2.5

“Red?” Nilien repeated, staring at M. Sirin in confusion.

Well, Ember nosed at the hem of the skirt, you don’t want it this color. And you certainly don’t want to go with orange or— the fox shook itself —pink. And red is the best color, after all.

“Yes, but…” She was a Rune. Everyone else here was a Rune, at least, everyone she’d seen so far. She glanced hesitantly at Bother, M. Sirin’s green snake. “Magically?”

“Exactly. Not by my hand, however. We’re going to take you to meet Professor Lowit. He’s quite good at this sort of transformation. This way.”

M. Sirin led Nilien and Ember down another hallway — two lefts and a right, and Nilien could see why Lorque thought she might get lost — to knock on a wooden door. The door had a pattern that looked dyed into the wood in the style of stained glass: a tree high on a hill, with orange birds in the branches and on the ground.

She was unsurprised, then, when the man who opened the door had a bright orange magpie sitting on his shoulder. He was tall, taller even than the impressive M. Sirin, and his vest, like his door, seemed picked out of a thousand small tiles of color. “Aah, Administrator Sirin.” He nodded politely at both of them. “And this must be our new student.”

“And I leave her in your capable hands while I get her course materials. Professor Lowit, this is Nilien. Nilien, Professor Lowit teaches History here.”

“History?” Nilien smiled broadly. “Oh, I love History! I’m looking forward to finding out how it’s taught here. There’s the Battle of Theristole. I’ve always wanted to know more about that. And the Treaty of Three Swords that followed it. We covered that only very briefly back at my old school.” She hardly noticed M. Sirin leaving.

“A fellow enthusiast! Well, we’ll be covering that later in the year, but if you’d like — and if you find you have time — I can suggest some reading to tide you over. Now, I assume you’re here for your colors?”

“Yes, please.” Nilien plucked at her sludgy-colored skirt. “It clashes horribly with Ember,” she joked, “and it seems to hate that.”

“Sometimes familiars do have opinions on that,” M. Lowit agreed. “All right, hop up here, Ember, so I can see your color properly.”

Nilien was a little surprised to find that Ember complied, jumping up onto the stool M. Lowit indicated. The professor peered at Ember and then brushed his hand over the stack of clothing she was holding.

Everything that had been sludge-colored turned red. Nilien gasped and clutched her clothing — her Ember-red clothing — a little closer.

“I didn’t feel anything,” she murmured. She had known magic was real, but it was one thing to know it, and another to see it in use right in front of her. “I just… This is amazing.”

“It is,” M. Lowit agreed. “And it will only get more amazing when you learn to do it yourself.”

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