“You ignored me.”
Welkin paced across the forest floor. A trail of shimmering light – short-lived scatterings of stardust – followed where they stepped. It was such an enchanting sight May briefly forgot the Star was seething.
They weren’t wrong about being ignored; as soon as May had noticed Welkin lurking in the trees she had looked to Em in alarm only to find she had seen the same thing.
“We’ll deal with them later,” Em had whispered beneath her breath just as Trina slid between them and looped arms with them both. She had led the girls inside, gleefully demanding to be filled in on everything that had happened since Em left Tenna. It had taken hours before the girls found the opportunity to sneak back out unnoticed.
“We had literally just gotten here,” Em addressed Welkin, sounding bored already. “What were we supposed to do? Excuse ourselves to go make-out in the woods?”
May groaned and watched Welkin turn slowly.
“I’m glad you think this is amusing.” Something in their voice reminded May of an animal’s warning growl moments before an attack.
If Em noticed, she didn’t appear to care.
“It’s not that I think it’s funny,” she replied flippantly. “I just think you’re overreacting.”
“Ah,” Welkin’s eyes flashed dangerously. “So, you know why I’m here then?”
Em crossed her arms. She didn’t reply, but she looked uncomfortable for the first time since she and May had crept out from their dorm room to meet the waiting Star.
“Well, I don’t know what’s going on,” May huffed, too agitated by the heavy tension between Em and Welkin to stay silent any longer. “I’d really appreciate it if someone would fill me in.”
Welkin swept toward them, fallen leaves and pine needles scattering in the swirl of their long cloak.
“Seeing as I have apparently misread the situation perhaps you should do the honours, Emanthy.”
May made a mental note to avoid ever falling on the receiving end of Welkin’s particularly terrifying brand of passive aggression. She turned to Em expectantly.
Em, seemingly reduced to a petulant teenager in the face of her parent’s wrath, rolled her eyes.
“Welkin doesn’t think it’s safe for me to be here,” she muttered, glancing away as she spoke.
“What?” Cold panic trickled into May’s veins. “Why?”
“Emanthy was a bit too careless with her abilities during her previous stay in Tenna,” Welkin explained, not looking away from their daughter as they spoke.
“I used them to help people,” Em snapped. “How is that a bad thing?”
“It’s a bad thing when it attracts the wrong kind of attention.” Welkin didn’t need to raise their voice to be intimidating. Em’s bravado slipped and she glared at the ground instead of making a rebuttal.
“What kind of wrong attention?” May asked, looking nervously between the others.
“Let’s just say word of Emanthy’s abilities travelled fast,” Welkin answered, addressing May with a softness they didn’t offer Em. “And it put her on the radar of some less than savoury characters.”
“Do you mean the Loyals?” May asked quietly.
“No one knows who I am!” Em shouted, cutting in. “Audrey is dead. Everyone knows that. People don’t generally come back from the dead so it’s not like anyone was going to draw that conclusion. For all anyone knew those rumours could have been about a witch or a forest spirit or-”
“Or a Wish?” Welkin interrupted, moving into her space.
“No Wish has ever been able to do what I can do,” Em snarled back.
“Has that ever detoured the Loyals before? Were those rumours not the very way Audrey and her friends sought out other Wishes?”
“Stop it!” May cried, breaking in between their bickering. “You’re starting to freak me out!”
Both Em and Welkin shared a look of surprise; the mood shifted instantly.
“Maybe, I’m sorry,” Em pulled May into an embrace. “You’ve got nothing to worry about, I-”
“Don’t you dare promise her that,” Welkin said, speaking over Em with a threatening air.
May pulled back from Em’s arms and started them both down. “One of you needs to be upfront with me right now. Are we in danger?”
Em shot Welkin an accusatory look and gestured for them to take the floor. Welkin sighed miserably.
“When it became clear that word of Emanthy’s abilities was spreading, I asked her to abandon Tenna.”
“Hence the whole backpacking through the mountains to the coast thing,” Em added.
“Correct.” the Star fought to maintain their composure. “Except she took her time, which is why I eventually stepped in and moved her to the island. To you, May.”
May looked to Em, a mix of emotions welling up inside of her.
“Why would you want to come back here if there was a chance it would put you in harm’s way?” she asked sadly.
Em looked flabbergasted. She stumbled for words to explain herself but all she came up with was, “May, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“That’s not what I asked,” May replied, her voice as small as she felt.
Welkin cleared their throat. “While I certainly think the decision to return to Tenna was foolhardy, the fact is you’re here now. I only came tonight to make sure you were taking the potential for danger seriously.”
“Oh, sure,” Em snapped. “Backpedal now that she’s mad at me.”
May frowned. “I’m not mad at-”
“Enough,” Welkin placed a firm hand on each of their shoulder. “If you insist on staying, I only ask that you look out for one another. Don’t do anything to draw attention to yourselves and please, promise me you will leave at the first sign of trouble.”
Scowling, Em nodded. “Sure, I promise.”
May agreed as well.
With that, Welkin withdrew. They wished the pair safety and sound sleep before turning on the spot. Their form collapsed into a twinkling, glowing mass that rose slowly before flashing upwards into the heavens; a shooting star in reverse.
“Fuck!” Em shouted once the Star was gone. “Why do they always have to be so fucking dramatic all the time?”
“I’m guessing it’s because they care about you, Em,” May replied, her tone cold.
Her frosty demeanor was not lost on Em.
“You are mad at me, aren’t you?”
“I’m a little upset, yes,” May admitted, throwing her hands up. “Em, I don’t want to be here if it means you’re going to be in danger.”
Em sighed. “May, I’m telling you, Welkin is overreacting. Besides, it’s been ages since I was here last. It’s old news. We’re fine. And if it turns out we’re not, we’ll bail. I promise.”
May eyed her uneasily, and when she didn’t respond, Em tried again.
“I’m not going to let anything happen to you,” she repeated.
May shook her head.
“It’s not me I’m worried about,” she said.
Em took a deep, calming breath.
“Fine,” she relented. “I won’t let anything happen to us.”
She sounded so sure of herself.
May told herself she believed her.
But if that was true, why did she still feel like this trip was a huge mistake?
Banner art by @flowerveil