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Tris's Book

Tamora Pierce


  Circle of Magic

  Tris’s Book

  To Tim,

  my default imagination and dedicated plot rescue

  system, who helps me get it on paper in the first

  place and puts up with me when I didn’t get it well,

  and to Richard McCaffery Robinson,

  who steers me through matters nautical

  with a keen eye for squalls and shoals,

  not to mention for the errors of a sea-scribing novice.




  Title Page

















  About the Author

  The Circle of Magic Books




  She was pressed—jammed, really—into a corner formed by chunks of stone. Someone’s knee poked into her thigh on one side. Someone else’s foot dug into her calf on the other. There were four of them, and a dog, trapped in a bubble in the ground. The first part of an earthquake was just fading, and the rest about to roll over them like high tide pounding the harbor walls.

  Sweat poured down her cheeks and back. Half turning, she thrust her hands palm-flat on either side of a crack between the stones. Calling to the power inside her, she sent her magic through the gap. Earthwaves were coming her way, small ones in front, bigger ones behind. Their force heated dirt and stones, spreading everywhere. Her bones felt like huge rocks, pressed together so hard that something would have to give. They would slip alongside one another with a crash, forcing buildings and streets and whole cities into new shapes.

  And the heat, the earth’s heat was cooking her and the friends whose bodies pressed against hers. The hot waves roared through the ground, gaining strength as they traveled. When they hit, she could choose between being roasted or crushed: the earth around her small hollow would clench like a fist—

  Trisana Chandler lunged out of bed, throwing off the thin sheet that had been her only covering, jumping for her open window. Dangling half out of it, she gasped in the open night air. She was aboveground, in her attic room in Discipline cottage, at Winding Circle Temple in Emelan. The earthquake was ten days gone, and she and her friends had lived to talk about it.

  But the heat! No wonder she dreamed of it still, with the air dead around her. Every door and window in the attic was open, but not a breath of air stirred under the thatch. It was scarcely cooler outside.

  Voices reached her ears on the tiny puffs of air that did touch her. Once she’d thought the voices meant that she was going crazy. Now she knew they were only pieces of real conversations that took place somewhere, carried to her by the wind. It still made her a little nervous to hear them, although they spoke mostly of everyday things.

  “Aymery Glassfire, I am impressed.” The prissy and dry-voiced speaker was a man unknown to Tris. The name “Aymery” pricked her—she had a cousin Aymery, but his name was Chandler, not Glassfire, and he was hundreds of miles away, at the university in Lightsbridge. Aymery was a common name. “The learned men who wrote these letters give you praise indeed. I could no more refuse to allow you the use of our library than I could fly.”

  Tris shook her head, trying to get that voice out of her ears. To be hot and bored was just plain too much!

  The simple act of moving captured a fresh puff of air, drawing it close. “Novice Jaen, how could you allow our stores of bandages to fall so low?”

  “But—Dedicate Willowwater—I didn’t know I was to check the other storage rooms—and so many bandages were needed after the earthquake—”

  “Oh, don’t cry, girl. We’ll have to contrive something, quickly.”

  “The foretellers don’t expect more trouble, do they?”

  “When we’re out of bandages, who needs to read the future to know more trouble will come?”

  Tris growled. Magic was supposed to be grand and powerful, not a question of the contents of linen closets! Sticking her fingers in her ears, she rubbed fiercely. When she stopped, the voices were gone and she was hotter than ever.

  Somewhere in the hazy, dark blur in front of her weak eyes was the twenty-foot-high wall that enclosed Winding Circle. From its top, she might catch a real breeze.

  Tris stripped off her nightgown and yanked her lightest cotton dress over her head. Once it was on, without regard for her dress or the floor, she grabbed her water pitcher and dumped its contents on her head. For a few blessed moments she was cooler.

  Groping under her bed, she found her leather slippers and jammed her feet into them. Unwilling to wrestle with her sopping red curls, she tied a scarf around her head, so at least her hair would be off her neck. Last of all, she groped on her dresser top for her brass-rimmed spectacles. Jamming these onto her long nose, she headed for the door and yelped with surprise. One of her housemates stood there, leaning on the frame. In the shadows, the black girl was almost invisible until Tris was right on top of her.

  “It’s the strangest thing,” the newcomer commented softly. “You’re bat-blind without those spectacles, but you know where everything is, so you don’t even need a candle to get dressed.”

  “You could have made a noise, Daja,” grumbled Tris.

  Her housemate ignored her. “Someday the boy’s going to decide to joke with you and move everything while you sleep. Then where will you be?”

  “Better ask where he’ll be if I catch him,” retorted Tris. “And don’t you go suggesting it to him, either. Why are you still up?”

  Daja Kisubo raised her hands and stretched her solid body as high as she could. If she stood tiptoe, her fingers almost touched the top of the door frame. Younger than Tris by almost a year, she was still a hand’s length taller than the redhead’s four feet and seven inches. “He doesn’t need my help coming up with pranks,” she replied, her lilting voice dry. “He’s got too many ideas of his own. Why get dressed?”

  “It’ll be cooler on top of the wall. Maybe Lark will let me go there for a while.”

  “How do you know it will be cooler?” Daja inquired.

  “Am I the weather-witch around here or not?” Tris demanded irritably, hands on hips. “I know.”

  “Wait, then.” Daja turned and entered her own room, just across the attic.

  Tris grumbled, but followed the other girl to lean against her open door. Daja’s room already had light of a sort from a candle set on the family altar in the corner. Daja changed to breeches and a shirt and shook out her various short braids. Slipping her feet into sandals, she blew out the altar light, then followed Tris downstairs.

  It wasn’t all that late. One of the women in charge of Discipline was still awake, writing a letter. She wore only an undyed cotton shift as she worked—her Earth-Temple-green summer habit was tossed carelessly over the table. Like Daja, she was dark-eyed and dark-skinned, though her skin was a lighter shade of brown. She wore her glossy curls cropped short; they fanned out to frame an almost catlike face with broad cheekbones and a pointed chin. As late as it was, as hot as she was, she still gave the two girls a smile, which they returned. Even Tris, with her moods and her temper, liked Dedicate Lark.

  “Just for an hour,” Lark told them, digging in a habit pocket. She produced a round iron token that showed the bearer was outdoors with permission and handed it to Tris. “If it’s still this hot when you come back, we’ll set up pallets for you on this floor.”

  Someone who sat in the shadows near the front door got up,
startling Daja. It was a boy, dressed only in light breeches. His skin was even more golden brown than Lark’s, his almond-shaped eyes a startling gray-green. He wore his black hair coarse-cropped no more than an inch or so from his scalp. His nose was short and straight, his mouth firm and slightly down-turned at the corners. “Lark—” he began.

  “Yes, Briar, you may,” Lark replied, tired but amused. “Put some shoes on.”

  Grumbling, the boy entered his room.

  A head with sun-streaked brown hair dressed in two braids poked out of the room across from Briar’s. Sleepy eyes of a bright, cornflower blue peered at them. “I heard voices,” the girl said, and yawned. A young dog, all ivory curls, elbows, and tail scrambled into the main room from hers, dancing frantically and whining.

  “Sandry, we’re going up on the wall to cool off,” Daja said. “You want to come?”

  The light brown head nodded; its owner vanished inside her room and closed the door. A minute later she came out, wearing a blouse, skirt, and slippers, pinning up her braids under a scarf.

  By the time she was done with her hair, the boy reappeared, hopping as he tried to yank a sandal over one foot. The other was already shod. “You girls better not take forever to get ready—” he began, then realized that they were waiting for him. He switched his attention to the dog. “You better not keep me waiting, Little Bear.”

  Sandry, laughing, shoved the boy out the front door ahead of her. The pup yelped and followed them, as Daja and Tris brought up the rear.

  The last one out the door, Tris stopped and looked back. “Lark?”

  “Yes, dear?”

  “W-would you like to come? With us, I mean?” A part of Tris was dismayed: What had she turned into? Two months ago, she never could have made such an offer to anyone, particularly not an adult.

  Two months ago she had come to Discipline cottage. Now she had days when she wasn’t sure who she was, but she knew that she liked the change.

  Lark smiled. “Thank you, but I’m to do the fires at midnight services. Some other time, perhaps?”

  Blushing hotly at her lapse into affection, Tris nodded, and ran to catch up with her housemates.

  Panting as they reached the top of the wall, each found an open stone notch to sit in. Instantly they realized that Tris had been right; it was cooler up here, and they had a fine view of the cove below Winding Circle’s south gate. Their dog flopped onto the walkway behind them with a happy sigh.

  “How much more of summer is there?” Daja asked, once she’d caught her breath.

  “It’s just the second week of Mead,” replied Sandry. Yanking off her scarf, she undid the ties at the ends of her braids and combed her hair out with her fingers. “Two more weeks after this in Mead, then all of Wort Moon.”

  “Maybe even most of Barley, too,” Briar chipped in. “Rosethorn says all the omens are for a long summer, and a short autumn.” His teacher, Rosethorn, was the other woman who watched over Discipline.

  “What are you doing up here?” A pair of guards trotted down the walkway from one of the towers that punctuated the wall. Dressed in the red habits of those dedicated to serve the gods of fire, they carried long staffs capped with broad, two-foot-long blades as weapons.

  The friends got to their feet and moved closer together. The dog sat in front of them, thwacking the stone with his tail. Digging in her pocket, Tris found the iron token and passed it to Sandry. Things went better when their noble did the talking for the four.

  “We have permission,” Sandry explained, showing the token to the guards. One side of it was marked with a D, for Discipline cottage; the other showed an engraved bird and a thorny branch for Lark and Rosethorn.

  “But this should be only for one child,” argued the woman. “There’s—”

  The man was far taller than his partner. The four watched, amused, as he bent down to whisper in her ear. Though he kept his voice soft, they still heard him mutter, “It’s those children. The four mages. They often run together.”

  Briar puffed out his chest. He liked being called a mage, as if he were a man.

  Sandry planted her hands on her hips. “I am Lady Sandrilene fa Toren. You have my word that we all have permission to be here,” she informed the guards.

  “Only Sandry,” Daja muttered in Tris’s ear. The other girl covered a grin with her hand and nodded in agreement.

  The female guard blinked at Sandry. “That kind of thing will work much better when you’ve got some height on you and a bit more nose.” She returned the iron token.

  Sandry covered her nose, which was little more than a button.

  “Don’t lean out over the wall,” advised the man. “Don’t get to playing in the notches, either.” The guards each petted the dog and walked on.

  “You know, if you want, I’ll pull your nose every day till you get a beak like your uncle’s.” Briar slipped his fingers under Sandry’s and tweaked the end of her nose. “It’d be my pleasure, really.”

  “Thanks ever so, Briar,” the girl told him sourly.

  “I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it,” he assured her, gray-green eyes wide and solemn. “Honest.”

  Tris climbed up into her notch again. Pushing her spectacles up, she eyed the array of sea and islands that stretched before them. Even with the moon just beginning to wax toward full, she could see details at a fair distance: the watchtower on Bit Island, for one, and the glassy smoothness of the Pebbled Sea. A flash of light over shadowy humps was the Maja Island lighthouse. To the east, a mile or two down the long arm of the Emel Peninsula, gleamed the beacon on Pirate’s Point.

  “Look at this, will you? A good, steady wind and not a cloud in the sky.” Tris loved storms. She took clear skies as a personal insult.

  Sandry leaned on her notch. “Pirate weather,” she remarked softly.

  Daja made a face. “Dirty jishen.”

  “What does that mean?” Tris asked. “J-jishen. It’s Tradertalk, isn’t it?” She always wanted translations for new words in Daja’s native language.

  Daja shrugged. “I don’t know—tick? Louse? Leech?”

  “It’s something that feeds on others and then kills them,” added Sandry.

  Tris looked out to sea. The wind shifted a hair, carrying the scent of trees to her sensitive nose as it passed directly over the islands.

  It also carried voices.

  “This thing’s heavy.”


  Tris bit her lip. Not again!

  “Did you hear something?” whispered Briar.

  “Why’d they just pick me and you?!” panted the complainer. “This thing needs at least two more—”

  “The less that knows, the better, y’ lazy cod’s-head!

  Now stow it!”

  “It’s two men,” Daja muttered, looking around. She wasn’t a nervous girl, but she knew the sound of shady dealings when she heard it. “No one’s in sight—”

  “Tris is hearing something on the wind,” Sandry told them.

  “And we hear it, too?” Briar scowled. “We never heard it before.”

  “Before the earthquake,” pointed out Daja. “Before we combined our magics—”

  “Hush!” snapped Tris. Closing her eyes, she fixed her mind on the speakers. Whatever they carried, it was heavy: both Whiner and Gruff Man were gasping. They were scared, too, for all that Gruff Man would deny it. She heard the fear in their whispers.

  “Now what?” demanded Whiner. He sounded better—they must have put down their burden. “Do we knock?”

  “I swear by Shurri Fire-Sword—”

  The noise of clattering bolts and creaking hinges—the sounds of a heavy door being opened—interrupted Gruff Man.

  The other three children came to stand behind Tris. With her concentrating, the talk was even louder in their ears. As she heard the conversation, so did they.

  “You’re late!” hissed a female voice. “Ye wan’ us t’ get caught?”

  Daja wrinkled her nose scornfully.
The woman was drunk.

  “Git that thing in here, b’fore some un comes! Watch changes in an hour, an’ sometimes they’re early!”

  Gruff Man and Whiner grunted, as if they’d picked up their heavy burden. A breath later, the door closed.

  Tris faced the others. “You heard?”

  “Like they was standing right here,” Briar replied. “And none of us could do that hearing trick before.”

  “We’re one now,” Sandry murmured.

  “Not all the way one,” protested Tris. “When you fell this morning, I didn’t know. When Briar stole that muffin from the coldbox, my belly didn’t fill up.”

  “The muff would’ve gone bad anyway,” grumbled the boy.

  “We haven’t really done a lot of magic since the quake,” Daja pointed out, tugging on Sandry’s braid. “If we had, maybe we would have found out—”

  “Found out what?” snapped Tris.

  “That perhaps we know what goes on with each other’s magic. We can’t do the same things maybe, but we know what happens in all our magics.” Daja sighed. “Something complicated. Simple things don’t happen to us anymore.”

  “Maybe it will go away,” Tris said.

  “What of the bleaters we’re hearing?” asked Briar. “Can we tell what they’re up to, or where they are?”

  Tris shook her head. “I just hear voices—I can’t tell where they’re from.”

  “Smugglers, maybe?” Daja suggested. “Most islands with guard posts have some kind of smuggling going on. Guards always think nobody pays them enough.” She had spent years among those who lived and worked on the sea and knew the practices of all kinds of people.

  “It could be smugglers,” replied Tris.

  “Forget about it,” advised Briar. “No use sticking your neb where it don’t belong.”

  “Can we leave noses out of the conversation?” asked Sandry wistfully, tugging the end of hers.

  Rusty hinges creaked on the wind. Tris held a finger to her lips, and the four stopped talking.

  “—here’s the cord.” The Drunk Woman sounded as if her liquor was wearing off. “But if ye lay it on the ground, will it burn? We—”