Runes are the Elvin version of the alphabet. The formal version of Runes is generally only used for formalities; otherwise, a simpler version is used. Sophie cannot read the formal version, only the simpler and the Black Swan's cipher versions. The formal version uses the elves' ancient alphabet. To Sophie, it looks like random strings of letters forming gibberish words. Reading Elvin Runes should be instinctive for elves, the way speaking the Enlightened Language is. The Black Swan has a cipher made up of similar runes that only Sophie and other members of the Black Swan can read.