“I’m a Rune?” Maybe if she repeated it to herself enough times, Nilien might believe it. “But… there’s a process. There’s a test, there’s…” She wasn’t entirely certain what there was, but she knew you didn’t just wake up one morning a Rune.

The process is: do you want to live? Here I am. The fox chewed on the fur between its toes. All the rest is ribbons and bows and ruffles: pretty but un-needed.

“But…” Nilien pulled herself together. “The book I read on Runes, Edmond de Martin’s Musings on The Power and the Mark, it said that that process is out-dated and no longer used. It’s too dangerous.”

Dying is dangerous, too. The fox nipped delicately at Nilien’s hand. But you were quite clear. You wanted to live, yes?

“Yes. Yes, I want to live.” Wanted? She peered at the creature. No, familiar; that explained the unnaturally red hue, too. “Wanted? What…”

She still could not remember what had happened. She could remember the morning — getting up, getting dressed — but there was a foggy patch missing in the middle, with nothing but the bright light and the voice in her head.

Wanted. Want. Life is important to you. So here I am.

“Ah, there you are, Nilien.” The headmaster’s shoes clicked loudly on the floor as he hurried over to her, fussing as if he had somehow misplaced her. “And your familiar. Very good.” Headmaster Narite nodded to the fox, then turned his attention to Nilien. “You’re awake, that’s very good. We were concerned.” He frowned at her. “You’ve been through quite an experience already, haven’t you? But here you are, safe and sound. We have contacted your parents, of course.”

“Thank you,” Nilien offered politely. She supposed getting a familiar and becoming a Rune really was an “experience,” but it didn’t seem like she’d experienced much at all yet.

“However,” the Headmaster continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “it seems mostly likely that you will be transferred to the Imperial Academy at Reinmonte to continue your education.”

“Transferred? The Academy is where they train people to become Runes, isn’t it?” Nilien glanced at her fox, who seemed to have nothing to say at the moment.

“Yes. Your situation may be quite unusual, but you are, nevertheless, now a Rune.” The Headmaster smiled broadly at her.

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