“Were you getting anywhere?”
“No.” That was the problem and we both knew it. The locals all flared with a bit of aura when I touched them, but when asked about mages, they had no idea what we were talking about. A few of them wore glowing crystals, but other than being handed down for many generations to keep away evil spirits, they knew nothing about where they came from. Some of them were afraid of me after I asked about the mages—which was disheartening—and it made me wonder if all humans in this region flared a little. Maybe all humans did. I’d only ever been around witches and supernaturals, and now that seemed like a terrible gap in my knowledge of the world. I was second-guessing myself that much. “But how is a hike going to solve anything?”
He set down his fork. I’d momentarily wondered why the locals hadn’t flinched when he ordered enough food for four people, but I’d forgotten to think about it after tasting the food. Now I was back to thinking about it. How much did the locals know about the pack? And if they knew about the pack, then why didn’t they know anything about the mages?
I didn’t expect anyone to point me straight to ancient magic, but surely someone should have heard about the local covens or maybe some old shrine where locals went to pray. I’d take any lead I could get right now.
“A hike might solve nothing,” he said. I started to speak, but he kept on talking. “But it might give us some clues. You’ll get a better view from up high. If you look down and sense energy somewhere, then I can lead you there.”
I sighed. I’d liked the idea of staying in the village. The people were nice and exploring was more fun on flat ground. But Lucas had a point. “Okay. A hike sounds doable.”
“Good.” He started in on his second plate of food.
“So how much do they know?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Does who know?”
“These people.” I gestured around the room. Most of the round tables were empty, but the people at the few occupied ones all stared at us. Some were more subtle than others, but most kept glancing our way. I fiddled with the edge of the colorful tablecloth.
Combine the looks with the way everyone in the market treated Lucas, and something was obviously up. These people knew him. If not because he was a wolf, then for some other reason.
He didn’t answer me, but I wasn’t giving up that easily. “Who are you to them? A wolf? Or something else? Because I feel like you’re getting special treatment everywhere we go, and it’s not just because of your looks.”
His grin transformed his face from handsome to godlike. It was breathtaking. “How do you think I look?”
I laughed. He was just like every other boy I knew. “Come on. You’re a wolf. It comes with the territory, right?”
He shrugged. “I guess so. I never really thought about it.”
He was starting to frustrate me. “Don’t be so obtuse. Answer the question.”
“They don’t know about the pack exactly. What they do know is that some of us in the area live a very long time and work hard to protect them from anything bad. There are a lot of predators in these mountains—both supernatural and not—and we make sure the locals get to live without the drama that people face elsewhere in the country.”
“So why this one? Why not one of those other villages?”
“Mostly because of proximity to our own stronghold. Also, because of legacy. These are the supposed descendants of the old mages and that’s why we’re here in the first place.”
I guessed that made sense. They couldn’t exactly protect all of Peru. No pack could handle so much territory with so many mountains. So the village closest to their home would reap the benefits of being close to the pack. “Then why don’t any of them know about the mages?”
“Because they don’t exist to modern humans. These people might know their fairytales and legends, but their knowledge is just a memory from a dream. That’s why I said this wouldn’t be easy.”
“Right.” I took another bite of my quinoa before asking the next question. “So, they know how much you eat?”
“They know enough to not question when we ask for something. I won’t waste their food. There’s a trust there that goes both ways.” He paused, watching me as he waited for something. “No more questions?”
My face heated and I fought it as best as I could. “Not at the moment.”
“Good.” He started eating again, and we settled into a comfortable silence.