They were separated by bone type. The little ones by the base of the stairwell had to be toes. At the end, surrounding the doorway, were skulls.
I rolled my shoulders to ease the tension in them. It was probably weird, but I felt a little more relaxed around the bones. They wouldn’t suddenly start moving and trying eat me. At least, I didn’t think they would.
I glanced back at Lucas. “This is a crypt.”
“Yes. It used to be pretty typical for the temples and churches in the area.”
This could actually be perfect. “One of my cousin’s books said that the bones of the ancients could be used in defense against demons. This could be exactly what we’re looking for.”
“So, we can just grab some of these and get out of here? Great. Let’s do it.” He moved to grab the closest fibula, but I managed to stop him before he touched it.
“Wait. It can’t be just any ancient. It has to be someone really holy. A saint.” I licked my lips as I took in the bones. “They should be glowing more.”
“I thought all of these mages were saints.”
“I guess not. To be sainted, the body would have to preserved. There would still be flesh on the bones. Dried flesh, but still.” I looked at the bones assembled into neat, categorized piles. “These all are dried bones. No flesh. They wouldn’t have taken them apart if they were saints.”
Lucas made a face. “Sometimes you witches are disturbing.”
I sighed. “It’s gross if you think about it, but I try not to. Especially when it’s magic that I really, really need—like something to save my brother.” I punched Lucas in the shoulder. “And you eat furry, bloody, still-warm animals.”
“So do all carnivores. But taking bones from a preserved mage…” He waved his hand around. “Let’s find the right bones and get out before the vampires wake up.”
“I wonder if they can wake up? Maybe they’re just for show.”
He started walking. “I don’t intend to stay down here long enough to find out.”
I caught up to him. “If the altar was upstairs, it stands to reason they’d rest the holiest of their sect below. In that room there,” I pointed to the end of the hallway. “And hopefully, the aura will tell me what’s best to take with me.”
We closed the distance to another set of wooden doors. This time, we were careful to open them slowly.
As soon as we saw inside, Lucas let of a string of curses. “You can’t be serious.”
The altar matched the one above except for its occupant. A body dressed in white robes. The figure held a bouquet of dried flowers and an athame. A ring of fire surrounded the stone, burning two feet high. The glow of the mage overpowered even the light of the fire. But that wasn’t what really caught my eye.
The walls were stacked deep with vampires. Not just two or three. But in some areas, five and six.
The fire helped burn off some of the smell, but even then, it was a lot. My gut urged me to leave. Run. But I couldn’t. I needed to get to that alter.
Lucas growled, and grabbed my arm, pulling me behind him. “I don’t want either of us to go in that room. Not one bit.”
Neither did I, but I didn’t have a ton of options. I patted his hand and he let go. “You can stay here.” I started to step past him. “But I need to go in.”
He pushed the long sleeves of his T-shirt up to his elbows. “Like hell you’re going in there alone.” He stepped through the doorway. “Let’s do this fast.”
We paused as we reached the fire. Sweat rolled down my hairline and I brushed it away. “Can you lift me over?”
“Can’t you put it out with magic?”
Something in my gut told me that was a really bad idea. This time, I wasn’t going to ignore that instinct.
I glanced around the room again, and then at the fire. “I think that’s the booby trap part. Any magic done in this space could make the vampires wake.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling.”
He grunted, and then grasped my waist. “I’m going to have to throw you, okay? I don’t want you to get burned.”
That seemed like the best plan. “Okay.”
“On three.” He counted down, and then I was air born for a split second.
I came down on the ground hard.
My ribs ached and my feet throbbed, but nothing was broken. I stood up and brushed myself off. “Fine.”