Nilien swallowed. “Oh. Oh, I see, of course.” She gave Lorque a quick hug. “I’ll see you after class, then.”

“Chin up.” Lorque looked a bit stunned, but, well, Nilien supposed what Professor Valents was saying made sense. It was one thing to be a bit behind — a week or two, maybe — in history or sciences, but in magic? “You’ll catch up in no time.”

“I’ll do my best.” Nilien no longer felt very certain, though. “I’m sorry, Professor Valents, I don’t mean to dawdle. Where…?”

“It’s all right, dear. It’s good you’re making friends so quickly. This way.” The teacher guided Nilien out of the large classroom back into the hall and past two more rooms, all while Nilien struggled with her feelings and Ember stayed uncommonly quiet.

It made sense. She kept telling herself that, but it didn’t stop her from feeling awful. She was a good student! She shouldn’t need her own class…

But, she countered, she’d never been in a magic class before.

But she ought to be able to pick it up!

Professor Valents interrupted her swirling thoughts. “Here we go, dear. Professor Hestinger will help you get started with magic.”

The teacher ushered her into a small room, much like Professor Lowit’s office. Professor Hestinger turned out to be a short, rather dapper man with a broad, generous smile.

“Ah, our Wild Rune. Come on in, Nilien, and — Ember, is it? Come on in, Ember.” A purplish-pink puma sat curled around the feet of Professor Hestinger’s chair. It looked up as Nilien entered and yawned at her and Ember before closing its eyes again.

“Take a seat, that’s good. Now, dear, there’s no need to be sad about this. You have to figure out how to stand up before you learn if you’re more of a sprinter or a distance runner, now don’t you?”

“I — I suppose so, yes.” Nilien sat down in the wooden chair he’d indicated. Ember jumped into her lap and made itself comfortable, turning around a few times before settling down, staring at Professor Hestinger.

Pay attention. This is important.

Nilien bit back a retort. Now wasn’t the time to be talking to her fox. “I’m ready, sir.”

“And your familiar is, too, I see. All right then. Let’s get right to it, then, shall we? Now, rune magic is rather simple to explain and rather difficult to get right, so please don’t expect that you’re going to get it right away.”

“Yes, sir.” She was going to get it as soon as she could, so she could take classes with her friends. She settled her hands in Ember’s fur and got ready to learn.

“Very good. We’ll work at it together until you have mastered the basic skills. It may take quite some time, but we’ll get there.”

“Yes, sir.” He seemed so nice, but was he ever going to teach her?

“Good! We’re going to start with a very basic levitation. Here.” He set a pen on the desk to his left. “Now concentrate on lifting this pen.”

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