“Thank you.” Nilien waited by the doorway — she might not have really gotten lost, but she didn’t really know which way she was supposed to go, either. “It’s nice of you to take the time.”

“Oh, I know what this place can be like.” Chason gestured down the hall — not the way she’d come. She was never going to figure out her way around. “You spend your first month just trying to be sure you make it to classes on time. But you have people to help you with it, most of the time, right?”

“My roommate.” Nilien nodded. “She’d been a lot of help — Lorque. But then Ember wandered off. And…” Nilien sighed. “I’m not in magic classes with her.” It stung to admit it, but it’s not like it wasn’t the truth.

“Oh? Oh, yeah, that makes sense. What with being a Wild Rune and all. Hey, it could be worse.”

You could be dead, Ember offered. From the set of its tail, Ember was still annoyed with her.

“I survived, right?” Nilien offered tiredly.

“What? Oh, well, there is that. There’s a reason there aren’t that many Wild Runes, and it’s not just because people are kind of stupid about it— I see you’ve encountered that.”

Nilien’s face had twisted up , thinking about Istore’s nasty comments and Riva’s I read a book about it… “I have,” she agreed. “Some people think I’m going to eat them for dinner or something.”

“Well, some people are just silly, and some people are stupid. It’s your call, I guess, whether you want to take the time to figure out if they’re being cruel or just ignorant.” Chason shrugged. “Anyway, so you’re coming in later than everyone, that can’t be fun. And I guess that means you wouldn’t be where the other students are in magic, yeah. But, hey, you can study in the evenings and get caught up, if you work hard, right? And if your familiar doesn’t distract you by getting you lost too often.”

“I seem to be spending a lot of time getting lost.”

That is not my fault, Ember complained.

“Yesterday wasn’t your fault at all,” she answered. She had to keep up her lie, after all, since she couldn’t very well admit that they’d gone there looking for — well, Heldira. Maybe Professor Vaudelle was right and it really had just been a prank.

Except she’d never seen Heldira before — or Chason or their friend Tarin. It didn’t make sense.

Well, even if it had been a strange prank, and even if Chason was the friend of someone who had been going to pull a prank on her, he looked nice enough, and here they were, already almost as her dorm. “I think I recognize this area.”

“Landmarks are good.” Chason smiled. “My first year, I even drew up something like a map.”

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