girl. It sounds like it'd be too much fun."

"I know." Tris said with a wicked sparkle in her eye.