HUMAN/SUPER Higher Learning 277

“Uh, maybe some other time,” Nila said. “Do you carry that thing everywhere?”

“Yes,” Magh said, carefully laying the wand beside her plate. “The last time I didn’t have it with me, I almost got eaten by a griffin.”

“Is that how you got that scar?” Nila asked.

“No, that happened in a duel,” Magh replied.

“Wait, what?” Nila said. “You mean, like, a magic duel? Expelliarmus-style?”

“I don’t know what that means, but yes, essentially,” Magh said. “One of Carmen’s former pupils came to visit late in the summer and, well, they have a complicated history. After a few days of rising tension, she decided to challenge me to see which of us was the better student.”

“Did you win?” Nila asked.

“Eventually,” Magh replied. “It was a long and difficult battle. She gave me my scar, I gave her worse. In the end, she yielded, and we came to understand each other a little better in the process.”

“So now you’re best buddies?” Nila asked.

“More like… friendly rivals,” Magh replied. “I promised her a rematch next time I travel to Verden.”

“Okay, two things,” Nila said. “First: please be careful not to maim yourself again. Second: can I watch?”

“I thought you hated magic,” Frederica said.

Nila shrugged.

“I’ve come to accept that magic is just science that I don’t understand,” she said. “Yet.”

“Uh oh,” Frederica said. “You’ve got that ‘I want to cut someone open and study their insides’ look in your eyes again. Never a good sign.”

“Oh, relax,” Nila said. “If I were going to dissect you, I’d have done it long ago.”

“You’re just saying that so we’ll let our guard down,” Frederica replied.

“She’s so paranoid,” Nila said to Magh with a wink. “You’d think I’d have earned a little trust by now.”