17.1 | Legends and Clues

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This time, escaping was easy.

With Nika as its sole inhabitant, Dimitrovich Manor had been left unguarded, but not for lack of preparation on Ren's part. The keepers he'd assigned to protect her had merely walked off the property an hour after he and Misha had departed. That was last night, and Nika hadn't seen them since.

The keepers were deserters, abandoning their posts because they thought themselves better than the guards of a worthless halfblood.

But it was fine. Nika was glad for it. Because now, she could attend Viktor's Galanthus Day celebration without trouble.

Kostopoulos Manor felt like a trash compressor. Hundreds of Serafi and Nefili—all of them young and good-looking, as Viktor would have it no other way—swarmed the bright interior. As Nika squeezed through the crowd, people jeered and hooted at her, but she wasn't here for the festivities. The party was just a cover, the perfect opportunity to see Elliot without raising suspicions.

She spotted Lu's boyfriend in a corner, bewildered by the sights and sounds around him. He wasn't the reveling type, clearly. Nika might have stood back to watch him suffer, but the clock was ticking and Lu was counting on her.

So she grabbed Elliot by the wrist and pulled him into a vacant hallway, then crashed through the door of one of the many bathrooms in Viktor's mansion.

After briefly ogling at the marble grandeur of the space, Nika turned around to find Elliot lingering in the hall with with a nervous look about him, a shoulder bag clutched to his chest.

"Don't just stand there," she said. "Get in."

Before he could protest, she yanked him into the bathroom by his polo shirt and slammed the door. Elliot cowered, squeezing his eyes shut and letting a pathetic, squeak-like noise escape him.

Nika stared. "What are you doing?"

"I—" He relaxed, frowning. "Aren't you going to beat me up?"

Nika laughed. "You're the only one who can read the journal. I need you conscious for that."

Elliot's eyes narrowed.

"I promise, I won't beat you up. Unless you don't give me the information you've found." She took a seat on the toilet lid. "Now, be quick and don't leave out a single detail."

Hesitantly, Elliot began to talk.

She listened in silence as he explained his findings from the companion journal. Coordinates that indicated Konstantin had buried secrets in North America, a Volkari curse in the 1400s that had been enacted by one of Lu's ancestors, and some kind of magical stones connected to it.

If Nika hadn't already known about wolf curses and witching arts, she might have thought he was spiraling.

"It's magic," he said. "That's what links everything together."

Elliot handed over his crumpled notes, demanding Nika read for herself. She scanned the sloppy writing, half of it completely illegible, slowing down only when she reached a block of translated text.

First was the Witch and then came the Knight,
Next was the Wolf and his sister the Wight.
All of one brood but each of own breed,
From mystery born and from ashes proceed.
Whispers have passed and rumors have flown,
Which men cannot hear, but to us, it is known,
From mountains to rivers and jungles to sands:
The Oldbloods arose from the Shadowlands.

She'd heard the rhyme before. It was commonly found in the written tales about her kind. Tales of the original Daemonstri, ancestors to Nika, Elliot, and every member of their species.

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