Well, here we have it! The final chapter of the story. Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed. We hope you enjoyed it. We certainly had a lot of fun writing it.

So without further ado-the end. ;)



by Qwi-Xux and Sache8

"Well, this is a fine mess you've gotten yourselves into," Sandry sighed. Seated in front of her were Pasco, Evvy, Paloma, Keth, and a Healer by the name of Windleaf. Haman had been moved to one of the magic-blocking cells in the dungeons, and Citadel guards were already working on restoring order and cleaning up in Summersea. Lark, Rosethorn, Frostpine, and the other mages of Winding Circle were helping clean up in the harbor. Word of Haman's plot and Sandry and Briar's innocence had spread through Emelan like a forest fire. People were calming down now that the attack on the harbor was over. Daja had gone to collect Little Bear, the little girl in Tris's care, and the dragon from the captain of the Jaunty Sailor. Tris was soundly asleep in one of the rooms in the Citadel. Briar was seated next to her, helping her manage the students and the Healer.

After hearing the account of what happened in the last battle, and looking at the magics of Pasco, Paloma, and Evvy, Sandry had realized that they had been twisted together. At first it had seemed that Keth's and Windleaf's magics were also involved, but closer inspection revealed that their magic had simply been twined around that of the younger students. Pasco, Paloma, and Evvy's magics, however, had actually melded. She had been able to untangle Keth and Windleaf's magics, which snapped back into them, but she wasn't sure there was anything she could do about Pasco, Paloma, and Evvy's.

"It looks like someone-and I'm guessing Paloma-was using both Evvy and Pasco's magics at the time this spell you mentioned went awry," Sandry told them. "But I thought you could only use one magic at a time?" she questioned, looking at Paloma.

"That's right...I was using Evvy's magic when the lightning went crazy...but I had used Pasco's magic just before that to dance Master Haman into the air," Paloma said.

"And the dance spell was still in effect when the magic went out of control?" Sandry asked.

"Yes," Paloma said.

"Ah. Well, that seems to explain it. Both Evvy's and Pasco's magics were bound to you, Paloma. And now, they've...well, they seem to have melted together. I've managed to unwind Keth's and Windleaf's magics from the mix, though there are still traces of their magics burned into the mess that your magic has become."

"Yes," Keth said drily. "I've noticed I can no longer hear their thoughts in my head." He nodded at the three younger students.

"So what are you saying?" Evvy frowned. "That our magics are messed up now?"

Sandry sighed again. "As I know you've been told, when Briar, Daja, Tris, and I were about your age, I wound our magics together. Several months later, I had to weave our magics to mostly separate them again, though I left traces of each of our magics together."

"So you're saying that you just have to weave our magics, and we'll have our own magics back?" Pasco asked, crinkling his forehead.

"No. This is different...whatever happened in there...it's like your magics have been burned together. They're no longer three separate strands of magic-they're one thread that you three share. Whatever Paloma's magic consists of, and whatever happened to make that spell go awry-well, it looks like you're stuck sharing magics, now."

"You mean," Evvy said in disbelief, "that I'm not just a stone-mage anymore? I have dancing magic? And...and I can absorb other people's magics, like Paloma?"

"Well...yes," Sandry said. "And Paloma now permanently has stone magic and dance magic, and Pasco can use both of your magics. Quite frankly, it's going to be very interesting learning how your magics work now-and seeing if you can use them all at once, though I'm guessing you can. And on top of that, you still have traces of lightning, glass, and healing magics-though from what I'm seeing, you have very little glass magic-mostly lightning and healing."

Evvy groaned. "You mean I'm stuck having them in my head?" She motioned Pasco and Paloma.

"You mean I'm going to be stuck listening to girls thoughts?" Pasco asked indignantly.

Briar grinned at him. "Welcome to my world."

"Sandry!" Pasco whined. "Are you sure you can't fix this?"

"Yes," Sandry said firmly. "We're just going to figure out how you're to be taught. I don't think I've ever heard of someone holding so many different magics...but you're going to have to learn control, mostly over stone magic, dancing magic, and Paloma's absorbing magic...as I said, there are only traces of lightning and healing, but enough that you will have to study them. I don't know if there's enough glass magic in there that you'll have to study it." She tilted her head thoughtfully. "I wonder if Tris is staying around..."

"She's planning on it," Keth said. "She has a lot she wants to do here."

"Well, maybe she'll agree to help teach the lightning magic part of this...and Briar-"

Briar heaved a sigh. "I know, I know...I've been teaching Evvy stone magic, so I might as well start a whole class, right?" He rolled his eyes.

"I'll help with the dancing teaching, though we're going to have to see about getting Evvy enrolled in the dance academy..."

"What?" Evvy exclaimed. "No, no, no. Stones is one thing. Dancing is something else entirely." She looked pleadingly at Briar. "Tell her, Pahan Briar. I don't dance.

Briar looked at her sympathetically. "Time to start, Evvy."

"But it's not fair! I didn't ask for my magic to be...to be all melted together-especially not with theirs." Evvy glared at Pasco and Paloma.

"Well, it's not like I asked for it, either," Pasco snapped.

"It's all my fault," Paloma said miserably.

"Now, stop it, all three of you," Sandry told them firmly. "It was an accident, and I'm sure you'll learn to live with it in time. I'm sorry it happened, but it will all work out. You'll see." She suddenly felt very, very tired. It had been a long, long week, and she just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a couple of days. She couldn't, though. She had far too much to do. "Now, as for healing magic, I'm sure we can get one of the Healers at Winding Circle to help on that end...and as for absorbing other peoples' magics...we'll just have to take that one step at a time, since no one's quite sure how it works, and it's not a magic we've ever heard of."

They were saved from further conversation when one of the servants entered. "Your eminence." He bowed. "The Mage Daja Kisubo has returned and wishes to speak with you." He stepped aside, and before Daja entered, a huge white blur ran into the room and almost knocked Sandry off of her feet.

"Little Bear!" she cried happily, falling to her knees and wrapping her arms around the squirming, squealing dog.

"Little?" Pasco whispered.

"Well, he was little once," Briar said, eyes twinkling. He stroked the dog's fur and sighed happily. "I've never been so happy to see him."

"I don't think he's ever been quite so happy to see you, either," Daja said in an amused voice, entering the room. "Except perhaps for the time you were locked away during the Bluepox Plague." At her side was a little girl with dark curls. She saw Keth and broke away from Daja, running over and clinging to Keth's legs. She peered out from behind him and smiled shyly at the rest of the group.

"By your leave, I'm going to help in the aftermath on the streets," Windleaf said, bowing to Sandry.

"Of course," Sandry smiled. "Thank you for all your help."

As the Healer left, Daja said, "This is Glaki-the mage child in Tris's care. And this is Chime."

In all the excitement of Little Bear's entrance, Sandry had failed to notice the small glass creature on Daja's shoulder. Now she gasped in wonder and stepped forward. It was indeed a dragon. "He's beautiful," she whispered, stroking the dragon's head. The creature positively purred. "You made him?" she asked Keth.

Keth nodded in affirmation. "Her," he corrected. "On accident."

Briar eyed the dragon quizzically. "Her?" he asked. "Are you sure?"

Keth grinned. "Master Niko insisted."

Briar laughed and shook his head with a smile. "Of course," he said.

Evvy and Paloma had both stepped forward to look at the dragon. "So...if our magics are melted...you said we had some glass magic," Evvy began. "Could we make something like this?"

"I don't know," Sandry admitted. "It will be very interesting, finding out what your magic can do now." She thought of everything she had been through with Daja, Tris, and Briar. "Very interesting indeed."

Things moved very quickly the next couple of days. A proper funeral and memorial service were held for Duke Vedris IV. The event had been postponed in the circumstances surrounding the merchant strike and the murder trial. It was a relief to put all of the loose ends of the horrid week to rest at last, with the burial of Duke Vedris, even though it was the hardest thing Sandry had ever done. She still missed her uncle fiercely, but she knew that in time, she would heal-just as she had when her parents had died.

Things continued to get cleaned up in Summersea. Sandry, as Duchess, officially had Haman sentenced to life in a nearby magic-blocking prison. He was charged with murder of the Duke of Emelan, intent to murder, conspiracy, thievery of a child's magic, falsifying the truth, and gross misconduct as a mage.

As for Penmic's roll in the whole matter, he revealed to Daja that he had simply been going on personal belief and instinct.

Four days after the battle, the Healer that had been attending Tris found Sandry signing a huge stack of papers at her desk. "Duchess," the Healer said, looking extremely harrassed. "I'm sorry to bother you, but Mage Trisana has awakened. She's...being rather difficult. She's still too weak to get out of bed..."

Sandry held up a hand. "Say no more. I'll see to Tris. Thank you," she said firmly. The Healer looked relieved. Sandry headed upstairs to Tris's room, mind-calling Daja and Briar. The storm has awakened, she told them amusedly. Chuckling, they both assured her they would meet her there.

When Sandry arrived in Tris's room, she found Keth, Glaki, and Chime were already there. Chime was settled on Tris's shoulder, and Keth was sitting beside her bed. Glaki was bouncing on the end of Tris's bed, talking a mile a minute about everything she had seen in the castle.

"And there are these kitties that I get to play with. They're not mine, though. They're Evvy's," she told Tris solemnly.

Tris rubbed her forehead. "That's nice, Glaki. Now sit, please. Beds are not for jumping on," she told the child firmly.

Glaki immediately plopped down on her bottom, without breaking stride in her mantra. "And one of them is named Moss, and there's another one called Nim, and they like playing with string."

"'Morning, Tris. Nice to see you awake," Sandry said cheerfully.

"Sandry. Where is Haman?"

Right to the point. That was so like Tris. Sandry glanced at Keth, who shrugged. "I just got here. I haven't had time to tell her anything."

Sandry proceeded to tell Tris what had happened after the battle-about the merging of the magics, and about Haman's sentencing. She was in the middle of explaining that Pasco, Paloma, and Evvy now had lightning magic as part of their meld when Briar and Daja came into the room.

"Coppercurls!" Briar grinned. He stepped forward and leaned down to pull Tris into a hug. The redhead waved him off. "Umph! Briar!" But she had a grin on her face.

When he stepped back, Daja took his place. "Glad you're home, merchant girl."

"I'm glad to be home," Tris sighed happily. "Even though I would have been much happier if it wasn't for Haman. Honestly, so much for a nice, relaxing homecoming."

"Well, if it makes you feel better, there's a big ball planned for next week," Sandry told her, eyes twinkling.

Tris made a face. "A ball?"

Sandry laughed. "It wasn't my idea." The truth was, she didn't feel much like celebrating. Yes, Haman had been defeated, and yes, Summersea was getting back in order...but her uncle was still dead. Nothing could bring him back.

Tris rolled her eyes. "Now, what were you saying about your students and lightning?"

"Keth's lightning magic," Sandry told her. "Pasco, Evvy, and Paloma now have Keth's lightning magic. I don't suppose you're up for teaching more than one student lightning magic?"

Tris looked at Keth sharply, and he shrugged. Tris groaned and leaned her head back on her pillow. "Haman," she growled. "If he wasn't in prison..." she began, but left it up to them to decide just what she would do with him.


The next week passed in a blur. Sandry felt that she barely had a free moment. All of the mages were pressed into work, work, and more work. In some ways, Sandry was glad for it. It kept her mind off of everything-her uncle's death and her newfound feelings for Briar, to name a few.

She still hadn't really faced Briar. For one thing, there hadn't been any time, but more than that, she just wasn't ready yet. It was odd- she remembered how the night before her uncle's murder it had been Briar who was unwilling to talk. Now she sensed their roles were reversed. It seemed that years had passed since then, not mere weeks, and her life was completely different. She needed time to adjust, and Briar seemed to understand that. When she did run into him, he never pushed her, but the issue was always there, unspoken. When she was ready, so would he be.

Niko arrived in Emelan four days after Tris woke up. When he learned of everything that had happened, he paid a trip to Haman's cell. Sandry didn't know what was said or done between the two mages, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know. The look on Niko's face when he had learned what Haman had done had been quite enough for her imagination.

When Niko came back from talking to Haman, he stopped in front of Sandry and put a finger on her chin, looking deeply into her eyes. "You've done an amazing job, Sandrilene. I'm proud of you. You've shown yourself a true mage, and a true duchess. I know that your Uncle Vedris would be proud of you."

Sandry's chin trembled. "Truly?" she whispered.

"Truly," Niko said firmly.

Tears welled up in Sandry's eyes, and before she realized she was doing it, she had thrown herself against Niko. Burying her face in his robes, she burst into tears. Niko held her and let her cry herself out-all of the pains, frustrations, and the deep, deep well of hurt that came from the Duke's death. Everything she had been holding back since Briar's return came pouring out.

She wasn't sure how long she cried, and she didn't care. Finally, worn out, she pulled away from Niko. "Thank you," she whispered hoarsely.

Niko looked on her kindly. "You're welcome."

Before Sandry knew it, the ball was upon her, giving the people of the Citadel and the city a much-needed lift of spirits. The kitchen staff outdid itself creating an array of titillating dishes, and the room was increasingly full of dancing and light and laughter as the night progressed. Despite the festive atmosphere, however, Sandry eventually felt the need to get away. In the hectic time since her uncle's death, she hadn't gotten a whole lot of rest, surviving mostly on stress and adrenaline. Now that the crisis was over, she felt an overwhelming weariness come upon her.

Ducking into a private antechamber, she sank into a large, comfortable chair and closed her eyes in delight. How wonderful it would be to have an unburdened sleep tonight! If her uncle's funeral had been a closing point of sorts, today's ball signified a beginning.

Paloma had said that originally the murder had been planned for both of them, her and her uncle. The thought frightened her a little bit. Holding such a position of power as she did, the fear was not one that could altogether be quelled. The threat of assassination was something she would need to learn to cope with.

As ridiculous as it seemed, she also felt feelings of guilt over having escaped the murder when her uncle had not. Part of her wished she had been here, wondering if she would have been able to prevent the horrors. But she knew it was more likely that she too would have been killed. What would have happened to Emelan? She had a feeling that Haman would not have lasted long against the combined efforts of her friends, even without her help, but her people would have suffered more.

The weight of crisis had been lifted from Sandry's shoulders, for now, but the weight of responsibility had not. Now that Summersea's state was again stable, she had to look to the future.

"Gods help me," she whispered quietly into the air.

So wrapped up was she in her thoughts, that she did not hear the quiet footfall that stirred to join her.

"Who are you hiding from?"

She looked up to see Briar standing over her, smiling mischievously.

There it was again. Briar's smile. Since he had returned, it had been causing strange, foreign sensations in her stomach and her skin. Whether it was a wide grin like it was now, or the sad smile he'd given her in his prison cell, his eyes so full of meaning, she could not remain unaffected.

"I'm not hiding," she said primly. "I'm resting."

"Ah." He took a seat beside her. "Well, I daresay no one's earned it more."

Sandry's fingers began fidgeting in her lap. His closeness was making her heart beat faster. He smelled… rich and musky, like ivy.

"Like you haven't?" she asked him in mild retort. "I think being falsely accused of murder, escaping from prison, and fighting to prove my innocence would probably make a person very tired."

"Maybe," he agreed with a nod, "but I don't feel tired." He shrugged.

Sandry couldn't help but notice that Briar's hands too were fidgeting. He kept rubbing his palms nervously together. Studying his hands, she noticed something interesting.

"That one's new," she blurted out.

"What?" he asked. Naturally, he wouldn't know what she was referring to.

She reached over and pointed at a large, elegant rosette that had blossomed among the other imprints on his right palm. "This one. I don't remember it. It's beautiful."

"Yeah," he said slowly, "that one started growing right after…" he trailed off, with a slightly embarrassed tone.

"After?" she repeated, confused.

"When you…" he began, and faltered slightly. "That time you were holding my hand. In Tris's room."

"Ah," said Sandry. Then she too blushed.

"Which makes sense, I guess," he added bravely. "I did use your needles, after all."

Briar had to flinch away, a gleeful twinkle in his eye, as Sandry's small hand struck him good-humoredly on the shoulder.

"You rascal!" she cried. "You're talking about my good silver ones, aren't you? I wondered where they had gone."

Briar's smile could probably not have been any greater. "Well, sorry milady, I guess it was my upbringing. Once a thief, always a thief, you know."

Sandry raised her eyebrows. "Should I lock up the treasury where you can't find it?"

"No, your money does not interest me," he said loftily.

"Well, you just implied that you're still a thief. I am the Duchess now, after all. I need to be concerned about these things. What should I worry about you stealing?" She turned her head to look up at him, smiling.

"Oh," said Briar offhandedly, "…things." Then he leaned down.

Sandry was so surprised, that for a moment, she was able to do nothing more than try to register what was happening.

Briar was kissing her. Eyes still open, she forced her mind to focus on the thought. Then she smiled, a rather tricky action in the current circumstances, and realized that right now was probably not the moment to be thinking too hard. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the new experience.

His wonderful smell filled her senses, his lips were warm and strong, and the fingers that soon reached up to hold her chin sent little shivers down her spine.

All too soon, however, he broke off. His face was perfectly serious as his beautiful eyes searched her face, trying to gauge her reaction.

"Oh," she said finally, continuing their conversation from a moment before. "Well, master thief… I salute you." A small smile slowly started playing at the corners of Briar's mouth. "I take it," Sandry added teasingly, "that you've done that before?"

Briar's eyes widened for a second, but then he grinned sheepishly and nodded. "Once or twice."

"Oh," she said again. Then she again blushed and averted her eyes. "Well, I haven't," she said in a small, embarrassed voice.

Now it was Briar's turn to be really surprised. "You're kidding," he said in disbelief. "A girl as pretty and nice as you?"

"A girl who's oblivious!" replied Sandry, defending herself. Briar laughed. "Anyway," she added, "everyone's too afraid to show interest in the Duke's niece. He was very intimidating. I think he protected me from a great deal." She smiled shyly at Briar. "Maybe a little too well."

He smiled back. "I'll tell you one thing, though," he said, shifting his entire body to better face her, and lowering his voice, "Sandry, I've kissed other girls before, but this…" he leaned forward experimentally and tried it again. It was shorter, but just as sweet as the first. "This is different," he finally said.

"Why?" she asked in breathless wonder.

"Because," he said, reaching up and playing with the wisps of hair around her face, "you're the bravest, sweetest, most caring person I've ever met. Not to mention the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. Because the thought that you may feel the same feelings for me thrills and terrifies me. Because…" he paused, and took a deep breath, looking straight into her eyes, "Because I love you."

After a moment's heavy pause, Sandry managed to find her voice. "I told you," she said slowly, "that I didn't realize how much I really missed you until you came back. And then you were taken away again so quickly…" she paused, and tears began forming up in her eyes. "I was so heartsick, Briar. The thought of losing you…"

She reached up her hand and gently combed her fingers through his cropped curls. "I guess what I'm trying to say is, please don't go away again. My heart needs you."

He leaned in and captured her mouth in his again, and this time she held nothing back. Her first hand was already in his hair and the other soon joined it. His arms encircled her tightly, and for several joyous, rapturous moments she felt so safe and so loved.

Suddenly, Sandry broke off with a giggle.

"What's so funny?" Briar asked, bewildered.

"I think," she said slyly, taking a quick, calculative kiss, then smiling, "that you've been eating something with cinnamon in it."

Briar burst out laughing. "Maybe you're right," he said with a grin. "Just be glad it wasn't something with onions."

"Yuck, no kidding. You'd not have gotten very far in such a case."

Briar grinned again, and leapt off the settee. "You wanna go dance?" he asked, holding out a hand to her.

She took it and looked at him suspiciously. "What, so Pasco can tease you? You aren't the world's greatest dancer, Briar Moss." She took his hand and he helped her up.

He leaned in. "I'm not thinking about Pasco Acalon, Sandrilene fa Toren," he whispered in a low voice.

She blushed. "No, probably not." Then she sighed. "I wish I could, but unfortunately, I'm still in mourning." She indicated her fine black linen gown. "No dancing for quite some time."

Briar looked genuinely crestfallen.

"But the unexpected taste of cinnamon is making me hungry," she prompted him with a smile. "I haven't eaten yet."

His face brightened considerably. The thought of food always had this effect on Briar. He held out an arm. "My lady?" he asked chivalrously.

Sandry beamed, and took it. "Yes," she said. "Your lady. Only yours. That I promise you, now and forever."

As they headed for the ballroom, Sandry murmured, "You know Daja and Tris are going to tease us endlessly about this. Once Tris gives us numerous of 'I can't believe you didn't tell me!' lectures. You sure you can handle it?"

"Are you kidding? After everything we've been through?" Briar gave her his quirky grin. "I can handle anything with you by my side." They went through the doors and again entered the festive air. "Now, come on. Let's get some food. Next time we have a ball, though, I have to show Evvy that dancing isn't as bad as she makes it out to be."

Smiling in return, Sandrilene fa Toren allowed Briar Moss to lead her across the room.


"Well," said Daja at Tris's side, "I guess Lark and Rosethorn were right, after all."

"What's that?" asked Tris. She looked up from where she'd been trying to disentangle Chime from her skirts, who seemed to have them confused with a ladder.

Daja nodded across the ballroom. "Sandry and Briar, look."

Tris followed Daja's gaze, and there saw Briar and Sandry standing by the banquet table. It took her a moment to realize what Daja was commenting on, and she goggled. Briar was holding Sandry's hand and whispering something into her ear which made her blush and smile, ducking her head shyly. Then Sandry looked at Briar with an expression that couldn't be called much else but rapturous. "Oh, great. Just what we needed," Tris mumbled. "Lark and Rosethorn knew about this?" she added, a little grouchily. If they had been keeping her in the dark...

"They suspected. To be honest, with everything's that been going on, I sort of forgot about it." Daja peered more closely at the expression on Tris's face. "Does it really bother you that much?"

Tris paused, considering. There had been a short period in her life where she might have been envious of Sandry- a childhood crush on Briar that had quite evaporated over the course of her journey, but that had nothing to do with the sense of sadness inside her (which she was trying valiantly to hide with a crabby attitude) At last she sighed. "No," she said finally. "I suppose not. I mean, one way or another, it was inevitable, you know? We'd all grow up, and have other people in our lives. I just kind of wish things would've just stayed the same for a little longer."

"True," Daja agreed. "But this isn't the only kind of thing that has been changing, Tris." She waved a hand at Pasco and Paloma, who were dancing and laughing together on the floor. Tris was quite sure the girl hadn't smiled so much since she'd met her. Evvy looked on, scowling. "Our students, our journeys. We've already been growing up. Our circle has been shifting, and will continue to do so." She smiled. "But it will never be broken."

Tris couldn't help but also smile. "Yes, of course, you're right." She glanced again at Sandry's face and wrinkled her nose. "You do realize, though, that they're going to be absolutely unbearable to be around for awhile, right? I mean, just look at them. They're giving me a stomachache."

Daja laughed. "Tell me about it. Despite our very mature acceptance of the situation, we will be honor-bound to razz them about all this for at least... three weeks or so."

"Four," Tris said, grinning manically. "It will be perfect revenge for everything Briar's done to us over the years."

"And Sandry for falling for such a silly boy in the first place."

"Agreed. Although- " Tris reflected, "all joking aside, maybe it's best this way. Think about it- if Briar found some other girl, some person we didn't know, can you imagine how strange it would be for her?"

Daja nodded. "I'm afraid it would be very difficult for us to extend our approval of her. We're his sisters after all."

Tris laughed and coughed. "I don't think Sandry's going to be calling herself that anymore," she pointed out meaningfully.

"Oh, like you're one to talk."

"What do you mean?

"Just how much longer are you going to be willing to be a teacher to a handsome, talented, sensible mage who's older than you?" Daja very pointedly did not look at Tris as she asked, this, but the twinkle in her eyes was unmistakable.

Tris was appalled to find herself blushing. "I don't know what you're talking about, Daja Kisubo."

"Haha. I've seen the way Keth watches you."

"Well, you're wrong. Keth was in love with a dancer when I met him." She winced at the sound of regret in her voice. "Well," she amended, "maybe not love, but I think it definitely could have gone that way."

"Why didn't it?"

"She died."


"Yeah, so I don't think he'll be jumping at the bit to fall all over some other person just yet. Not," she added hastily, "that I'm saying I would want him too."


"Shut up, Daja."

"Excuse me," said a new voice. Both girls turned to see Morer Penmic standing behind them, looking very dashing indeed in his formal dress uniform. "I'm sorry to interrupt, ladies, but I wondered if Mage Daja might like to accompany me in a quick dance or two?"

Tris turned to Daja with a very superior expression, raising her eyebrows meaningfully, and was delighted to see that her friend's embarrassment quite matched that she'd just caused Tris. "I'm sure Mage Daja would love to do so, Captain Penmic," she said in her sweetest voice. "If you'll excuse me." She gracefully extracted herself from the conversation, leaving a half-pleased, half-fuming Daja alone with the Captain and smiled.

Chime was once again making her presence known with her tinkly-sounding roars, and Tris plucked her off her shoulder, bringing her around to stare in to her glass eyes. "Shifting Circles, indeed, Chime. The world will never be the same."

She headed off for her chambers, deciding that it was high time Chime went to sleep. "And Daja was quite wrong about Keth, you know," she said, in a voice that might have convinced glass dragons, but nobody else.