The trees didn’t so much thin as simply… stop. Clouds swept from across Matera’s face, high in the sky, on it’s second days’ fullness, silvery light revealing a squat stone hut, the roof half fallen in. The doorway was not so dark, the moonlight only slightly dimmed by the few remaining bundles of thatch.
“It’s really here,” Petra breathed. She rubbed at her nose, taking a half step back, into the blue-tinged moonshadow of the trees.
“You mean you weren’t even sure?” Jasna asked.
The younger girl shrugged. She rummaged through her belt pouch, producing a small square of folded cloth. Shaking fingers plucked at the corners, revealing a small supply of pale white petals that seemed to glow with the faintest of light. Petra pinched four of them from the pile, but Katarin’s hand on her wrist stopped her hand halfway to her mouth.
“You don’t have many moonflower petals left,” Katarin said.
Petra’s lip curled, her teeth flashing for an instant. “Don’t you think I know that?” she snapped, wrenching her arm from the weaver’s grip.
It was caught by another hand, Brynne’s, and her hold did not break as Petra tried to wriggle out of it.
“Two,” the older girl said.
“But it’s full!” Petra whined. “It’s starting to itch again. I have enough for the next two nights, even if I use a little more.”
“And what happens when you run out?” Katarin asked.
“I’ll find more! I know where it grows, Druid Misha showed me the spots.”
Brynne’s grip tightened as Petta squirmed. “The forest has changed, you said so yourself. What if the flowers aren’t there?”
Katarin folded her arms. “Didn’t you say the Glantrians brought the moonflower to this part of the Known World?”
“The Flaems don’t make their landfall until seven hundred years after the Alphatians,” Katarin said. She leaned closer to Petra, nearly nose-to-nose with the girl. “The Alphatians aren’t even here yet.” She held out her hand, beneath the one Brynne held in a firm grip.
The younger girl’s eyes narrowed, pupils dilating. She closed her eyes, slowing her breathing, and the tension faded from her fingers. Two of the petals fluttered into the palm of Katarin’s hand. The weaver tipped them back into the spider-silk handkerchief.
Petra yanked her arm free as Brynne’s grip slackened, and she stuffed the two flower petals in her mouth. After a few moments, the shaking in her hands stopped, and she folded the corners of the handkerchief slowly and carefully over the remaining petals.
She made to slip the bundle back into her belt pouch, but Brynne cleared her throat.
Petra sighed. “Maybe… you should hold onto these for me,” she mumbled, and handed the kerchief to Katarin, without meeting the girl’s eyes.