What is going on? The voice answered her out of nowhere. That is a very good question.

Nilien jerked backwards, the movement reminding her how much her body hurt.  “What… who?”  She pulled herself into a sitting position, wincing at every movement, and looked around.

I know the answer, of course.  But you have to ask me, not just the air.

At the foot of her bed was a fox, a fox the same vibrant red as the mark on her hand.  Nilien rubbed her eyes, but the fox didn’t go away.  If anything, it looked more real – and quite disdainful.

I’m here, you know.  Wishing won’t make me go away.  Not much at all will make me go away. It stood up, circled twice, and sat back down, staring intently at her.

“You’re… you’re real.”  She rubbed her eyes again.  “How are you talking?”

In your mind, of course.  How else would I talk?  As much as a voice in her head had a tone, it sounded as if it was the most obvious answer in the world.

“Well… like… oh.”  Nilien’s head still felt foggy.  “Where did you come from?”  That seemed like a reasonable question.

The fox opened its mouth at her in a lazy grin, tongue lolling.  Where did I come from?  Don’t you remember?

“As far as I know, this is the first time I’ve ever seen you.  I’m…”  She looked around.  “Oh, this is the infirmary.  I’m in the infirmary.  I was…” She trailed off, uncertain.  The mark on her hand caught her eye again, and she held it up towards the fox.

The mark looked nothing at all like a fox, except that both of them were red.  “I wanted to live,” she continued uncertainly.

You did.  This is a very good start. The fox nodded.


And now I am here. It looked very pleased with itself.

“And now there’s a red fox on my bed.  Talking — talking in my mind.”  What had it said?  Something about knowing the answers?  “Oh!  What is going on?”

I thought you’d never get around to asking.  The fox stood up lazily and stalked towards Nilien until it could rest its chin on her marked hand. You wanted to live.  And now I am here.  Your spirit companion.

“My… my familiar?”  Nilien stared at the creature.  This close, it was clear how unnaturally red it was.  “You’re my familiar?” She flattened her hands against her lap and focused on the tip of the fox’s tail.  “I’m a Rune?”

The fox’s tail flicked up over its eyes, but the tone in her head still sounded amused. Now she understands.

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