22.2 | Myth Meets Reality

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For a small eternity, Misha just glared, shifting his focus from Elliot to Nika, then back to Elliot. Then he scoffed and speared toward the arch that led out of the gardens.

"You're out of your minds if you think I'm going to believe any of that!"

"You believe in the Volkari!" Nika called after him. "You believe they've been cursed. So why can't Konstantin's story be true as well?"

Misha whirled around, his face the picture of hostility. "We're talking about the Oldbloods here. They're supposed to be bedtime stories and cautionary tales. They just can't be real."

Elliot sighed. "I'm not saying that Elantis is real. It could have been any powerful witch, and Konstantin just wanted it to be her."

"And besides," Nika chimed in. "This is about Tatiana. We saw her, wearing this necklace, and Konstantin talks about a woman with very similar traits. Given everything that's happened, I don't think it's a coincidence."

Misha swatted a rose that sagged out a nearby bush. Three of its white petals floated and twirled all the way to the neatly paved ground.

The young Kovac turned toward Ren. "Care to weigh in?"

Ren was silently examining a statue of Elantis herself, emerging from the center of snowdrop blossom. His gaze remained as he said, "It doesn't really matter what or who Tatiana is. Two nights ago, she attacked us. The Volkari carried her out of Hekate's Cauldron, and if they managed to heal her injuries, then they know we have the pendant. What if they want it back?"

"Then we'll give it to them," Nika said. "But only if they give us Lu first."

"Nika..." She immediately knew that his softened tone meant nothing good. "You can't do a trade."

She blindly dumped the journal and papers off her lap and stood up, demanding, "Why not?"

"You saw what that thing can do to a person's mind." Ren refused to meet her gaze as he spoke. "It needs to stay far away from Tatiana, and the Volkari, and anyone else who might use it to harm people."

"But what about Lu?"

"We'll find another way to rescue her."

Nika couldn't believe her ears. She stormed right up to Ren and yanked him away from that damned statue.

"This is the only way!"

His expression was calm and unperturbed. "You don't know—"

"Yes, I do! Tatiana took the Hekatolith ring, which means the Volkari could be breaking their curse as we speak. And then they'll be able to shift into wolves whenever they want. They'll be able to kill us with a single bite, not just on a full moon, but any hour of any day! We need to get Lu away from them."

"I'm aware of the circumstances. But we are in possession of a dangerous weapon. We're obligated to hand it over to the Vigil or the Ministry."

"We can't give it to Emil," Misha said from behind. "Not until we know he's trustworthy."

"I know." Nika could have sworn Ren looked apologetic when he added, "That's why I think we should go to Prime Minister Rostova."

It felt like her heart had plummeted into her stomach. "If you do that, you could be killing Lu. And Rostova is just as evil as the enemy."

Ren crossed his arms. "You're being dramatic."

"Dramatic is thinking a piece of old jewelry is capable of mass murder."

"We don't know its limits, Nika. What if the Volkari can use it to make thousands of keepers attack the people they're supposed to protect?"

Nika backed away from him, shaking her head. She was done debating this. It wasn't Ren's call, anyways. Nor was it up to Misha and Elliot. Lu was her friend, her sister. A piece of her very soul.

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