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Niko shuddered. “Don’t jump around like that,” he said, shifting so he could climb down the ladder into the house. “It makes me nervous. Coming, Tris?”

“Coming,” she replied, getting up. She followed Sandry inside.

“Got to go,” Daja said, glancing at the Hub clock. “Frostpine wants to clean the forge this afternoon.”

Briar smirked. “Better wash before you come home,” he advised.

“I mean to,” she said, and left him in possession of the roof.

The Hub clock banged out the second hour of the afternoon. The midday rest period was over. Briar stared at clouds and thought of birthdays. He really ought to decide on one. After long meditation, he’d decided he looked forward to having a birthday. For one thing, it would mean a cake. How could he turn down extra food?


No. Like she’d said, today was a birthday for them, for that lumpy circle of thread Sandry was forever carrying about.

He’d decided against Midsummer. That was Rosethorn’s, even if she did hide it in the templewide celebration of the summer solstice. It had occurred to him that he ought to have a day that was his, to mark how far he’d come, and who he had been. It should be a day with meaning for both Roach and Briar, for the street rat and the mage. It ought to be a green day: one of Roach’s calmest memories was of a patch of moss in a dank jail cell, a bit of comfort where he’d expected none. It wasn’t the day that a Bag calling himself Niklaren Goldeye bought Roach free of the Hajra docks; Niko had then dragged Roach all the way to Emelan and Winding Circle, even if he called that boy the brand-new name of Briar Moss. Briar had also considered the day he stole the shakkan, and discarded it, as well as a handful of others.

The day that had changed him for all time, that had marked the turning from Roach to Briar, had been a day he’d come to this same roof. He’d been lazing, watching clouds, and thinking of nothing, when his contemplation had been interrupted….

“Come on, boy!” a gleeful voice cried from the garden below. “You’re wasting daylight!”

It was the same voice that called to him now. He got to his feet with a sigh, but the truth was, he didn’t want to waste the light either. You never knew when you’d need it and not have it.

“What’s the chore today?” he yelled down to Rosethorn.

“Weeding!” she called back. “It’s summer, isn’t it? So it’s always weeding!”

Her speech was a little slurred and might always be. Still, she could speak clearly. Better yet, her mind was as sharp as ever.

She had called to him to come down and work in her garden the day after his arrival at Discipline, the twentieth day of Goose Moon—which was tomorrow. The girls would be vexed at getting so little time to prepare, but they would adjust. They would know, as he did, that his life began when Rosethorn had invited him into her world.

“Briar!” she called.

“It ain’t running away without us!” he yelled in reply, and climbed back into the house.

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