Nilien did her best to ignore the question. She looked at Augustin. “So if everyone has specialties—”

“Well, we’re all trying to find our specialties now,” he temporized, “but I’m not that good at looking for poisons, no. I’m trying to focus on changing colors and shapes. Like… well, I don’t have my familiar with me at the moment…” He frowned.

“Like this?” Riva concentrated on Augustin’s hair until one chestnut-brown curl turned the same blue-green as Riva’s otter familiar. “There. You look perfect.”

“No, really.” The voice from the next table cut in again. “Come on, someone trying to kill you? Isn’t that a little far-fetched?”

“I don’t know.” Nilien mock-frowned at the streak in Augustin’s hair. “I think it clashes with his tie.” She gestured at the pinkish-purple tie in question.

“Oh, come on.” The interloper turned around completely so they were staring at Nilien. “You can’t just ignore me and pretend I didn’t ask you anything.”

“She looked like she was doing that quite well,” Riva countered. “Besides, the wintergreen really does clash with Augustin’s tie.”

“But why should she?” The peach-clad older student frowned at both Riva and Nilien. “I mean it. Why ignore me, unless you have something to hide? It’s not like the question is going to go away. You were talking about being poisoned. In the middle of the dining hall. People other than me must have noticed.”

Ember put its paws up on the table and glared, ears raked back. Would you like me to bite this irritating person?

“No biting,” Nilien whispered into Ember’s ear. “Not now.” She looked back at their intruder and sighed. This was just getting louder and louder. “Someone tried to kill me.” She tried to pitch her voice just loud enough that her peach-marked inquisitor could hear her and not the rest of the dining hall. “That’s why I’m a Wild Rune.” That, at least, she was pretty sure everyone knew already.

Ember turned its glare on her. You are a Rune because you chose to live.

“Really tried to kill you? You mean ran their horse too close to you and pushed you off the road into a ditch or something, don’t you?” The person leaned closer to them, voice softer now. “Not assassination.”

“Attempted assassination,” Riva corrected. Augustin was still trying to see the curl of blue-green hair.

“And it’s not like she’d lie about something like that.” Lorque leaned forward over the table, her own voice a hissing whisper. “Come on, really? Who lies about being the target of an assassination attempt?”

The word was starting to give Nilien hives. “It’s okay,” she protested. “It’s kind of far-fetched, I know.” She stroked Ember idly, taking comfort in the warmth of its fur. “I would’ve thought so too, until it happened.”

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