Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Seventeen: Naimian (Continued)
Previously: After gleefully hailing Zack as their new Storysmith, the naims showed him their vast forest city. It was glorious, but also a trap. Zack and his sister needed to reconnect and complete their mission.
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He knew the naims would never simply let him go. They adored him too much. He’d have to escape. But how? And when?
The next day, he’d been told, the Naim Games would begin. A sort of naimish Olympics, the Naim Games were held whenever something jubilous—like the arrival of a new Storysmith (Zack)—occurred. They could, and often did, go on for weeks! So Zack decided he’d snatch a wagon early in the morning, before the Games started, and coax the lead stag into taking him back to Kellansend, a trip he dared not attempt until daylight.
During a starlit supper in the boughs, he inquired about the “pretty little dagger” he claimed his aunt had lost. No naim had ever seen such an object, but after the feast they took him to the woodworks so he could see their tools. Every hundred feet or so each heartwood tree held a cache of woodworking instruments, saws and gouges, gimlets and awls, mallets and chisels of every shape and size. But there were other tools too: bludgeons, maces, pikes, lances, double-bladed broadswords, and razor-sharp knives that looked nothing like “pretty little daggers.”
“What are those for?”
“Ter protect ourselves,” said Cobber the master woodworker.
“You!” Cobber joked. “After all, yer are the first human ever ter see ‘em.”
“Why, the Naimian Woodworks!”
“But the swords and stuff—what are they for?”
“Ah…it’s been a long time, Master Zaggyzim…
“‘Never again shall naim take arm against naim!’ Rhema herself said that.” Cobber quickly changed the subject. On these ledges, he explained, naim carpenters cut, shaped, and prepared the precious rainbowwood planks. All human efforts at harvesting rainbowwood had failed because the external layers, bark, cambium and sapwood, did not contain stories, so only the naims (who were allowed by the trees themselves to dwell within) could obtain true rainbowwood.
Now that I know this, Zack wondered, will they ever let me go? To avoid any appearance of partisanship, he slept that night on a carpenter’s shelf half way between Root-Naimian and Crown-Naimian. “Slept” is a relative term. The shelf was soft, lined in grook-down and pinestraw, but it was barely four feet wide…
…and the forest floor was thirty storeys below.
Thoughts: Have you ever been let in on a secret that messily, even dangerously, entangled you in the lives of others?