Nayome sat at the base of the ancient yew tree, feeling it’s magnetic energy draw her in. She couldn’t help but rest her palm against the grainy bark, feeling the rough texture scrape against her skin. This was where it had all begun, she thought, a small smile on her face. She couldn’t believe she had let Bal talk her into this.
She had managed to keep a healthy distance from the magic community these past few months. Their life in New York was working. Bal was excited to be working with Felix, after having spent so much time in the Glen working at the Park Office. The change suited him, he often came home buzzing with energy, recounting stories Nayome couldn’t follow about the dark web and blockchains. Ce had happily taken on a larger role at the park office to fill the gap left by his absence. Smiling, Nayome thought some of Ce’s willingness was obviously because she was relishing her newfound independence. Nayome knew Ce loved her brother, but he could be overprotective.
Every once in a while though, Nayome had thought she caught something that looked like longing flash in his eyes as he gazed out at the expanse of city lit up at night. They spent most evenings curled up on the rooftop of the safe house, overlooking Battery Park while Nayome poured over books filled with history and magical theory from the library.
Nayome tried to focus on mentally preparing for this evening, letting out a long breath of fresh forest air. She still wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but it was some kind of celebration. Or a welcome ceremony? Bal had also said he had a surprise for her. Teeth clenching, Nayome wished he would just tell her what it was. She had suffered enough surprises in this forest to last a lifetime. Even though she trusted him, the thought of something unknown looming had anticipation laced with anxiety racing through her system. She had a surprise for him as well, she reminded herself, a secret smile lighting up her face. She had been working with Ce to hash out the details, and it looked like they had managed to get some tentative approval from Gabe to proceed.
Nayome’s head turned at the sound of a branch snapping, her eyes tracking the noise as someone approached.
“Daonna,” Wynn greeted, as her tall, slim frame appeared out of the trees, stepping into the sun shining in the clearing. Her tone was laced with characteristic venom, but Nayome thought her heart didn’t sound in it today.
Nayome sighed. Wynn was the last person she’d wanted to see while she was trying to calm her nerves. Rather than engaging, Nayome waited for Wynn to say what she would, steeling herself for whatever nasty threat was sure to be coming her way. Nayome knew now that any of her threats would be empty. She was surprised to see Wynn hesitate before she spoke.
“I don’t trust you,” Wynn said, harshly.
Wynn scowled at the sarcasm dripping in Nayome’s voice. “But, for some ungodly reason,” She continued as though Nayome hadn’t spoken. “Bal and the rest of these idiots have decided otherwise.”
“What’s your point?” Nayome asked, impatient. She had almost managed to relax, and could feel the precious serenity slipping through her fingers like water, replaced by anxiety and irritation.
“Here,” Wynn said roughly, shoving a sloppily wrapped burlap package at her.
Grabbing it with surprise, Nayome turned the thing over in her hands, testing its weight.
“It’s a book you may find useful,” Wynn ground out, beginning to turn on her heel to leave.
“Wait,” Nayome called, her curious nature overriding the part of her that was happy to see Wynn leave. “Why would you do this?”
“I’m never going to like you, but if you’re going to be hanging around, you might as well be useful,” Wynn ground out.
Nayome smiled a little bit, something clicking into place. “You really care for him, don’t you?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Wynn said, her tone a little too harsh.
“I have an idea,” Nayome said suddenly, taking a step toward Wynn, who straightened her back, somehow getting even taller, glowering down at Nayome from her full height. This was possibly a really, really dumb move, Nayome thought. “We agree to a truce.”
Wynn laughed, the sound dark and mocking. “As if you could offer me any reason to…”
“You will stop threatening me, stop undermining my relationship with Bal,” Nayome continued, ignoring the taller woman. “In return, I won’t tell anyone you tried to kill me the night I escaped from Gabe’s.”
The protest on Wynn’s lips died, her eyes widening slightly in surprise before she could school her features. Nayome hadn’t been completely sure about this theory, until she saw the truth flash in Wynn’s eyes. Ever since Bal had shown her the different branches of earth magic, and Wynn had confronted her that night at the Inn, wolf eyes glowing in the darkness…
“You sent your wolves after me that night,” Nayome continued, raising her chin as she became more certain. “We may be from different worlds, but I don’t think everyone would take kindly to the fact that you disobeyed Gabe’s orders and tried to kill one of your fellowdruids, even if you didn’t know that at the time.And Bal…well, I can’t even imagine how he would react.” Nayome felt no sympathy as she watched Wynn’s face, which was usually pretty devoid of color drain even further. Nayome had expected a denial, but instead the woman’s eyes glittered with something she couldn’t place.
All of a sudden, Wynn’s hand shot out between them. Nayome fought her instinct to jump back, not wanting to ruin her show of confidence. Eyeing the outstretched palm like it was a snake, Nayome glanced up at Wynn, locking eyes with her in an intense stare that felt like a battle of wills. Gripping Wynn’s palm with hers, they shook on it. The handshake was quick and hard, all business.
“Truce,” Wynn said.
Feeling like she was onto something, Nayome couldn’t stop herself from continuing. “It was you, wasn’t it? Who tipped off the Fed’s about me?”
Wynn glared at Nayome for a moment, before shaking her head. “I may dislike you,doanna, but I would never risk the exposure of my people. Talking to outsiders is the absolutelastthing I would ever do. If I decided to get rid of you, you would have known it was me.” Wynn turned without another word, disappearing back into the forest.
Nayome stood alone in the clearing staring at the place Wynn had disappeared. It still made her nervous that whoever had turned her in was at large.
When she was sure Wynn had gone, she glanced down at the gift. Untying the twine that held the piece of burlap wrapping, Nayome uncovered a well-worn, leather bound book. Flipping it open, she realized it was a journal. It was old, pages feeling delicate and thin, so Nayome was careful as she ran her fingers down one of the pages, following along a passage written in tall, sweeping cursive.