“Professor Vaudelle’s office is just down this hall. Now, when you come back, it helps if you use landmarks. See, here’s this door with the stripes of stone and metal in it.” Professor Hestinger pointed out a doorway. “That used to be Professor Marein’s office, and nobody wants to change it, so it stays that way. It helps tell you which way you’re going, though. And then here’s the old archway with the tiny gargoyles carved into it. It’s a little out of place back here, so it’s easy to recognize. And here’s Professor Vaudelle’s office.” He knocked on what looked like a plain, ordinary door.

“Hestinger! Come on in. And who’s the student?” A clear, high, cheerful-sounding voice came through the door as if it wasn’t there.

“Ah, Vaudelle.” Professor Hestinger smiled at the door. Nilien looked at him and wondered if he’d gone batty, or if this was normal here, talking to doors. “This is Nilien. She has some matters of magic sight to discuss with you.” He swung the door open to reveal an office crowded with bookshelves and covered with papers and books, centered on a short woman with broad curves, a broader smile and a pair of wire-framed spectacles perched on her upturned nose. “Nilien.” He patted her shoulder. “This is Professor Vaudelle. I leave you in her capable hands, and I look forward to working with you again tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Nilien smiled up at him. She had finally found the black stone just before their session ended, which had left her with a small feeling of triumph and a sense that maybe this wasn’t going to be awful after all. It wasn’t the sort of thing her classmates could do — but if she could get started, she could get there. “I look forward to it.”

“Good. Rune magic should be fun, after all. Good luck with the rest of your classes.” He left, closing the door behind him and leaving Nilien with Professor Vaudelle.

The professor ran a sharp, assessing gaze over Nilien. “So, dear, you’re our new student? Here, have a seat.” She cleared off a chair by sweeping the papers stacked on it into a basket and shoving that basket under another chair.

“I am.” Nilien sat down and Ember leaped into her lap. “And this is Ember, my familiar.”

“A Wild Rune, very interesting. And you’re working with Hestinger on basic magic?”

“I— yes, I am.” Nilien’s cheeks flushed and she looked away. Was everyone going to know?

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, dear. This is a difficult situation you’re in, but we’re all here to help you. That’s our job.”

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