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Korin spent a pleasant afternoon with Renée. She had known a number of his teachers, and was thrilled to hear any news or stories from the school. For most of the afternoon, they talked uninterrupted.

It was strange, conversing with people like this. Yesterday, Ádan had done most of the talking, and that had been fine. Today, Korin was having to hold up his end. He’d almost forgotten how to do this when it wasn’t about body counts and injury reports and what magic could counter the day’s newest horror.

In Triome, the war had ended a hundred years ago. People from this city might have gone to Ulek to fight, but it certainly hadn’t affected the everyday business of people like Renée. For whatever value of business that seemed to be.

Korin observed that things seemed slow. Renée waved his comment away. “This is mostly just the place where I keep my stuff. My real work is special orders. Repairs. That sort of thing.”

Korin finally took his leave as the evening light was turning sunset gold. Renée promised that if he came back in a couple days, she’d have a library pass for him and would be happy to show Korin around the school.

Triome was still surprisingly lively. Back in Torar, people would be rushing home, desperate to get inside before the sun set and the temperature plummeted. Instead, the streets seemed full of people meeting up, chatting, settling in at the benches and tables that were set up outside nearly every building.

“Look at you. Could almost pass for a native.”

Korin jumped at the familiar voice. Ádan fell in step beside him. “That’s a good look on you,” Ádan continued. “The blue matches your eyes.”

Korin had enough control over himself not to blush, despite the warmth that rushed through him that Ádan had noticed his eyes. “Where did you come from?”

Ádan shrugged. He had a half-dozen skewers of spiced chicken in one hand, nibbling at one as he walked. He offered one to Korin, which Korin accepted. “I saw you come out of Renée’s. More shopping?”

The chicken was delicious, and reminded Korin how many hours it had been since lunch. “Just chatting. She’s going to get me an introduction at the school.”

“Oh, did you need one? That’s easy enough to arrange.”

Korin frowned, a reflex ingrained. The separation of magical authority and worldly politics was drilled into apprentices’ heads for the entirety of their schooling. “How would you know anyone at the school?”

Ádan laughed, his deep, rich voice sending another ripple of heat through Korin. “This is Triome. The school doesn’t only cater to wizards. The queen’s own son learned his letters from the Archwizard.”

A different world. Korin was going to have to remember that.

“What is it you need from the Balance?” Ádan asked.

“You remember that old man yesterday? The way he looked? I’ve seen that before. In the south. I need to find him. I need to know if other people are sick like that. If any wizards in the city have tried to help.”

Ádan passed Korin a second skewer, chewing at his own chicken thoughtfully. “You know what was wrong with him?”

“Maybe. I won’t know for certain till I’ve gotten a better look.”

“And you can help him?” Ádan’s voice was softer now, sincerely curious.

“Maybe,” Korin repeated.

They walked a full city block in silence before Ádan said, “Meet me back at the market tomorrow morning. I should be able to find him.”

“You can?”

“Sure. I owe you that much to make up for my asshole friends yesterday.” Ádan flashed Korin a wide, bright smile. “Besides, you’re good company.”

With that, Ádan split off, disappearing into the crowd. It took Korin the entire walk back to Marta’s to lose his silly grin at the compliment.

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Barbara J Webb

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