“I like him, though.” Nilien sighed. “I don’t know. Why’s he friends with her, anyway? Even he says she’s as prickly as her badger.” She had put off the wet-mopping as long as she could; she dipped her rag in the warm soapy water and started washing.

“Well, maybe he just has really bad taste in people. I mean, I think he’s a lousy judge of character, but what are his other friends like?”

“I only met one other one. Tarin. He was a boy in a skirt, and he didn’t talk much at all. He didn’t make much of an impression. And then Heldira. Maybe she’s nice when she’s not being a possible-murderer.” She considered. “Maybe Heldira really isn’t a possible-murderer and she just has bad taste in strange magic spells. Maybe,” she added, less happily, “she just hates Wild Runes. That wouldn’t even be all that unusual around here.” She scrubbed at the wall more intently, as if she could wash off the nasty feeling. Maybe she could, with enough soap and water.

“Well, it’s not like you want to be friends with someone who hates Wild Runes, Lorque pointed out. “You don’t even really talk to Istore, and he’s really trying to be better.” The sloshing sounds indicated Lorque was doing some washing, too.

“You’re right. But I don’t think Chason hates Wild Runes. I hope he doesn’t.”

“So he’s a decent person who just has lousy taste in friends, then? That’s not a lot better.”

Perhaps he is just a very good liar. Someone is clearly lying to someone. Ember pulled something from the corner of the room and dropped it in a pile of detritus. Aside from you, who are lying to many people. I am glad you are not lying to Lorque. Are you?

“I’m not lying to Lorque! I’m not lying to… well, I’m not lying much to anyone.”

You are lying enough. Perhaps Chason is not the one with bad taste in friends. Ember looked far too pleased with itself.

Nilien sighed. “My familiar is calling me a liar. But… really. Maybe he has his reasons. Maybe she’s secretly a very nice person?” She stared at the wall. Even clean, it was not all that attractive.

“-who might be trying to kill you?” The splish-splashing seemed to be getting louder.

“Maybe she’s a secretly horribly bad person who just pretends to be a very nice person?” she tried again. This was more housework than she had ever done in her life. She found it rather cathartic. “I don’t know. Maybe she’s a very good liar, too.”

“Well, maybe you should find out. Find out why he’s her friend, I mean. If you want to stay friends with him – and I don’t think it’s a brilliant idea – you ought to at least know if you can sort of trust him in a pinch.”

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