Oboe fidgeted in her seat in the lobby. Students passed in a hurry, clutching their books tighter as their eyes darted over her. They were so nervous having her here. As much as she liked the city, it ultimately wasn’t that different. She wished she could’ve stayed with Theo so she wouldn’t feel so out of place.
The students in this tower all wore the same color robes, and it made Oboe think they were all part of one human family. She knew that wasn’t how it worked, but the thought made sense to her. No wonder Theo wanted to come to the university so bad. Having a place to belong was worth anything.
She heard Theo coming down the stairs and jumped to her feet.
“What’s wrong?” She said. His brow was pinched like they weren’t done. “How’d it go?”
“I found out why there’s a ban,” Theo said. “There have been fairy attacks in the capital in the past several weeks. They’re making people sick. There’s an entire floor filled with victims up there.”
“They’re enchanting the humans?” Humans had lots of rules about when it was okay to use magic on humans, but wicked creatures didn’t care. “If it’s a magic spell, can’t the wizards here just undo it?”
Theo shook his head. “It’s not an enchantment, exactly. Dr. Stillwell says fairies are draining people of magic.”
“What?” She said. “That’s weird. The valley is overflowing with magic! Why would they steal more from humans?”
“I don’t know. There might be some Red Caps out for revenge, but they’ve been quiet for well over a month.” He started toward the door. “Something about this doesn’t add up. We need to find out more about these alleged attacks.”
“How do we do that?” Oboe said.
“The Watch apparently captured a few of the fairies responsible. I think it’d be best to start there. We should also talk to the duke who ordered the ban and get his side of the story.”
They left the big school with its sprawling campus, and made their way back into the dense and busy parts of the city. Oboe tried to follow Theo’s lead but something was weird. His head swiveled on street corners, he kept doubling back, and every few turns he would pause for a long time.
“What’s wrong?” She said.
“I need to get my bearings,” he said. “I’m not familiar with this part of the city.”
“I thought you knew everything about the city!” Oboe said.
“Well, I normally take the trolley, but that’s not an option. I’ve never had to come this way before. …I’m lost.”
Oboe gasped and grabbed him. “That’s wonderful!”
“What?” He leaned back. “Why?”
“That means you get to explore!!”
Theo did not seem to be bubbling with the excitement he ought to be. “This investigation is important. We can’t just go wandering around.”
“But we don’t know how to get where we’re going,” Oboe said. “The best way to stop being lost is to explore until you know where everything’s at. That’s how I learned not to be scared of the Whirlwood!”
“I suppose there’s some sense to that,” Theo said. “Still, we shouldn’t get distracted.”
Oboe frowned. “Even though it’s your day off? You should be allowed to have a little fun.”
Theo considered this, relaxing enough to smile. “Okay,” he said. “But only a little.”
She ran ahead, excited. “Let’s try this way!”
“Hold on! Wait for me!”