“I don’t know what I was expecting,” Nilien muttered at Ember. “Nobody believes me. None of the adults,” she clarified. “You have been wonderful.” Ember seemed to be easier to handle the more praise Nilien heaped on, so she figured she’d keep piling it on until it got her bitten.

They​ will believe you when they need to believe you. Ember brushed against her legs. You have done what you needed to. Now, they need to make their decisions and you need to focus on yourself. Do boring homework. Brush me. Important matters.

Nilien giggled and opened the door to her room. “I can do that.”

“Do what? How did it go?”. Lorque looked up from her textbook, eagerly pushing it aside. “Did Professor Vaudelle have any good advice?”

“’Don’t worry,’” Nilien recited. “’Go back to your room and work on homework.’” She made a face. “And I really do have a lot to of homework to do. So I guess that’s​ what I’m doing.” She flopped down on her bed and pulled out her mathematics textbook and notes. “They looked at the letter. They’ve seen the tracking spells. As Ember says, there’s nothing more I can do.”

“So you’re going to do homework? Oh, come on, Nilien, you still haven’t shown me the secret room. And you’re just going to sit here and work on your homework?”

“I really do have a lot of it to do,” Nilien protested. “I’m finally caught up; I don’t want to fall behind in anything again.”

“You can take your homework with you, can’t you? I mean, there’s no rule that you have to do your homework in the most boring manner possible.”

I have not yet seen this secret room, Ember put in.

“Fine,” Nilien sighed. “I am out-voted, unless River has a vote for staying here and being boring and safe?”

River looked up and gave Nilien a disgruntled look.

“I take it that’s a no?”

“River says that there is absolutely no reason to disagree with me, especially when you are being boring.” Lorque nodded as if that settled everything. “So will you?”

“I suppose I will. Let me pack up some books. Do you have a pocket torch?”

“Of course I do! Three of them.” Lorque pulled one out of her dresser. “My younger brother gives them to me as gifts. One every year. And since I don’t use them all that much…”

“Handy.” Nilien shouldered her book-bag. “If you bring your copy of the map, we can make notes on the way.”

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