7.8

“Maybe they used a lamp, although playing marbles by gas-lamp seems like it would be stranger than this room is to start with.” Lorque delved back into the corners, but she could only explore the dusty room for so long before she circled back to Nilien once again. “So what are we going to do?”

“I’m doing my homework and wondering what this room was used for. I mean, who makes a supply closet secret?”

“Well, you said the magic garden was a secret passage, right? Maybe this is where they stored everything from the magic garden, once upon a time. Besides, that’s not what I meant, and you know it. What are we going to do about Heldira?”

Bite her, Ember suggested. And get someone who is big and tough-skinned to bite that awful familiar.

“Ember suggests violence. I don’t think it likes her familiar much, and I don’t say I blame it. But, well…” Nilien frowned. “Literal biting probably won’t solve anything; it’ll probably just start a rumor that Wild Runes have rabies. And then on top of Heldira trying to kill me – or whoever it is, if it isn’t her – then someone would be trying to put me down before I gave the school rabies. All in all, not a good idea.” She gave Ember a stern look.

Ember looked unrepentant. I do not have rabies. Nobody would say that I have rabies. I am far too well-behaved for that, even if I do bite someone.

“No biting anyone,” Lorque interjected, guessing or correctly interpreting Ember’s expression. “Especially not without proof. So, well, what about Chason? If he’s not in on it, then we ought to ask him to see if he can help us with Heldira. And if he is and he gets offended when you ask about it, well, you’re probably better off without someone who’s trying to kill you hanging around. His map hasn’t mysteriously led you somewhere deadly yet, has it? Or skipped a passage that could be useful?”

“No.” Nilien wasn’t sure if she was amused or irritated, but she smiled anyway. “No, the map’s been great. I think he’s probably in the clear.”

“Then if he is, maybe he can help us handle Heldira. I think you should go ask him. And I think I should see about learning some sort of dust-removal spell, or just bring a very big bucket of water down here. This will make a much-better hideout if we’re not smeared with dirt every time we leave.”

“I’ll ask him,” Nilien agreed. She hadn’t been aware it was their hideout until Lorque mentioned it, but she found that she liked the idea.

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