I prepared myself to lose it before I looked down, but when I did, I was surprisingly okay. I could see a long, winding road that cut down the side of the mountain we were on. Other roads intersected in the valley below. The village we’d been in this morning was just down the way.

My sight wasn’t something that I had to turn on. It was always there. I chose to ignore it sometimes, but it never went away. I focused on the hints of color around me. This land was so spiritual. Full of life. It was like everything had an aura, but none of the white notes I spotted were as pure as what I’d expect from the mages. The energies weren’t even shadows of the flashes I’d gotten from the villagers.

I turned to say as much, but a flare of white aura caught the corner of my eye and I froze. It was far away and dim, but it was there. I stepped out of Lucas’ arms, and he let me go. It was pure and white, just like the flash I’d gotten from the villagers. I took a couple steps before he grabbed the back of my fleece.

“Whoa. Watch your step.”

I looked down and my vision swam. Before I could faint, Lucas pulled me back against his chest and covered my eyes with his hand. “You got a little ahead of yourself there, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said as my breathing stabilized once again. “But I feel… There was an aura. It was faint but it was there.” I pushed his hand down, and turned to look at him. “Can we go? Now?”

He frowned. “Where exactly did you see it?”

I pointed at the spot, just around the side of the mountain. It was barely visible from where we were standing, but if he knew the area as well as he said he did, then he should be able to get us there.

“Are you sure?”

I nodded. “Absolutely.”

He looked back over where I pointed, and sucked in a sharp breath. “It’s impossible. Not there. I just…”

“What’s impossible? Why is it impossible?”

He closed his eyes for a second, and when he opened them again, his dark eyes had warmed to a glowing chocolate color. “A sect of brujos is based in that area. They live like monks—”

“That’s them! Those are the ones we’re looking for.” Hope filled my heart. The answer to all of my problems was right there. So close.

He shook his head. “They’re evil, Claudia. Pure evil.”

My jaw dropped open before I could stop it. The hoped I’d been feeling smashed into a million pieces. “No. They can’t be.” I looked back at the spot. The pure white aura was there. A bit of darkness surrounded it if I really squinted, but the center of the aura looked like freshly fallen snow. “It’s white. What I see is white. White magic always means good magic.”

“I can’t explain why you’re seeing what you’re seeing, but I know those mages. They’re beyond bad. We’ve had a few run-ins with the foul things they’ve summoned, and they weren’t pretty. I can’t take you there.”

I chewed on my lip as I thought it through. There was only one possibility that made sense. “Regardless of whether they’re evil, they must have something that belongs to the white mages we’re looking for. I have to go check.”

Lucas grasped my arms. “I meant that literally. I can’t take you. The second I step on their land, they’ll know I’m there. Even if I could bring you there, they won’t help you or give you what you want. There has to be something else. Take another look.” He spun me around. “Please.”

I looked, methodically scanning the view and hoping for once there was a solution that didn’t involve me reaching out to dark mages, but none of the energies out there came close to pure white. Except that one spot. “No. If we had a better lead, I’d take your advice, but I don’t have that luxury. There’s nothing else.” Someday, I’d be allowed to make a choice that wasn’t a last resort, but until then…

If had to go through more dark magic to save Raphael, then I’d do it.

Regardless of the cost.

“I can’t take you.” He let go of me, and ran his hands through his hair, pulling it for a second before letting go. He looked down at me with resignation. “Nothing will change that.”

Then I remembered something that made everything that much more awful.

Boy did I not want to do this. But if Lucas wouldn’t—couldn’t help me, then I had to find someone who would. “There’s another way I can get in.”

His expression changed from resignation to anger. “Please tell me you’re not talking about that asshole from this morning.”