Chapters 2 through 5 are a constant string of minor but touching heartwarming moments, being the story of how a girl who was insulted, beaten and marginalized in her childhood comes into a place where people respect her opinion and genuinely care for her. Watching Talia's opinion of herself- and the world- changing is really beautiful.
Jadus: It would be a shame to waste your Talent; and you do have it, youngling. It would truly be something that I would enjoy sharing with you.
Talia: If you think it's worth wasting your time on me-
Jadus:(tilts Talia's head up so she's looking him in the eyes) Time spent with you, my dear, will never be wasted.
Talia babysitting Elspeth and 'un-spoiling' the girl. Talia is never slow to discipline Elspeth when she does something wrong, but she's equally fast to praise her when she does something right.
In particular, their second meeting. Huldanote Elspeth's abusive nanny who deliberately gave her nightmares and isolated her from other children has left Court, and Elspeth is crying because she thinks Hulda is her Only Friend.
Talia: I'm sorry for you. It's awful to be lonely and alone. I know; when I was your age, they sent my best friend away to be married to a ghastly old man, and I never saw her again.
Elspeth: Hulda laughed. She said it was a stupid name. (looks down) It's Elspeth.
Talia: There was no reason for Hulda to laugh; you have a very nice name. It's nicer than Talia.
Elspeth: Hulda said only peasants are named Elspeth.
Talia: That's not true; I know that for sure. There were three Queens of this Kingdom named Elspeth. (lists them) You'll have a hard time living up to the name of Elspeth. Especially if you want to become the kind of person that could win a Companion and be the Heir.
Elspeth: I- I don't know how. And Companions- I'm afraid of them. Can you- help me? Please?
Talia: Well, first you have to start by treating people nicer than you do now- and I mean everybody, highborn or low. If you do that, you'll start having more friends, too, and they'll be real friends who like being with you, not people who only act friendly because they think you can get them something.
Talia: If you want to change, you have to start by thinking about everything you say before you say or do it. Think about how you'd feel if someone acted like that to you. (hugs Elspeth) I can see that there's a very nice person named Elspeth sitting here, but there's an awful lot of people who can't see through the Brat. That's what they call you, you know.
Talia curing Elspeth's fear of Companions.
Keren jumping into an ice-covered river to save Talia after a gang of bullies push her in. And later reproaching Talia for not telling the Heralds she was being bullied.
"We lose enough of the Circle as it is- we're not about to lose you through carelessness." Keren paused, and then added (half in anger, half in hurt), "-and next time, youngling, tell somebody when there's something wrong! We could have avoided all this- maybe caught whoever was chewing your tail! Heralds always stick together, dammit! Did you think we wouldn't believe you?"
"I- yes-" Talia said, and was horrified to find that her mouth had once again betrayed her. To her further horror, tears began to fall, and she was powerless to stop them.
Her care- her sincerity- was too much to stand against. Talia yielded with speechless gratitude, as the barriers within her that had been weakened by her friendship with Jadus came crumbling down. Keren held her as if she were her own child, letting her sob herself into dry-eyed exhaustion.
The book's final lines.
And with a lighter heart, she turned back down the path that led to the Collegium.