“Well, if nobody wants you dead, maybe someone wanted you to be a Rune?” Lorque offered, and then immediately shook her head. “No, that’s insane. Nobody would do that, would they? So if nobody you know of wants you dead, it must be someone you don’t know of. Someone from your family, maybe? I don’t mean your family wants you dead!” Lorque shook her head quickly. “I just mean, what if someone wants someone from—”

“Where can we put this down?” It wasn’t polite to interrupt, and yet Lorque had shown no signs at all of stopping.

“Oh, yes, right here. This one’s your bed.”

The room had two beds, one made a little more tidily than the other, two desks, and one wardrobe. Lorque steered the trunk over to floor next to the tidier bed, and they set it down with a thump that left the fox looking a little disgruntled.

“What do you think I should name it?” Nilien asked, before Lorque could ask more about Nilien’s theoretical would-be assassin. “Do you care?” She aimed the last part at the fox.

You can come up with whatever makes you happy. The fox nuzzled its fur back into place as if it had been dropped with far more force than it had. As long as it is not ridiculous. I do not wish to answer to something like “fluffy wuffy.”

“Nothing childish,” Nilien translated for Lorque. “How did you come up with River?”

“Well, they suggest something simple, when you get your familiar. And it’s kind of the color of the sun on the river? The river near where I grew up,” Lorque clarified. “Something about it seemed, well, river-like, too. Fluid. Playful. I was thinking of naming it Brook, but I decided River sounded more mature.” She glanced over at River with an expression Nilien thought must be “listening to one’s familiar” and smirked. “I suppose being mature meant a lot to me back then. So.” She sat down on her bed with a thump. “Let’s see. Red, fox, what else?”

“Full of itself.” Nilien smiled at her fox, who didn’t deign to look at her or respond. “Ah, very opinionated.”

“And you’re lucky it showed up, if someone was trying to kill you. Maybe Felix? For luck?”

“Mmm, I’m not sure.” It sounded too dignified, although she wouldn’t admit that out loud.

“Ginger? Gingersnap? Maple-leaf?”

“It’s not a cookie,” Nilien protested.

I am not for biting, no. The fox looked up at her. I bite back.

“It’s a bit fiery when you annoy it,” Nilien admitted. “I’ve been informed — not for the first time — that it bites.”

“Fiery? Like embers? It sort of looks like the coals at the bottom of a fire.” Lorque peered at the fox, who peered back.

“Ember.” Nilien nodded. “I like it.”

“Good!” Lorque jumped back up. “River and Ember. I bet fire-and-water here will get along just fine. So! Shall we go on a tour, show you around our distinguished academy, now that we’ve named your fox?”

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