5.7

Even now that she knew where she was going and was on relatively smooth ground, Nilien found the walk very slow. Ember had wriggled down to the ground once they were in the sunlight, and now paced back and forth around Nilien in wide loops.

There is no scent of that person anywhere around here. Ember made “person” sound like the worst epithet it could hurl. There are many scents around here, of course, but they have not been here recently. It circled her again. Your ankle is swelling very unpleasantly.

“I noticed, thank you.” She gritted her teeth and kept walking. “It’s quite painful, too.”

It is far better than having been hit on the head with a tree. I wonder if there is a spell for stopping such things?

“I think I still need to get rid of tracking spells first.” She felt as if she were walking in thick treacle full of knives. At least Ember was still there, as obnoxious as the fox could be. “Although nobody needs a tracking spell to find me here.”

“Oh! It’s the Wild Rune!” The shout came from across the lawn; Nilien’s head whipped up and towards the noise, even as she scooped up Ember and got ready to run. “Hey!”

The peach-clad Thesri was heading towards her. “Oh hey, I would recognize you and that red fox anywhere. You really do stick out… what happened to you?” Thesri skidded to a halt an arm’s-length away. “You look an awful mess! You’re all scraped up, and your blouse is ripped – what happened?”

“I ran into a bit of trouble in the woods.” Nilien kept limping slowly towards the school; Thesri could keep up easily enough. “Ember and I were wandering, and someone dropped a tree on me.” She probably shouldn’t have said that, but it was out now. “Well, tried to. The tree dropped, but Ember and I got away.”

“Dropped a tree on you? What do you mean?” Thesri had no trouble at all pacing Nilien, and was wearing that faint frown again. “And what were you doing in the woods?”

“Well, I’d heard a lot about the gardens, and I saw a little rotunda out that way, so I went out there. And then there was a path…” Nilien shrugged. “There’s a lot of this place I haven’t seen before. But we heard someone in the woods, and then the tree was falling towards me.” She twitched a little. “So we ran.”

“But you didn’t see someone pushing the tree towards you? So it could have just fallen while you were there.” Thesri looked over Nilien again. “ If someone was actually trying to kill you, don’t you think they’d be more successful?”

“I’m glad they weren’t,” Nilien pointed out. “But it was only because Ember noticed the tree falling.”

“I’m glad they weren’t, too! Look, no matter what actually happened, you should see the teachers and get that ankle looked at. Do you need help getting into the school?”

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