"I'm just saying, there's no rule that says we can't visit for a meal," Briar said over dinner one evening.
"They have other students now," Daja pointed out. "Glaki, Comas, that girl Lark mentioned when we saw them at the market. She must be moved in there by now."
"Comas has come along quite well," Sandry said as she set the greens on the table and took her seat. "He's still very shy, yes, but he's spoken with me the last few times I've visited to work with Lark."
"Still, there are four of us. We were always able to squeeze people around that table, but only if you don't mind knocking elbows," Daja said. "Imagine all four of us now, plus Lark and Rosethorn, plus Glaki and Comas and their new student."
Briar sighed as he grabbed a roll and broke it open to spread butter on it. "Fine, I get it. I just thought it would be nice to do before Tris heads off to Lightsbridge."
"I don't leave for another month," Tris pointed out as she entered, having followed the conversation on a breeze sent ahead. "We have plenty of time to figure something out."
That set everyone to thinking as they ate. Eventually, when it seemed like the rest of the meal would go on with everyone stuck in their own thoughts about Tris leaving, Winding Circle, Lark and Rosethorn, and their years at Discipline Cottage, Daja spoke up through their shared bond.
I don't know why we're even debating this, she said as she finished off her stew. We can simply invite them here. They can bring Glaki, and anyone else they like. We have the space. It isn't as if they're bound to temple grounds.
"Oh," Briar said. "Well we're all a bunch of fools, aren't we?"
"Except Daja," Sandry said, grinning. "But then, we all knew that."
"If we double the weave here, and here," Sandry said, shifting the fabric to show Lark where she was talking about, "we could add in a second layer of protection, without adding too much weight to the cloth. What do you think?"
Lark looked over the piece of brocade Sandry had brought her, carefully peering at the threads and patterns.
"I think," she said finally, "that this isn't why you're visiting. Not the only reason, anyhow. What's on your mind, Sandry?"
Sandry smiled. "I did want to talk with you about this, but you're right. I also wanted to invite you and Rosethorn, and Glaki if she wants to come, to visit for dinner soon. At Daja's house. She would have come to invite you herself but I was already going to bring the brocade and she had some work to finish up by tonight."
Lark laughed and handed the fabric back to Sandry. "Of course. Rosie and I had been thinking we should have you all visit some evening too. It would be a tight fit in the cottage, but there's no reason we couldn't have a picnic dinner."
"Oh, Briar will be happy to hear that," Sandry told her. "Still, please, do join us? I think it would mean a lot to Tris, though she'd never admit it. I'd like to make it a special dinner, so she knows we wish her well at Lightsbridge."
"Ah! Yes!" Lark beamed at her former student. "What a lovely idea. I've been working on something for her to take with her. Nothing flashy, of course, but every student needs something to carry her books in." She stood and went to retrieve something from a chest near her loom. When she brought it over Sandry could see it looked like a simple satchel, but woven into the threads so closely even Sandry could barely see were tiny spells for durability and cleanliness.
"This must have taken ages," Sandry said, inspecting it closely. "I have something for her too, but it's not quite finished yet."
"Rosethorn has something as well, and I suspect she'll get gifts sent from Frostpine once he gets back to Winding Circle. She's still planning on traveling with Niko part of the way?"
Sandry nodded as she handed the bag back to Lark. "Until they reach the Karang border. Then Tris wants to continue on her own so she can arrive with as little fanfare as possible."
"Well, he'll likely have something for her before they part ways. But we can certainly make it a special night. Let's set a date and we'll make plans. Perhaps Gorse will help us with the food so no one need cook."
Sandry, Briar, and Daja had debated whether or not to tell Tris that the dinner wasn't just a chance to see Lark and Rosethorn but was to be a farewell party for her. On one hand, Sandry had argued that if she knew, Tris might protest even the slightest bit of fuss over her leaving. On the other hand, Briar had argued that if she didn't know and was surprised by it, she might take it poorly. Eventually Daja had cut in with the point that Tris likely already knew, given that she couldn't always keep from overhearing or even catching glimpses of things on the breezes. She never intentionally spied, but every so often something would waft past her, like walking past an open window and hearing a snippet of conversation.
Better just to tell her, then. And while both Briar and Sandry had been right - Tris was glad to not have a secret being kept from her but she also didn't want to be the center of attention - Tris soon allowed that yes, it would be nice to see everyone and yes, fine, if her family wanted to have a small - very small - party in her honor, she would go along with it.
After all of that, the actual planning wasn't terribly complex. Niko wouldn't be back in Summersea until just before he and Tris had to leave to Lightsbridge, and Frostpine was away at one of the other temples, helping some of their people restore some ancient metalwork that couldn't be moved. It would just be the four of them, Lark and Rosethorn, and Glaki.
Lark arrived early with food from Gorse.
"Tris is upstairs," Daja told her as she welcomed Lark into her home. "I think she's sulking because we won't let her clean."
"I am not!" Tris called down from the second floor. "But I'll be checking to see if it's done right!"
"See?" Daja said, grinning. "Sulking."
"As if none of us know how to take care of the house," Briar said as came in from the garden, basket full of greens for their dinner.
The table was already set and by the time Rosethorn arrived with Glaki dinner was all but ready.
"Tris! Look!" Glaki said, running through the house to Tris to show off her newest skills, juggling wisps of glowing light that looked like scarves.
"How's Evvy?" Daja asked Rosethorn.
"Coming along," Rosethorn told her. "I admit, I wasn't entirely sure how she'd take to the novitiate, but it seems to have been the right choice. She keeps saying she's following me to the Earth temple, but I suspect she'll find more purpose looking to Fire. Evvy and plants still don't get along terribly well."
"Can't have everything. See if Frostpine can talk to her when he gets back," Daja suggested. "She's no smith, but that doesn't mean they won't find something in common."
Dinner stretched through the evening as everyone at the table found they had far more to discuss than they'd realized. Even Glaki kept up with the conversation, asking Tris about what classes she would be taking and what Lightsbridge would be like.
Once the pie Gorse had sent for dessert was no more than some crumbs and a few smears of berry juice, Sandry started cleaning up while Lark and Rosethorn brought out their gifts for Tris.
"We know you didn't want anything fancy," Rosethorn told her while Tris protested. "But we couldn't let you go away with nothing."
Lark presented her with the satchel, already supplied with ink and pens as well as a few other odds and ends she assured Tris she would find useful in academic magic.
Rosethorn gave her a set of small earthenware pots, already full of dirt, with lids sealed on with wax.
"Once you get there, unseal the wax and water them and you'll have an herb garden," she explained. "They're spelled to grow well even if you forget to water them a few times."
Daja had a set of specially made pen nibs, handmade by Daja herself and spelled for smooth writing and easy cleaning. Glaki gave her a doll she'd made with scraps from Lark's workshop.
"I know you still have the old one," Sandry told Tris as she unrolled a small wall hanging, showing a wheel much like the one she'd given Tris back in their first days at Discipline Cottage. The first one had been made when Sandry was a child, but this one was expertly stitched, with details so fine the threads might as well have been spidersilk.
"No magic," Sandry told her. "No one will see it and think it's some powerful working."
Tris looked it over and smiled. "I'll hang them both. If anyone asks, my sister made them."
"Well, that's true, isn't it?" Sandry said before hugging Tris tightly.
Lark and Rosethorn took Glaki back to Winding Circle late in the evening and while Daja and Sandry cleaned up after the meal, Briar found Tris sitting at the window of her room, looking out at the stars.
"Banished from cleaning again?" he asked.
"Sandry actually threatened to weave my sleeves together if I didn't stop trying to help," Tris muttered. "I'm going to have to go over it all in the morning. I just know they'll miss something."
"Maybe, maybe not. We'll have to learn to get along without you for a while, Coppercurls," Briar said, taking a seat next to her. "Here." He held out a small package.
Tris took it and carefully unwrapped it, folding the paper to use for later. Inside was a slim book with no writing on the outside. Inside, however, was Briar's neat script, line after line after line.
"It's a whole bunch of things," he told her. "How we all met, some stories I heard when I was traveling, all the weather magic I could remember from Gyongxe, instructions for caring for that herb garden. Things like that. I thought you might like something to pass the time on your way to Karang."
Tris looked through the book, reading a bit here and there, then closing it and setting it in her lap before leaning over to rest her head on Briar's shoulder.
Thank you, she told him through their bond. Thank you all, she said, including Sandry and Daja as well.
Going to miss us? Daja asked.
Of course she is, Sandry said. Whether she'll admit it or not.
Tris rolled her eyes. I'll still have you, even if we're too far to talk. And besides, she added. Who knows if it's too far? After that stunt we pulled in Namorn I have a feeling I'll never be rid of the three of you.
Oh good, Briar said. We'll try not to distract you. Too much.
See that you don't, Tris told them all. But… every so often, a little distraction might be nice.
That's what family's for, Sandry told her. Whenever you need us, we'll be there.