8.7

Nilien took in her friends’ reactions one more time. “It’s a pretty fun list,” she agrees, “even if it’s still pretty short. But – if I tell you something, swear not to tell anyone else?”

She hadn’t made Riva or Augustin do that, but then again, she knew Riva and Augustin better, and their only questionable friend was Istore. She was pretty sure Istore wasn’t trying to kill her.

Chason looked amused. He looked very much, she thought, like her older brother when he thought she was being silly. But that was okay; he was older than her, and in some sense, she was definitely being a little bit silly. “I promise,” he said solemnly, “not to relay to anyone else what you’re about to tell me.”

She chuckled nervously. “It’s not that… well, no, it is. It’s ours and I don’t want to share it more than I have to.” She lifted her chin defiantly. “We’re thinking,” she said, the words she’d used earlier coming simply enough, “of forming a very small, exclusive club. We have a secret hide-out and we’d like some secret friends to come share it.”

“Maybe to solve mysteries!” Riva offered. “Mysteries seem to follow Nilien around. I thought it was because she was a Wild Rune, but now I think she just – or maybe her familiar – has a nose for the strange. Like Parsho, remember him? Always finding the weirdest things and the strangest uses for magic?”

“Oh, yeah.” Chason chuckled. “He was something. I remember this one time, he found a way up onto the roof but then the trap-door shut behind him, and the teachers had to get him down, because he didn’t want to explain how he’d gotten up there.”
Nilien was a little put out. “I’m not going to get trapped on a roof. I know better to let doors I don’t know the provenance of shut behind me!” Although letting trees fall on her in the forest…

“Or at least Ember does,” Lorque teased.

“Or at least Ember does,” Niliena agreed dourly.

“Well, anyway,” Lorque pulled the topic back. “Chason, do you want to join our secret club? It’s just us, Augustin, Riva, Nilien, me, and you, if you’re interested.”

“And this club is for… finding out secrets?”

“What sort of better secret club is there?” Riva asked cheerfully. “We have a secret hide-out. We can have secret finding. And we can share secrets. It’s all going to be a lot of secret fun.”

“Which means-” Augustin was nearly bouncing “-we’re going to need a secret name. We can’t very well say ‘let’s have the secret club meet on Tuesdays,’ or someone’s just going to follow us or put a tracking spell on us or-”

He had a very good point, but Nilien felt like this whole thing was getting away from her. “We need a name,” she agreed, with as good of grace as she could muster.

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