Perfect. Nothing was ever easy. Not for me, at least. “You don’t have to come in with me.”
“Like hell I don’t.” His voice was a little more gravelly than normal. His wolf must not like being in here. “Where you go, I go.”
I turned slowly, not wanting to set off the vampires, and faced him. “This could be really dumb. I don’t want to be responsible for your death. You’re a pack Alpha. You have more than just some witch on a quest to worry about.”
“You’re not just some witch.” The gravelly tone was getting thicker.
He stared me down until I looked away. If he wanted to go in, there wasn’t any way I could stop him. And part of me was relieved. I didn’t want to go in there alone. But the rest of me wanted him safe. I didn’t want my mess to cause anyone else any more harm. “Fine.” I held my breath as I took one step, and then another.
A fine coating of dust covered the ground. It kicked up in the air as I walked, tickling my nose. The walls might’ve had something on them, but I couldn’t see past the vampires. I was doing my best not to look at them. I passed by one, and glanced at it quickly. Its straw-like hair and half-rotted body, gave me the creeps. It wore all black with a long, frayed duster that touched the ground.
I stood close enough that it could have reached out and grabbed me. I held my breath as I stepped past, focusing on the floor, but nothing happened. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad? “Let’s head to the next room.”
Lucas motioned me forward. “You lead the way.”
I wiped my hands on my pants. “Okay.” I took even, measured steps, half expecting the vampires to charge as I walked around the altar.
As I made it closer to the door on the other side of the room, I started to breathe a little easier. If there was a booby trap, we hadn’t set it off yet. We had a ways to go before getting out of here, but maybe Lucas and I didn’t meet the mages’ criteria for enemies.
Lucas had to help me push the carved wooden doors open. They weighed a ton, and once they got moving, there was no stopping them. I winced as they slammed into the walls, and then glanced back at the room, but as far as I could tell, none of the vampires had moved.
I sent Lucas a wide-eyed look, but he just shrugged. “Seems okay,” he said.
It did seem okay. So far, so good. I focused on moving forward, even when all instincts told me to turn and run. I didn’t like vampires—not one bit—and the smell was only getting worse.
I glanced over at Lucas and he gave me a small nod as we started walking down the hallway.
“Any clue what you’re looking for?” Lucas whispered to me.
“Not really,” I whispered back. “As least I’m not sure. I figure whatever I need will glow a lot. Or something.”
The hallway was lined with rows of vampires two and three deep. All frozen.
“How did the white mages capture so many of them? There’s got to be hundreds,” I said. Under other circumstances, I might’ve been able to analyze the magic, but even if I wasn’t totally exhausted, I had no intention of casting a thing in here unless the worst happened.
“I don’t know. The magic that’s holding them must be strong. I wonder if we could replicate that.” He paused. “Although, why keep them around when we can kill them and be rid of them for good?”
No kidding. “Right? They’re not exactly the type I’d want guarding my house. They’d just as soon eat me as protect me.”
“Plus, the smell is horrible.”
“It’s bad for me. Must be even worse for you.”
He grunted. “Nearly unbearable.”
Poor guy. We kept moving forward, at a steady even pace. I held my hands out, ready to cast a protection ward just in case we triggered some vampire release lever.
The hallway ended in a set of downward stairs. Crystals—the same kind from the mines—lit along the stairwell as it twisted down. I was slightly dizzy by the time we reached the bottom. There was another long hallway leading back the other direction. At the end was another set of huge doors. Whatever was behind those doors was directly underneath the altar upstairs.
Things of extreme importance were typically placed under altars—for protection but also because whatever magic was performed on the altar would drift down and imbue the object with residual magic. The longer the object rested under the altar, the stronger it got.
That told me that what I wanted had to be behind those doors.
The smell of dirt and dust was stronger here, but there were no vampires stationed along the hall. Instead there were bones—thousands of them—piled to the ceiling. All of them gave off a slight glow.