Eloise’s room was not in one of the dorm hallways, as with her meals it had apparently been decided that keeping her separate from the rest of the students would be best for everyone. Chloe growled to herself before knocking at the door, she happened to know that the other doors in this hallway led to storage rooms, and the implications did not please her.

After only a moment, the door opened to reveal Eloise, a smile lighting up her face. Taking in the hat sitting on Chloe’s head, and the wands poking out from under her cloak, the smile faded from Eloise’s fact, replaced with a slightly hurt expression. Chloe realized her mistake and quickly grabbed Eloise’s hand, and entered her room, and closed the door as soon as ash trotted through the door.

“Don’t misunderstand, the hats not meant for you.” Chloe said hurriedly, hoping the skin contact, which would negate the hats protections, was enough to get her sincerity across, “I promised my father that anytime I left the Academy’s grounds I would wear this. If you are willing, I really think this is a conversation that should take place outside.”

Eloise looked confused, which, Chloe thought in relief, was a lot better than the hurt look of moments before. It was only then that Chloe truly took in the contents of the room. Bones, bones covered everything in the room. The shelves had bird skeletons stacked one on atop another, several snake skeletons lay in the corners, three of what she guessed were fox skeletons, lay on a small table, and a full suit of plate armor stood on either side of the door.

A workbench, far larger than the table Chloe used for her crafting, took up most of one side of the room. It had several bird skeletons on it, including one that had its’ skull removed. The skull lay upside down beside it and had clearly just had a gem fixed in place inside it. Looking again, she saw that the addition of gems was not the only modification made to the skeletons, the beaks of the birds that sat on the table had been coated in metal and had had barbs added to them. Their talons were also metallic and had serrated backs.

“A walk does sound pleasant” Eloise finally said, pulling Chloe’s gaze away from the bone and back to her. Eloise however, had noticed Chloe looking at the skeletons.

“Most of these are from hunters and trappers, or butchers, their quite happy to be able to sell the bones instead of just the meat and skins.”

Chloe breather a small sigh of relief “Do you need anything or shall we go for that walk now”

“Just a moment.” Eloise said, then opened her window and gestured towards it. About twenty skeletal crows leapt into the air and flew out the open window.

Chloe gazed in shock at the flying skeletons, they had no flesh, let alone feathers, there was no way they should be able to fly like that. She felt a hint of air magic as one flew close to her, on its way to the window, but that just confused her all the more, Eloise had said she was a pure necromancer, so how.

“Now I’m ready.” Eloise said with a proud smile

As curious as Chloe was about the magic employed, she decided this was not the time to ask, instead she opened the door for Eloise. Sheila and Ash followed Eloise out and Chloe brought up the rear.

Once they were outside the castle Chloe sped up until she was walking beside Eloise.

“So” Eloise started, but Chloe cut her off with a finger to the lips

When they had gone about as far as Chloe had walked with ash that Monday Chloe stopped and looked pointedly at Ash. Ash just gave a mental snort, then began to grow. While Ash did not grow any taller then she had the last time, she did grow longer, and this time produced two saddles. Eloise stared in shock at Ash for a moment, but as Chloe hopped onto the front saddle, she took a deep, calming, breath and hopped onto the rear saddle.

This time instead of leaning forward and grabbing hold of Ash’s neck, Chloe hardened a bit of air directly behind either shoulder and leaned back against them. As Ash began to speed up Eloise rapped her arms tightly around Chloe and pressed herself against her. Sheila ran alongside Ash, seeming quite pleased by the chance to run.

“You know Ash” Chloe called mentally “if you happen to need some exercise I’d be fine with letting you have it before you take Eloise and me somewhere we can talk”

A mental laugh was carried through the link “I thought you had things you needed to discuss with her?”

Chloe returned a mental sigh “I suppose you’re right, but if things go well, I want you to take a long route back.”

Finally, they arrived at what Chloe thought was the same place Ash had brought her last time, and like last time Ash slowly shrank back down to goat size. Once that was completed she walked behind a tree, when she came back into view she was in her human shape.

Eloise twitched, then smiled weakly “your name was Ash, right?”

When Ash nodded Eloise Continued “And I assume you are the reason for Chloe’s new fondness for hair dye?”

“Magical backflow during the summoning, I can assure you, the silver hair is the extent of the damage”

“Glad to hear it”

Chloe watched, nonplused, as Ash and Eloise talked about her. She looked up, waiting for an opportunity to enter the conversation, and saw the skeletal birds flying above them. About half of them were flying in a circle high above the treetops while the other half flew among the nearby trees.

Catching a lull in the conversation Chloe began to talk, she told Eloise about the summoning, about her deal with Ash and the powers she got from her, she eventually told her everything that had happened to her over the last few days, except for Ash having eaten someone.

Eloise listened attentively to everything that Chloe had to say, starting to smile at the end.

“You have to give the dye more time to dry, I could give you lessons sometime, if you like”

Chloe’s eyes widened, “you don’t mean?”

Eloise continued to smile, “you might have noticed I’m a bit on the small side. When my powers awakened I knew that my father would think I was a disgrace to the family and try to get rid of me before anyone found. I ran before he could find out, but my flight was neither clean nor short.”

Eloise paused for a moment then continued “How much do you know about necromancers?”

“Very little” Chloe replied, “I know about a couple of necromantic spells, and a little about the things historic necromancers have done.”

“well then, something you might not know is quite what a necromantic affinity is, while we are commonly called necromancers, we could also be called soul mages. What we use most of the time are the echoes of animal spirits, or the pieces of the soul the rest sloughs off when it goes to Zalane’s embrace. I can tell you more later, if you are interested, but what is important is that at one point during my flight I ended up cornered, end with no soul scrape to use. In desperation, I ripped a piece of my own soul away and used it. Souls are very good at healing, given enough time, but you’re not supposed to push magic that completely into you, it goes far deeper than transformation or enhancement magic. The end result was that while I escaped, I also killed any chance I had of getting as tall as you, and ended up with silver hair to boot. Still, I’m still alive so I guess I can’t complain.”

Chloe wrapped an arm around Eloise “I’m truly glad you survived.” She said sincerely, then a smile spread across her lips “And as for the rest, one of the people I care the most about in the world would give her left arm to trade heights with you, and while I doubt it’s a good idea to let it go undyed, I think silver hair would actually suit you.”

Eloise smiled up at Chloe “thank you, though I have to agree with you about the hair. Even without silver hair, most people are terrified of necromancers, even if we do have some spells that are extremely useful to people like us.”

Chloe’s heart soared at Eloise’s words and an impulse struck her, she had not intended to go, but, “Eloise, would you go to the equinox ball with me?”


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