The tracking spell was not going away.

Nilien had tried everything Professor Vaudelle had shown her — six times — and nothing was working. She could see it. She could see exactly where it was, but nothing she could come up with made it vanish

Perhaps we should go visit the professor with the rooster again, Ember suggested. Its ears were back and it looked as worried as Nilien felt.

“We should,” she admitted. “I just don’t want to go back out there and get lost again.”

You did not get lost last time, remember? And this was very near the classrooms. You should be fine, Ember coaxed.

“I wish I could just get it off. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to bother Professor Vaudelle every day, and that’s just ridiculous. Besides, I have homework I need to do.”

Homework is not more important than being safe. Ember bit her hand lightly, more just touching its teeth to her skin. We should visit Professor-with-the-Rooster again.

Nilien was saved having to come with Ember or argue more by the door swinging open. “Nilien! You are in here, good!” Lorque was followed into the room by River, Riva, and Riva’s otter familiar. “When you didn’t show up after class, I was worried that you’d gotten lost again. How were your lessons?”

“They were… interesting.” She looked between Lorque and Riva. “There’s a lot to learn, and so much of seems to be ‘just keep trying until you get it.’”

“There’s a lot of that in the beginning.” Lorque flopped down on her bed and gestured lazily at a chair for Riva. “That’s not why you left, is it? Nobody’s going to think less of you for needing a little more help when you just got here, Nilien!”

“It can’t be easy.” Riva took the chair offered and scooted it closer to the two of them. “Starting in a new school, and then all of this magic to catch up on, too. Everyone knows you’re new, you know. They’re not going to think you can’t keep up with the work.”

Nilien was torn between saying everyone knowing I’m new is half the problem and explaining where she’d been. Ember, who had released her hand when Lorque walked in, took her fingers in its mouth again.

“There’s a tracking spell on me,” she admitted. “There was one on me before, and now there’s another one, after Professor Vaudelle took the first one off of me. And I can’t get it off.”

“How did you get another one? And how did you end up with Professor Vaudelle?”

“Well, I found the tracking spell when Professor Hestinger was teaching me…” Nilien explained the situation to them, up to Ember tracking down the person who had put the spell on her in the first place. “I was hoping Chason was as nice as he seemed,” she concluded, “but his friend did this…”

“Well,” Riva pointed out, “you can’t always judge someone by their friends.”

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