“I like her, too,” Chason agreed easily, and with none of the undertone some of the boys back home might have managed. “You seem like nice kids – I mean, nice… Uh.” Augustin was glaring at Chason, oh, no. “Come on, I am older than you. I mean…” He shook his head. “I like you guys. This club, the way you take care of each other. It’s all very nice. I can imagine you guys – and me, really – sneaking around, looking into interesting – oh.” His nervous smile suddenly turned into a frown. “Oh, no, Nilien.”

What? She looked at Ember; Ember looked away. She looked around. Nobody else seemed to know what he was saying. She didn’t have anything on the front of her blouse her skirt wasn’t tucked into the waistband inappropriately. “What?”

“The tracking spells.” His frown deepened. “That thing with Heldira and the tracking spells!”

“You told him about that?” Riva hissed.

“Of course she did!” Lorque whispered back.

“I know you think that Heldira put the tracking spell on you, but you can’t think that has anything to do with someone trying to kill you! Heldira’s sometimes a little prickly, sure, but she’s not the sort of person to actually want to kill someone, especially not a fellow student!”

“I… believe you?” Nilien tried, although she was pretty sure she didn’t sound much like she believed anyone.

“You ought to! She’s been my friend for years! And you wanted me to, what, to find out if she was really trying to kill you? Of course she isn’t! Nobody here is going to try to kill you!”

“A couple months ago, the idea of anyone at all trying to kill me was ridiculous,” Nilien countered. “And then someone tried! And here I am, in a new school with a whole bunch of strangers, and a lot of people hate the idea of Wild Runes. Weeds,” she added, with a sneer. She was feeling embarrassed and that made her feel a little put-upon. Chason was never meant to know any of this!

“Still! There’s one thing to think someone’s trying to kill you, and another for it to be Heldira! I mean, she’s my friend! She’s not even the sort to go around saying ‘Weed’, much less trying to kill someone for being a Wild Rune. You’re -” Chason shook his head. “I understand that you’re worried. I understand that it’s probably really scary, and probably really strange, being here and not knowing many people, and you had that problem with the tree – I know I’d be looking for danger around every corner if that happened to me. But not Heldira.”

“Wait.” Augustin frowned. “Tracking spells? People trying to kill you? What is all of this? I didn’t know any of this!”

“Well,” Riva countered practically, “she wasn’t very well going to tell you in front of Istore, was she? Not when he was all like ‘oooh, Wild Runes are dangerous’ when she first came in! Obviously, you need to spend more time in Lorque and Nilien’s room with me.”

“Or down here,” Augistin countered. “Where we can talk about these things.”

“You know, Chason,” Lorque cut in, before Riva and Augustin could really get going, “you’re the one that told us Heldira has her own secret meetings. Things she won’t even tell you. Maybe she’s not trying to kill Nilien, but she did put those tracking spells on – what else is she up to?”


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