Nilien hesitated, looking at the letter. “Could I come with you? It’s just, it’s my first letter from my old school…”

“Well, I certainly would return it to you, but yes, if it will make you feel better, come along.” Vaudelle held the door for Nilien and Ember, and they strolled down the hallway, down another hallway Nilien had never been down, to Headmistress Draufer’s office.

The Headmistress read the letter and listened to Professor Vaudelle explain Nilien’s concerns, and then let Nilien add her own details.

“I don’t know exactly what was going on with the tree, but I know that someone was there, and then the tree fell down almost on top of me.” It was as close as Nilien wanted to get to admitting there was any chance that she might not have actually been attacked. “If Ember hadn’t warned me, the tree would have hit me.” She rubbed her arms, because it still frightened her more than a little bit.

“Indeed. And that is why the woods is not that safe a place for younger students. There are natural occurrences which can cause quite a bit of damage if you are not careful, not the least of which is trees falling in the woods. Now, I understand that you had quite a traumatic experience before coming here, and indeed, the person who attempted to kill you should be caught and dealt with. Those sorts of people should not be allowed out in the streets, and I do wish the police every luck in catching them. It was a horrible thing, Nilien, and even if you gained a familiar from it, it is not the way we wish these things to happen. But now you are here at Reinmonte, and this is one of the safest places in the empire.” She patted Nilien on the shoulder. “As long as you avoid any adventures in the forest, I’m sure you’ll be perfectly fine.”

“Yes, Headmistress.” Nilien looked down at her toes in disappointment. Was nobody going to believe her? Did everyone here think she was overreacting?

Everyone but Lorque and Ember, at least, she corrected. They were sticking with her.

Ember nuzzled her ankles. I will keep you safe. I will not let their stubbornness cause you harm.

She scooped Ember up and cuddled the fox close.

“In the meantime, why don’t you go back to your friends?” The headmistress handed Nilien the letter back. “Professor Vaudelle and I have some things to discuss, and I’m sure you still have plenty of homework.”

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