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The Darkness That Hunts

By ObsidianFae All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Fantasy

Chapter 25

Zakk’s “signal” comes a few moments later. It basically consists of Dace shouting, “Hey, I think you’re late for the set of Downton Abbey!” and hurling his chakram.

“‘Downton Abbey?’”

Kam shrugs. “British TV show his mom used to watch.” His hand squeezes mine as one chakram cuts off the arm of one of the chanting necromancers. The other knocks off the Unseelie’s top hat.

Flames ripple through the air as the discs arc back towards Dace. Zakk is already releasing his spell. Acid erodes the chains binding the lich. Naja claws at the eyes of another necromancer and the Unseelie’s shrill shriek nearly makes my ears bleed. But it’s the deep roar, haunted and furious that has me quaking. The lich springs to life, snapping through the last of the necromancer’s dark spell.

Zakk’s plan is a success. The necromancers scatter but two aren’t fast enough. One gets crushed under the lich’s massive fist. The second the lich plucks from the ground like a squirming maggot. It pops the Unseelie woman into its mouth. I hear the wet, sloppy crunch of her bones and flesh against its teeth before it’s taking up its massive whip. The sound is like rusty thunder as the whip whirls through the air, ripping through marble crypts and thick pillars as if they’re sheets of cheap computer paper.

A necromancer tries to teleport out of range but the barbed whip severs his body into three chunks of steaming flesh.

Already Zakk and Dace have fled down the boulevard with at least two Unseelie throwing magic at their heels. The lich’s barrel chest heaves as it takes their scent deep into its lungs. Like a hound on the hunt, it bounds off in their direction. The Necropolis rattles under its massive feet.

“Shari, we have to get moving.”

Reluctant, I follow Kamiron across the now deserted courtyard and onto the broad streets of the Necropolis’ inner city where he immediately steers us to a narrow side street. “I hope they’ll be alright.”

“I’m more worried about us,” he confesses.

Why? We’re running away from that monster.”

“Did you see where those Sidhe went? The ones who could escape went straight to the ziggurat. And that doesn’t even take into account any wights or revenants that might meet us along the way. All that noise and death is bound to wake the undead--or attract necromancers that weren’t at the séance.”

Crap. I pull out my bow and load a glimmering arrow.

Kamiron must have been a ninja in a past life because he’s like a ghost. Guided by his clairaudience, he steers us clear of pockets of undead as we snake through the city block-by-block, moving north towards the ziggurat’s towering tiers. Though we’ve long passed the courtyard and wall sectioning off the inner city, the Necropolis thunders around us. Somewhere to the southeast I watch a giant obelisk shatter into chalky white dust. The ground rumbles as it falls. No doubt the lich’s work.

“Almost to the front steps. I think we’re--oh, shit.” Kamiron skids to an abrupt halt and casts a frantic gaze about for a hiding spot. There’s not much aside from a few stubby gravestones but the alcove to one of the nearby crypts is deep enough that we might be able to find cover. I shove Kam towards the dark shadows just as a necromancer steps into view escorted by what can only be wights. Animated skeletons clutch four-foot spears in their fleshless hands.

My arrows would be useless against them.

My attention drifts to their master: a woman, delicate and small. Her skin is green. Not the green of decay and gangrene, but the olive hue of grass at the height of spring. Black hair sticks up in spikes all over her head and unlike the necromancers before, she isn’t dressed in Victorian-style clothing. In fact, she isn’t really dressed at all. Only a bodice made of ropes and leather belts drape her body and are arranged to enhance her lithe figure, not conceal.

I glance at Kamiron to see if he’s distracted by her body--most notably her bare breasts--but he only stares at the heart-shaped scepter on her hip.

“I’ll try to take down the two skeletons. I need you to cover me.”

I balk. “You can’t--but she’s a--maybe they won’t even see us?”

His mirthless chuckle is barely more than a breath. “Considering how things have a habit of going exactly our way . . .” His sledgehammer sways as he balances on the balls of his feet, sure to keep his body hidden in shadow. I remember him facing down the lobisomem with the same fortitude and I sigh in defeat.

“At least we have the element of surprise,” he offers, and this time I detect the humor in his voice.

“I’m more worried about the mage.”

Kamiron waits until they are almost fifteen paces away before he leaps the short fence circling the crypt and springs into action. I decide that even if she can bend the forces of magic to her will, a naked mage will have to dodge when an arrow barrels towards her face.

Unless, of course, the aforementioned naked mage has an invisible force field protecting her.

My arrow bounces harmlessly off some kind of arcane barrier that shimmers fuchsia before dissipating. I sacrifice two more arrows to the same outcome.

Yep. Things are definitely going our way. As always.

At least the wights are caught off guard. I manage to catch a glimpse of Kamiron shattering the femur of one wight before I’m forced to duck into the alcove as a menacing globe of darkness rockets my way. It splashes against the side of the crypt and oozes to the ground in sluggish rivulets.

“What the heck is that?”

Touch it and find out? Vayu suggests.

Think I’ll pass.

I peek around the corner and quickly throw myself back against the crypt entrance as another glob of blackness splatters against the edge of the crypt. This time some of it lands on my pants. The cold burns and numbs my left leg. I gasp, stumbling.

The numbing sensation fades, but the cold lingers and my teeth start to chatter. All that from a few tiny drops! I don’t even want to think what would happen if all of it got on me.

I know I can’t stay here hiding, especially not when Kamiron needs me. While I may not be able to penetrate Naked Mage’s shield, the longer her attention is on me, the longer it isn’t on Kam.

I take a deep breath and launch myself away from the crypt, tucking into a roll. I hear rather than see another globe splash on the ground where I had been standing. The mossy grass is surprisingly soft as I roll to a halt near a narrow gravestone and peek around it.

Kamiron looks the worse for wear. A deep gash mars his upper arm and blood drips down his sleeve. Dirt and sweat darken his golden skin and his eyes are dim with pain. Nevertheless his lips form a determined line. Bones crunch beneath his heel as he shifts his balance, stepping over the remains of the first wight. The second lunges, its spear targeting Kam’s jugular. He pivots back, twisting his body to the left. The iron tip of the spear sings with the near miss. The wight reverses its grip with surprising dexterity and the wooden shaft of its weapon connects with Kamiron’s jaw. He staggers back.

I tumble out of the way of another globe of darkness. The necromancer smiles at me, a smile that doesn’t reveal teeth but I get the impression her mouth is full of serrated fangs. She takes a step towards me, darkness coiling between her palms like a black hole. I dive behind a second tombstone but I’m not quick enough. This time my left elbow gets hit and the numbness is instantaneous. The cold compounds and my right hand trembles as I yank an arrow from the air and press my back against the grave, making sure no part of my body is exposed to her magic.

Did you see that? Vayu demands. I can feel him restlessly pacing between my temples like a mythical griffin.

I think so. Each time she attacks, a hole opens in her shield. It lasts for only a split second--two blinks, if that--but maybe it could be used to my advantage.

Time it carefully, girl, he cautions.

I shake my left hand. I don’t have feeling in three fingers, and those that remain are about as dexterous as boiled sausages but I force them to curl around the grip. The only way to get her to attack again is to expose myself to her ball of cold. Will I be fast enough to dodge another attack?

I leap to my feet. Around me the air stills as if taking a quick, gasping breath. The chaos of my thoughts recedes, and time slows as my focus becomes hyperaware. I can almost see the molecules of air funneling into the necromancer’s dark globe. I watch her ample bosom rise with her inhale, the muscles of her lower abdomen tighten as she steps forward on bare feet. Her eyes are brown, so dark as to be nearly black. They settle on my gleaming russet arrow in amused curiosity. She doesn’t even register me as a threat.

That’s fine, bitch. I shift a half-step left, adjust my trajectory . . .

The sphere of darkness bites the air as she hurls it forward. My arrow leaps from my longbow. It skirts along the edge of the globe and shimmies through the necromancer’s protective barrier just as it seals shut. The naked mage doesn’t get the opportunity to look surprised. My arrow buries itself into her armpit with enough force to knock her on her butt.

Okay, so I was aiming for her heart, but beggars can’t be picky.

My knee nearly gives out as I swivel out of the way of her latest globe. It splashes against the hips of a bronze statue in the shape of a squatting goblin. I shudder as the thick secretion sizzles onto the cracked flagstone beneath the statue. The ooze smells like burned eggs.

A thwump and the sound of several bones crunching under the impact of a heavy object jolts me. Kamiron grunts under the exertion and his sledgehammer swings wide, coming in for a second blow. The wight’s ribcage has been shattered, its left hip ruined, but still it tries to fight. Kamiron’s weapon glows moss-green and again there’s the lethal impact of steel on bone. A quasar burst of heat flares for an instant and the wight collapses, literally pulverized to chalky dust.

Kamiron’s eyes roll into the back of his head and he falls to a knee.

“Kam!” I scurry to his side. An ugly purple bruise blossoms across his jaw and collarbone. I notice other injuries that his dark aketon hid. At least three stab wounds.

“I’ll be fine,” he wheezes, “Just need a sec.”

You don’t have a “sec”, Vayu warns. I feel his attention focused ahead and I turn to the necromancer. She’s back on her feet, fingers idly caressing her scepter. My arrow lies at her toes like a shard of stained glass. I leap in front of Kamiron with my longbow poised at the ready.

“Mortal.” Her voice is surprisingly high-pitched, her accent vaguely . . . Australian? “You injured me.”

She doesn’t seem angry so much as astonished. Guess it was too much to hope for that she’d be mortally wounded.

“Oh, I can do more than that, sugar.” I lift my chin. “If I were you, I’d high-tail it out of here, before I find a more permanent solution.”

The necromancer’s delicate nose wrinkles. Brown eyes flicker to Kamiron and back to me. “Unlikely, though I am amused by your bravado. Your champion is injured, perhaps fatally.”

My heart sinks but I don’t spare a glance at Kam.

“So why would I abandon not one, but two meals? I think it better to drink your vitality and reanimate your corpses to replace my ruined servants.”

A gray tongue darts over her emerald lips as if she can taste us through the air. Knowing her, she probably can. The rope and leather bodice swooshes as she takes a testing step forward. Her palm cups the grip of her scepter.

“That’s close enough,” I order, training an arrow on her. I slowly funnel power down the translucent orange shaft and into the arrowhead. I envision that when I release it, and it digs itself into her ribcage, the power of it will shatter her from the inside out. “I may have missed the mark the first time, but I won’t make that mistake again. You can try another of your shields, but you can’t attack me without making yourself vulnerable. All I need is a second.”

That draws her up short. She glares at me and her hand falls away from her weapon. Again her tongue, flat and slug-like, flickers in the air. Her eyes nearly roll back into her small skull. Her arms hug her waist, thrusting her boobs upwards.

I keep my eyes locked on hers and away from her uncomfortably naked body.

“And you would release me, mortal?”

“If you promise to go your way and let us go ours. Our quarrel doesn’t involve you.”

Her attention shifts over to the gleaming rooftops of the Necropolis. A sharp longing for Dace scrapes against my ribs. He’d know exactly what to say, exactly how to use his words to disarm her. Truth is, I’m bluffing. I have no idea if I could even hit her; she might easily dodge my arrow and I can’t leave Kam unprotected if she retaliates with another of those globe things. That’s all assuming the arrow will actually shatter her from the inside out if it hits her.

Too many uncertainties for my taste, and none of which I wish to let on to her.

“What could possibly bring mortals to the Necropolis?”

The power of the arrow burns the lingering numbness and cold infecting my left arm. I flex my fingers and bite back a wince at the tingling pain of renewed blood flow.

“Time’s up. What will it be?”

The leather belts slide across her form in a sensuous manner as she inhales one last time before putting her back to us. “Pray we do not meet again, mortals. I will not be robbed of fetching sport twice.”

With that, she drifts down another road--thankfully leading away from the ziggurat.

My knees knock and it’s all I can do to remain standing.

Shari: 1.

Naked Mage: 0.

Relief and triumph makes me giddy. The power infused in my arrow goes dormant and I stuff it into my belt loop and squat beside Kamiron.

“Can’t believe you let her go,” he pants, grunting as we struggle to stand. “You know she’ll be back.”

“We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it. Come one, we’re almost there.”

Another courtyard circles the tiers of the ziggurat. Great stone steps, at least a hundred, lead up to the very top where the entrance gapes like a black wound. The energy radiating from the tiers’ glazed bricks makes me even more nauseated. Kamiron looks almost as green as the naked mage we faced.


Looks clear,” I answer and despite my best attempts, I can’t keep the doubt from my voice. “Shouldn’t we see to your--”

“Inside first. Find a safe place to wait for the others and then we’ll see about me,” Kamiron insists.

But you’re bleeding all over us, I want to point out, but instead I push off from the wall and hook my arm beneath Kamiron’s shoulder. Supporting him, we clamber across the barren plaza. Whatever Dace and Zakk are doing, it’s working. No one is here--not that I expected the Necropolis to be teeming with life (undead or otherwise)--but the respite is welcome.

Climbing the hundred steps is like a slow, burning death for my thighs and calves. The stitch in my side steals my breath; when we finally reach the ziggurat’s top, I can’t force my legs to take another step. Instead I turn and look out over the Necropolis.

Ater’s bloody sky crouches above us like a bloated tick. The city gleams; cold, silent, crowded. Narrow roads circle the towering crypts and mausoleums of the outer city while the broad avenues of the inner city skirt elaborate tombstones and obelisks as big as houses.

My attention darts to the pockets of flame that burn in the distance. Thick smoke mars the pristine white of the Necropolis. Murky shapes, some that shuffle, a few that slink, and others that stride with single-minded purpose, comb the streets along precise grids.

Hunting parties.

Out of a quadrant to the east, a monument suddenly collapses. The lich’s roar is muted since we are so far away, but I know the creature has destroyed another structure in its search for my friends. It doesn’t take me long to find its hulking shape, but . . .

My breath hitches and I grab Kamiron’s elbow. He pulls his gaze from the horizon where we can see the rolling mounds of the Lost and beyond that, the black line of the Onyx. He stares down at what’s caught my attention.

Two hulking shapes crisscross the Necropolis’ streets. Two liches stalk Zakk and Dace.

Kamiron’s voice is flat, emotionless. “Let’s get inside before we’re seen.”

A vast arch marks the entrance. Ugly sigils trace the arch’s rim. As I step past, I avoid looking at them and instead press my palm against my rioting stomach in hopes that I don’t vomit. Inside, the scent of orchids hits me and for a second I falter, startled. It’s a pleasant fragrance, like a perfume from an expensive air freshener; yet beneath it I detect the faint aroma of decay and rot. No amount of freshener can mask that.

I blink and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness; to my amazement, stars unfurl before me.

Not like the stars I’ve glimpsed on a clear night in the Georgia countryside, but the heavenly bodies of deep space. Bright stars swim in gases the color of fall leaves--plum and pumpkin, crimson and emerald. Planets rotate, nebulas erupt, galaxies collide. I watch a pair of binary stars circle my head. To my left, a supernova collapses under the weight of its own death and transforms into a black hole--a gaping maw so dark that I cannot see it. I can only see the light of the galaxies it swallows.

Gritting my teeth, I force my gaze away and wrestle with the bubbling mass of emotions warring inside me. Staring into the cold eye of the universe makes me realize how small I am. How insignificant. This struggle for life, something that is just a blip, a blink in the unfurling of time--what possible effect could I hope to have with all this death around me? How could I think to take on Andhakar when I am nothing more than an insect? Vayu-Vaata was right: pure arrogance.

You must not despair, Vayu cautions and for once he sounds tender. This place is a temple, one that exists in a dimension at the seams of space and time. It is where the necromancers harness the powers of creation and destruction and bend them to their will. This is how they can animate their abominations.

Then what I’m seeing isn’t real?

Real” is relative, Shari. You base it on your senses. This is beyond sense. It is a manifestation of the primal, elemental forces of existence. When he recognizes that I’m even more confused, a heated breeze ruffles the tight curls at my nape as if he is rubbing away the tension congealed there. View it is as only a room, and that it what it will be.

Clutching his abdomen Kamiron drops to a knees. Ignoring the unfurling cosmos, I kneel beside my friend. His golden skin looks gray, his cheekbones impossibly sharp. Sweat drips from his dark hair.

“Tell me what to do.”

Kudos to my voice for sounding calm when in reality I’m on the verge of a breakdown.

“I don’t know. I guess we need to clean them, but--not here. Still too . . .” He waves his hand in a circle to encompass the starry temple.


A nod.

“Can you even walk?”

Kamiron’s jaw forms a stubborn line and I regret the doubt that had crept into my voice. I help him up and again we face the expanse of swirling galaxies in colors that I’ve never seen before. This time I’m not as overwhelmed by the vastness of the sight and am able to notice more mundane practicalities. Like the polished glass floor. It bisects the vast temple and leads to square metal platforms encased in reflective black glass. Elevators, maybe? They navigate through asteroid clouds with the grace and purpose of starships. I can’t see anyone in them, but I keep my fingers crossed that in turn they can’t see us.

Kamiron wobbles against me and I struggle under his weight. “Should we see where those elevators go?”

“Not really,” I mutter but I sense that whatever this tether is hidden, it’s somewhere below, and the elevators seem to be the only way to get there. I guide Kamiron towards the nearest one. Walking across the glass floor is unsettling. Comets arc above our heads and asteroids spiral about our feet. Space uncoils around us, too vast to see its beginning or end. It’s hard to envision this place as a temple, but I can picture necromancers gathered in circles around a broken moon, chanting in their rituals and siphoning power to animate the dead.

Our shoes make no sound as we scuttle into the elevator. It seems to hover along the bright rings of a gaseous planet as large as Jupiter but the teal color of Neptune.

“See a lever?”

I search the dark glass, but there’s nothing. No buttons, no levers, no instructions. Panic settles in.

“I think it’s activated by magic.”

“And Zakk isn’t here.” Kamiron gurgles and spits on the floor. The metal drinks his blood until it disappears entirely. I clutch him tighter. His hard muscles are tense beneath my hands, and his skin feels wet and unnatural cold.

God, I just want to get someplace safe so I can help Kamiron!

The elevator lurches and to my surprise we start gliding backwards instead of down. The blue planet with the rings like Saturn shrinks as if we’re zooming through space at--

“Warp speed, huh?” Kamiron manages a lopsided grin and then coughs. “How’d you get it to move?”

“I don’t know. I was just thinking of going someplace safe and I guess it heard me?”

Stars become streaks of color that gradually fade to nothingness. Darkness black as pitch absorbs us. I can see nothing and though I feel the strange weightlessness of the elevator’s movement, I can’t tell what direction we’re going much less where we’re headed.

Kamiron sways and I swear my heart stops beating.

“Stay with me, Kam. We’re almost there.”

The elevator gives a hard lurch to the right as if it’s caught on something, and then lights explode around our feet. Moss-green and indigo blossom like fireworks and it takes me a moment to realize the lights are sparks. The elevator seems to have landed on a track of some sort and the rails spark at intervals as we speed along. It’s still too dark to see where we are, but it feels like our elevator has turned into a train.

Just when I start relaxing into the sensation, the bottom drops. Instead of drifting to the right (or maybe it’s forward? It’s hard to tell in the stifling darkness) we’re falling at a steady pace. No sparks light the darkness, but it’s not necessary. Level after level passes us. Arcane laboratories on one, a floor filled with corpses, an empty hallway on another. We’re passing too fast to see much more, but what I do manage to glimpse fills me with dread. There are far too many necromancers, far too many undead canvasing the halls. Thank God they can’t see us, but what if the elevator stops on one of those inhabited floors?

Our elevator halts before a dimly lit level, this one comprised of a single room. There is another lurch as the elevator catches on something and then we’re inching forward on another set of tracks. The room expands around us and finally the elevator comes to a halt near the room’s center.

Wooden coffins and stone sarcophagi lean against the walls. Body parts, dirty jars of strange liquid and pottery sit on dusty shelves. Piled in corners are vases of multicolored fabric and stalks of some kind of black, thorny plant. In the center of the rectangular room is a table with dried stains on its surface. Other than the elevator, there is no other entrance or exit.

I help Kamiron stagger to the table where he collapses, flopping onto his back like a boneless fish. As soon as we are off it, the elevator recedes along invisible tracks and a torch above us floods the rectangular room in blue light. I find more artifacts and ornate cabinets with thick wooden doors tucked in the furthest reaches of the room.

“I’m no Zakk, but . . .” I let the sentence dangle as I help him remove his filthy aketon and the shredded shirt beneath. I wince at the bruises and open wounds marring his body. “God, Kamiron, you need stitches!”

“Water,” he grunts. “Clean . . . first.”

I eye our surroundings. No obvious source of clean water, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to trust the liquid floating in the dusty jars. I uncork my flask. Kam’s eyelids flutter closed as I work. It’s the first time I’ve really gotten to explore his body. I’ve seen it, of course. He’s buff, his stomach rippling with muscles, his pecks well-defined but . . .

Water clears away most of the blood and I finally see the extent of shallow cuts and then the blue-black bruises that spot his gold flesh like polka dots. I can deal with those soon enough, but it’s the blood that continues to ooze from a trio of deep and precise stab wounds that has my hands shaking and tears stinging my eyes. Since he’s still alive, I’m relieved they’ve missed his vitals, but there’s no way he’ll survive much longer if I don’t find a way to close them.

“Kamiron . . .” I don’t know what to say. I’ve never stitched someone up before.

“You’ll do fine, Shari. Need bandages. Needle. Thread. Some kind of fire.” Pain cuts off any other instructions and Kamiron faints.

I circle the room, steering clear of the mummified remains and the coffins, I search the shelves, vases and cabinets. I’m able to find something that can pass as thread, and even bandages. A needle was too much to hope for, but the black thorns in the vases have sharp points. I snap one off and hurry back to Kam.

He’s slipping in and out of consciousness.

Fire. I need fire to sterilize my makeshift needle.

If you stand on the table, you may be able to reach the lantern, Vayu suggests. I’d nearly forgotten he was in my head, and I’m grateful for his steady encouragement. I hold up the thorn to the blue flames, hoping that it doesn’t just turn to ash. The tip turns white with heat and once I’m satisfied it’s sterilized, I climb down and gape at Kamiron’s wounds.

Focus on the task at hand. Follow my instructions.

Vayu guides me as I tie the thread to my makeshift needle and pierce Kam’s skin. He shrieks, regaining consciousness for a second before passing out again. Tears roll down my cheeks but I don’t stop until my task’s complete. Wiping off my bloody fingers on a nearby cloth, I wrap Kamiron’s waist and arm with the shreds of fabric I retrieved from the vases.

Exhausted, I search for something to sit on, but there’s only the coffins, so I prop myself up next to Kamiron and wait for him to stir.

A knee prods me in my lower back and I jerk upright, embarrassed I’d dozed. Kamiron tries to sit up but grimaces and clutches his abdomen. Sweat beads across his skin as his eyelids flutter closed.

“Sorry,” I offer, but he dismisses the apology with a weak wave.

“Thank you. I know it wasn’t easy.”

The flames flicker around us and I look towards the dark rectangular opening from which the elevator came. “Think they’ll find us?”

Though I don’t say their names, I know Kamiron understands whom I’m referring to. He doesn’t open his eyes as I dab the sweat from his brow. “We’ll have to go without them.”

I bristle. Kamiron senses my anger and forces his lids to open. Despite his obvious pain, his grey eyes are like granite as they meet mine. “You knew it might come to this.”

“They’re not dead.” But I can’t hold his gaze as I say this and my voice lacks true conviction.

A calloused hand dwarfs mine. “I never said they were, Shari.”


Kamiron dons his bloody shirts wincing only slightly at their wet stickiness. “Do you sense the tether?”

I escort all thoughts of Dace and Zakk to a small compartment in my mind and shut the door. I have a job to do, after all. I fill my lungs with deep breaths. The air, though stale, isn’t cloying and while I still smell orchids and the taint of rot, I also smell citrus. Tangerines, actually. My seeking senses blossom around me, expanding outward like a bubble. I feel the electric buzzing almost immediately. It hums between my toes and vibrates along the arch of my feet.


Kamiron’s leather pants hisses as he stands. His knees wobble and he grabs the table. Pain ripples across his face but he only grits his teeth and straightens. I watch as he takes an experimental step. His muscles tense, and his jaw works, but he seems to move with only a little stiffness. I follow him towards the only opening to the room, the elevator shaft. It’s a dead end, a blank expanse of wall. We look up to a shaft leading up into darkness. There is no way to climb the wall, no ropes, nothing.

Kamiron gives the room behind us a cursory once over and frowns. “We could try the elevator again . . .”

A loud noise, the clank of something catching, vibrates along the walls of the elevator shaft. I spot the outline of a sinking metal platform.

“Is that you?”

“I thought it was you,” Kamiron admits.

We retreat from the opening and back into the room. From the shaft, laughter cuts the air and I recognize the vaguely Australian cadence.

“You should have killed her when you had the chance,” Kamiron scolds.

“I wasn’t sure I could kill her.” I give him a pointed look. “I’m still not.”

“Then let’s get out of here.”

“How? The only way out is the elevator, Kamiron. This isn’t like in the movies where a secret passage conveniently appears just when the heroes need it most.”

He ignores me and paces about the room in a circle, all earlier stiffness forgotten. His eyelids lower, his thick lashes kissing his high cheekbones. “There’s something--”

Behind us we hear a click and suddenly a dark glass encasement appears at the room’s opening.

“Look who I found!” the necromancer says, her voice gleeful and triumphant. “With the amount of blood I smelled in the temple, I had my doubts, but I’m relieved you are still alive. For now.”

Zakk had warned us that our blood would call to the necromancers. I can see the outline of her leather belts through the glass as the elevator drifts forward. I curse and my panic ratchets up another level. “Kamiron--”

He doesn’t acknowledge me or the approaching necromancer. His head tilts as he paces before a row of coffins. “It feels different . . .” he trails off, taking a step forward. He pauses, frowning, and steps back. “Kotti--here.”

His eyes fly open and he’s pushing the maple lid from a coffin. I cry out, expecting a revenant to burst forth and maul Kam’s face, but as the lid scrapes across the coffin and clatters to the floor, it reveals a narrow ledge with a rope ladder dipping down into darkness.

I’ll be damned.

Kamiron found a way out.

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