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. Reading Elvin Runes should be instinctive for elves, like the way that 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.