“That boy is going to get himself killed.” Hilt muttered. “Because I’m going to be the one to do it.”

“Hilt!” Book exclaimed. The sphinx ceased pacing, throwing her a look.

“The Leaves?” Hilt asked. “Those rainbow castoff wannabee rebels? They’d find a way to muck this up even without a criminal organization in the area.”

“And to top it off, Bin.” Book did a mental check of what he would need in order to leave. Draft a letter of recess for several of his classes, and personal apologies to their parents. Perhaps Ruby Lawks would be able to…no, she was with that insane group.

“I may need to dip into my spellbooks for a quick copy charm,” he said absentmindedly.

“You won’t need it.”

“I cannot simply abandon my classes,” Book said. “The first years alone would riot in Bel Haven.”

“They won’t. because you’re not going.”

Book fixed her with a stare. “I beg your pardon?”

Hilt kept walking, straight for the armory. “I’ll be faster on my own, and can get a hold of Bin easier if you stay here.”

“Ah, yes.” Book settled on his haunches, his tone dry. “I forgot how much faster two legs are compared to four. Less feet to worry about.”

“If I have to wait for five hours while you compose your little apologies to each individual student…”

“It is to protect both the apprentices at home and to ensure that they know where I am abroad!”

“It’s being a ninny!”

“Neither of you should go.”

Hilt and Book turned to look at Rune. The dwarf looked up at the sky, and shrugged. “The ogre made his decision. Why not respect it?”

“Because it’s stupid,” Hilt retorted. “And we don’t let apprentices experiment with dark wizards just for a rite of passage.”

“Quite right,” Book agreed. “He can be abrasive, but Bin is one of our charges.”

“And the only one you believe cannot take care of himself?”

“None of those fools can take care of themselves,” Hilt muttered. “But most of them are smart enough to stay put when an area is about to become a feeding frenzy for dark magic.”

She pointed at Rune. “And if you weren’t still angry with him over an idiotic dye job, you’d be coming with us too.”

Book winced. Bin had recently been banned from Rune’s classes over Yuva arriving at Counterpoint with pink hair. The ban was both to protect Yuva’s standing with the elves, and teach Bin a hard lesson in the pitfalls of academic politics. Rune was admired for her integrity by some, while other’s questioned her cold demeanor toward the young ogre. The fact that Book had helped with that decision was not public knowledge, and he knew it had been painful for Rune to do.

Rune stared at Hilt for a while, and shrugged. “And this has nothing to do with you considering the half-breed a replacement for your own loss?”

Hilt turned on her heel, and slammed her leg right below Rune’s throat. The dwarf went flying, crashing down to the floor. Rune wheezed, trying to breathe.

“I told you once before, never speak like that again,” Hilt murmured. “And I said I’d never give you another chance.”

She glared at Book. “Now or never, bookworm.”

Book mouthed sorry to the dazed Rune Master before he padded off after the psychopathic swordswoman.

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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