There was once a time when Kim would at least attempt to slog through his morning classes before ditching school to hang out around the Winter’s Blade guild hall. For the last few months the young boy had been a regular visitor - practically an unofficial member. These days he’d been making a bee-line straight for the Guild the second he left home. He was still dressed in his uniform; grey trousers, white button up shirt with a navy blue sweater. A grey blazer embroidered with the school crest sat in a messy heap on the bench next to him. Seated close to the fireplace, Kim had his books sprawled out in front of him in a vain attempt to get some actual schoolwork done. A hard task to accomplish when one stops attending their classes. He worried his sloppiness would draw the attention of the ever present Serena - who he had assured several times that he was most definitely allowed to be gallivanting around with a bunch of wizards. He wasn’t sure if she actually believed him or was simply far too busy to worry about some random kid.
The ruckass caused by his guildmates in the bitter cold of a White Harbour morning confirmed it was the latter.
In the short time Kim had been present there had already been several drunken brawls, Bjorn received a well deserved armbar for some inappropriate misconduct and Arc delivered some loud announcement about a missing kid. Whitecliffe. The name was familiar. Kim wondered if he knew someone at school with that name. It was highly likely - White Harbour didn’t have a large selection of schools. Either way, he hoped the kid was found soon. Wait, why was Arc posing? He spied the Sorcerer’s Weekly reporter talking with Nia, catching the tail end of Serena’s lecture about all the good a bit of media exposure would do for the Guild.
“You sure she doesn’t secretly work for the asylum? She could be looking to commit a few of you.” He shot a cheeky grin towards Arc. It quickly turned to a look of complete and utter dread when the doors to the guild opened once more and a sickeningly cheerful, and all too familiar, voice chirped at Serena.
“A fine mornin’ to you Winter’s Blade!” Mrs Bloomenburg was the wife of a local fisherman. Short and stout, with her mess of wiry, greying hair tied back into a tight bun and secured with a hairnet. Her face was plump and ever a bright shade of pink. She wore a stained smock over a worn out blouse and ankle length skirt that would please the most devout of nuns with its modesty. In her arm was a wicker basket filled with several jars containing what appeared to be fish heads. Yuck.
Mrs Bloomenburg also happened to be one of Kim’s father’s clients at the law firm, and a renowned gossip among the townsfolk. Nothing ever happened in White Harbour without passing through her ears.
“Serena, love!” Kim nearly smacked his chin into the table with the speed he ducked down, quickly lifting one of his open textbooks to cover his face. Mrs Bloomenburg hustled her way through the guild hall towards Serena, getting uncomfortably close to Kim’s position.
“I brought over a few pints of my famous pickled herring. A little thanks to you and yours for your help with my hubby’s catch last mon-” Her praise was cut short when she noticed a familiar mop of bright pink hair jutting out from behind an upside down trigonometry book. There were only two people in White Harbour that boasted such a hair colour. Mrs Bloomenburg couldn’t help but deduce that if Nia Clavis was standing nearby talking to some lady she didn’t recognise, then this other head of pink hair must belong to -
“Kim Lien! Is that you dear boy?” Kim sighed deeply, slowly lowering the book before shooting the hag his politest smile.
“W-what brings you here Mrs Bloomenburg?”
“Why, I could ask you the same thing.” The fisherman’s wife's forced smile pierced the very depths of Kim’s soul, sending an eerie shiver up his spine. This did not bode well. She eyed the boy up and down before her attention shifted to the grey blazer bundled up beside him.
“Oh, I didn’t realise you attended Whitehill Academy.” A blatant lie. There was only one school in White Harbour. Where else would he attend? “Well, you couldn’t possibly have finished your classes this early now, could you?”
Kim was practically squirming under her knowing gaze. Somehow, amidst the freezing climate of White Harbour, a bead of sweat ran down his temple.
“I uh, well, there were um.” He coughed into his fist. “Parent interviews!” His declaration practically echoed through the hall.
“Parent interviews?” Mrs Bloomenburg repeated coyly.
“Yeah, well, teachers gotta discuss shi- I mean stuff with the parents. School was cancelled today. I’m such a dolt I didn’t remember so I uh, got dressed and headed there only to be turned away.” Kim clicked his tongue and shook his head in feigned disappointment of a missed day of quality learning. Mrs Bloomenburg’s eerie smile persisted.
“Well now that’s strange. I have a son around your age who attends Whitehill Academy and I never received notice of any parent interviews.”
“Shit.” Kim cursed under his breath.
“Come again?” Mrs Bloomenburg grew more smug with each passing second.
“I… uh. Shit.” He was much clearer this time. Mrs Bloomenburg’s carefully crafted visage fell for a moment, allowing a brief scowl to show for only a moment before she regained her composure.
“Well,” She forced another smile, patting off her apron before turning back to Serena. “Well, well, well.”
Mrs Bloomenburg walked up to the bar before gently laying the wicker basket of the putrid pickled herring in front of Serena.
“Lovely to see you as always, dear.” She didn’t afford her even a moment to return the courtesy - for she was now making her exit from the guild hall at a brisk pace that was nothing if not determined. Kim couldn’t stand to watch her eagerly prance away with the forbidden fruit of White Harbour gossip for the day. Instead, he opted to drearily slide his face into the palm of his hands, lowering his head back down to the table with a defeated groan.
“I am so screwed."