“Oh. You’re asking for a favor. That will cost you, tasty. What will you give me?”
I sighed. Nope. Not there yet.
I spun around, counting five different chambers we could go through. I needed just enough magic to give us a direction. “Eenie. Meenie. Minie. Moe. Show us all the way to go.” All of a sudden, the light in the cavern died.
I sucked in a breath. Was I empty? Finally drained of magic? “I’m sorry. I—” I froze as a line of light appeared in the crystal.
The glow moved in a straight path from us like ancient streetlights, pointing down the third corridor on the left.
I grinned at Lucas. “That way seems good?”
He laughed. “So I see. Let’s go.”
Gobble landed back on my shoulder, and the three of us headed deeper into the mine, following the path that had been left for us.
I was exhausted. Using magic took energy from me. My well was almost totally empty and I needed time to rest and build it up again. I wasn’t sure when I’d have the time.
Having Lucas next to me gave me the energy to keep going, even if all I wanted to do was crash.
“You doing okay?” He asked, almost as if he could sense my exhaustion.
I wasn’t okay. Not yet. But I was one step closer. “Getting there,” I said as his hand found mine.
As we moved further into the mine, crystals dotted the walls. They weren’t as thick or as dense as they were in the main cave, but they were there. About two-thirds up the tunnel wall, a waving line of them gave off a pure, white light. It wasn’t a totally straight line, since the crystals were more organic than orderly, but they guided us and gave us just enough light to see by.
We followed the lit path through the tunnels long ago carved out by miners, taking countless twists and turns. Time wore on, and my shirt was nearly soaked through. The mines were hot and—even with the pretty crystals—more than a little oppressive. I grew desperate to find the exit to the valley.
After a while, the tunnels started to rise again and my muscles burned as we worked our way back uphill. I took that as a good sign. We had to be getting closer to the temple.
“Do you smell that?” Lucas said as we turned a corner.
All I could smell was dirt, dirt, and more dirt. “No.” But if the wolves could smell emotions, then they had a way better sense of smell than I did. “What do you smell?”
“Fresh air. It was there and then gone.”
“Weird. Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know.”
Gobble giggled from his perch on my shoulder, but I ignored him. He’d been doing that off and on. I couldn’t worry about what was amusing him. I wanted to tell him to go away, but if I got desperate enough, I’d give him whatever bargain he was after.
We turned a corner, and I slammed into Lucas. He’d stopped walking. “What’s wrong?” I asked as I stepped around him. As soon as I had a better view, the problem was clear. There were no more lit crystals. The walls in the next cavern were all dirt and stone. Nothing glowed.
My heart sped as I noticed four tunnels leading off from where we’d stopped. If we kept going and didn’t pick the right one, we’d be in big trouble. There was no telling where they led and we didn’t have the supplies or the time to be stuck down here for days.
Not to mention that the thought of being lost in these mines made it feel like the walls were closing in on me.
“Can you see anything?” Lucas asked.
“No. I…” I searched for any hint of an aura ahead of us, but couldn’t see anything. I chewed my lip as I tried to decide which route to take, but I none of them felt right. “We had to have missed something. We should backtrack.”
I wasn’t sure where we’d gone wrong, but something had changed. Why would it lead us into a dark chamber with four equally possible routes?
It didn’t matter. I spun around and started walking back.
As we walked back toward the lit crystals, they started flickering. Then, one by one, they went out.
“Are you seeing this?” I asked as I forced my already aching legs to walking faster.
The lights started glittering faster and faster. If we lost the path… It was too complicated to remember. Too dark. We’d be lost.
“Run.” I took off, following the flickering lights, trying to stay ahead of them, but the faster I ran, the faster they died. As they started to outpace me, I finally skidded to a stop, gasping for breath. “We’re lost.”