It was a relief to be out of the lunch room, and the closer Nilien got to the classrooms, the more excited she became.

“How long do you think it will take for me to learn how to detect poison?” she asked Lorque.

“Oh, not much time at all.” Lorque waved off the question with a breezy gesture. “You’re clever. You’re going to be caught up to us right away, just you see.”

“Do they teach much theory? How it all works? I want to know how the pieces all go together. I want to be able to protect myself,” she added in a much quieter voice. She didn’t want another incident like with Thesri. “Nobody else might believe it, but I really am worried.”

“Hey, I believe you! And Augustin… and I’m sure lots of other people. You shouldn’t let jerks like Thesri get you down.”

“I don’t… Well, I suppose I do, a little, but I know that it does sound a little far-fetched. Everyone’s said it; I’m just not really assassination material. Is this the way to the magic classroom? I’m really going to get to learn magic!”

“Well, of course you are.” Lorque smiled at her. “You’re a Rune. You have a familiar. You’ve got the rune mark.”

“You’ve had some time to get used to the idea,” Nilien complained. And, she thought, to practice all this magic. “I’m only now having my first day of classes here at Reinmont. At the Academy for Runes.”

“You’ll get used to it fast.” Lorque patted her shoulder. “I’m sure you will. Here’s our magic classroom, and here’s Professor Valents. We’ve all been working with her to find out specialties all year. It’s been a lot of fun.” She waved down the teacher, who was wearing stunning violet trousers with a rose-and-teal jacket. “We’ve got a new student here; I’m sure you heard about Nilien.”

Everyone already knew about Nilien, but still, a few people fell quiet and looked over. The teacher strolled over, followed by a lavender creature the size of a small dog. It looked something like someone had combined a rabbit and a pig, with the fur and the nose of the rabbit, the shape of the pig, and doglike claws.

Clearly she had to pay more attention in zoologic studies. After she paid attention in magic classes, of course.

Professor Valents frowned down at her. “Ah, yes, the new student, Nilien. It’s very nice to meet you.” She sounded sad. “I’m sorry, dear, I am certain you would love to be in this class with your friends, and from all accounts, I would love to have you.”

Nilien’s heart sank. “I — I don’t get to learn magic?” She kept her chin up and didn’t give into the urge to scoop up Ember, despite the way the fox was butting against her legs.

“Oh, you do, of course you do, dear.” The teacher patted Nilien’s shoulder. “But you’re going to need to start off with Professor Hestinger. Right this way, please. I’m afraid it’s going to take you quite some time to go over the basics, and these students are quite a way past that.”

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