“Where are you going?” Lucas said, suddenly behind me.
I let out a high-pitched screamed before I could stop myself. My heartbeat echoed in my ears. I hadn’t heard him—hadn’t known he was following me at all.
He gripped my waist as I took a few deep breaths, trying to calm down. It took me a few seconds to find my voice again. “You scared the living daylights out of me,” I finally managed to say.
“You scared me when you wandered off, so we’re even.” He studied me. “What are you seeing?”
I twisted out of his grasp and pointed ahead. “Something really bright is just up there. I wanted to see what it was.” It wasn’t far, just on top of a small hill.
“And you didn’t come get me?”
I shrugged. “I didn’t think of it. I had to see what that was. It could be the temple.” I glanced around. “Where’s Gobble?”
“How should I know? One second he was there, and the next, gone. I expect he’ll be back, but I’m glad to be rid of him for now.”
“He’s not that bad.”
He growled softly.
“Come on.” I kept walking toward the glow, stepping around trees and plants as I moved through the forest. It was weird being able to see this well at night, but I liked it. Made things much easier.
A thick layer of moss hung down from a tree branch. As I moved it out of the way, the temple came into view.
I gasped as I took in the overgrown stone structure made of perfectly cut square bricks. Just like some of the Incan ruins I’d seen in passing. A small steeple cut into the night sky. And the most beautiful part of all: the windows on either side of the door glowed with a pure, bright light.
I nearly laughed. It didn’t feel real. I’d hoped, but I wasn’t sure that anything would come of this. But now I knew. The map had been right. I had a real chance at saving Raphael. Everything might turn out okay. “That’s it. We found it.” I took off running for the front door.
“Wait.” Lucas caught up and wrenched me to a stop. “Someone’s been here.”
I froze. “What do you mean?” We’d asked so many villagers, and no one had even the smallest story about the mages or their temple. So how could anyone have been here?
“Here.” He pointed to a broken branch and some smushed grass. “Tracks.”
I couldn’t make out a footprint. “Couldn’t that have been a bear or something?”
“No. Those are human tracks.”
There was no way that was possible. “I thought no one knew the way.”
Lucas squatted to sniff the supposed track. “Human. They smell familiar, but not.” He stood up. “We have to be careful. No running. You stay behind me.”
Maybe people had been here recently, but that didn’t change what I needed to do. “I don’t need to be protected. I have plenty of magic of my own.” I brushed past him and closed the distance to the temple.
As soon as I stepped inside, the most foul smell ever hit me. I covered my mouth and nose as I gagged.
The temple’s entry was one massive room. Along the far wall, a corridor led off to elsewhere. An altar made of three huge slabs of stone stood between us and the corridor. A bowl of fire burned on its surface.
I stepped toward the altar. “What is that—” I stopped myself. I didn’t need to ask the question. I knew that smell. Only one thing was that disgusting.
“Vampires,” Lucas spat the word.
Standing in front of the walls, frozen like statues, were vampires.
Hundreds of them.
“Oh God.” They weren’t moving, and if they were really alive, they would’ve attacked by now. But if something changed, we were toast. There was no way we could fight this many. I didn’t have enough magic left. And no matter how strong an Alpha Lucas was, he was only one wolf.
“Whatever you do, don’t move,” Lucas whispered. “You could set them off.”
“Oh God.” My throat was suddenly tight. I took in the room with wide eyes, trying to come up with something—anything—that could help us.
What was I supposed to do now? Whatever I needed was surely inside this temple, but one wrong step and we’d both be worm food.
Just the two of us against an army of vampires… We didn’t stand a chance.
“Why would the white mages have vampires in here?” My voice was tight with fear, as I stood there, taking in the surroundings. There had to be hundreds of them.
“I’m not sure. They’re frozen now by some sort of spell, but I don’t know what—if anything—would release them.” His aura flared bright as he paused. “Maybe we don’t meet the criteria. Maybe you have to do something the mages wouldn’t like to set them off. Or practice evil magic? Or maybe if one of us steps on the wrong tile, they’ll swarm. It could be anything.”