Nilien smiled at Augustin and Riva as they came towards her. She had a secret! A secret that had nothing to do with her being a Wild Rune, or with someone trying to kill her! She found her smile growing wider and wider. They were almost here. She rose up on the balls of her feet and dropped down before she drew too much attention to herself. The last thing she wanted was Thesri getting wind of this.

“What is it?” Riva asked, the moment she was close. “Did they catch the – the culprit?”

“What culprit?” Augustin asked. Riva flushed and stammered.

Lorque filled in quickly. “Oh, someone stole a necklace from Nilien’s dresser. We didn’t really want anyone to know, because if they don’t know we know it’s missing, then they might get sloppy and wear it or something.”

“Oh! I hope it wasn’t an heirloom.”

He looked so sincere, Nilien felt bad lying to him. “No, it was something from my old school. Just a trinket one of my friends gave me.” And there, if anyone was listening in, then they might think she was foolish and hadn’t noticed that it had markings on it like her Rune.

She was beginning to feel like she was in some sort of spy novel, but she wasn’t particularly good at it. More like she’d slipped into the pages by accident while the real heroine was off changing hats or something.

“So you didn’t find… your necklace?” Riva sounded disappointed.

“No, not yet,” Nilien admitted. “Nobody really thinks it’s a priority.” And that was true of both the necklace and the thing they weren’t talking about. Maybe she didn’t need to go find the heroine and drag her back, hat or not, after all. “But I did find – or was shown, I suppose – something interesting. And Lorque and I,” she confided as they sat down, “we’re thinking of forming a very small, exclusive club.”

“How exclusive?” Augustin leaned forward, excited. He definitely did not belong in a spy novel, except perhaps as the clumsy sidekick.

It might be nice to have a sidekick, Nilien considered.

“I have this secret room that Lorque and I have been looking into sprucing up, and we thought that perhaps we could have a little club, the two of us, the two of you, and Chason.”

“Chason,” Riva sighed. “Of course. But not Istore?”

“No.” Lorque beat Nilien to it. “Not until he learns to be nice.”

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