Dr. Alaroq took one look at Nilian and responded with a head-shake and a long-suffering sigh. “Don’t tell me. The woods?”

“Yes?” Nilien ducked her head, suddenly feeling guilty.

“I would say we should put up a wall, but then nobody would ever learn anything from falling over. Thank you, Vaudelle.” The doctor nodded politely at Professor Vaudelle. “I won’t let her go running over any more wild terrain for the next few minutes, at least.”

“Good of you, Alaroq.” Vaudelle bowed to the doctor, somehow making it seem a little sarcastic, and then nodded at Nilien. “Come on back if you need any more help. Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t. Thank you. Thank you for all of it, professor.”

“Think nothing of it. I enjoy my job, dear.” She patted Nilien on the shoulder and breezed off, leaving her with the doctor.

“Hop up here on this table and let me see. Well, hrmm. I see Vaudelle did a little on that ankle. That’s a good start, and we’ll want to clean all those scrapes. If you are going to go running through the woods, you should do so in something a little more appropriate for it, and, oh, look at your hands. Gloves.” Dr. Alaroq winked at Nilien. “Everyone gets a little beat up in that woods at least once, you know, at least the adventurous ones, and you strike me as adventurous.”

“Because I’m a Wild Rune?” She didn’t mean to sound sour about it, but Nilien knew she didn’t exactly sound cheerful, either. Something about the doctor’s voice sounded familiar. Where had she heard it before?

“Getting a lot of that, are you? I’m not surprised. No, not because of your Wild status, and not because you’re already in here with a twisted ankle and scraped-up knees. Hold on, I’ve got something for you.” The doctor turned to a row of jars and pulled out two purple leaves the size of her palm and three long greenish leaves. “Magic can’t fix everything, but what it can’t, magic plants can sometimes supplement – what?”

Nilien coughed. “Magic plants, Doctor?” That was where she’d heard the doctor’s voice before! In the garden, with Benoir!

“Oh, there’s quite a few. Here.” The two purple leaves went on to Nilien’s knees, where they slowly seemed to sink into the skin, leaving behind a tingly feeling. “Those will heal over the course of about a day. If you have anything left that’s worrisome – trouble moving the knees, bleeding, anything like that – come on back. Do try not to scrape yourself up again before they’re healed, though. And these-” The doctor wrapped the long leaves around Nilien’s ankle. Immediately, the throbbing pain subsided. “Be careful – no running any sprints or anything like that for the next week. Ah, here’s your familiar.”

Ember was licking its lips. Crickets, it informed her, are crunchy. Not bad, for a snack.

“You found them?”

I found many crickets. They escaped before they could be placed anywhere. For the best, all things considered. Except that there were crickets to be gathered.

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