An End of Night(A Shade of Vampire,Book 16)(19) by Bella Forrest
“It’s me,” Corrine said.
“Sorry,” I said, closing the distance between me and my father. He held out his hand for me to take.
“Micah,” my father said, looking around, unsure of where to focus his attention. “Where is the entrance to the chieftain’s quarters?”
“Make it halfway up,” Micah said, “and you will see a number of open tunnels. Start walking down one, and it will lead you toward the center of the mountain. By the time you reach the first chamber… well, you should have met with a wolf already. As soon as you see one, start explaining your reason for being here. Their first instinct will be to attack you, but do all you can to avoid shooting flames.”
“Understood,” my father said. He looked down at me and nodded.
A cold hand squeezed my arm. Then lips brushed against my cheek. “Be careful.” Caleb’s voice.
“I will,” I said.
Then a pair of cold arms wrapped around me. My mother this time.
I rolled my eyes. “It’s okay,” I said. “I’m going with Dad. I would probably manage even by myself.”
My father tugged on me and we hurried toward the mountain. We looked around, wondering how to even start climbing up it.
“Look to your left,” Micah called behind us.
We did, and that was when we spotted the beginning of a wide jagged staircase, etched into the side of the mountain. The steps were wide and very thick—clearly designed for wolves. My father’s legs were long enough to climb them, but I found myself climbing them on all fours, as a toddler would. My father offered to carry me on his back, but I declined. I spent too much time on other people’s backs.
I was feeling breathless by the time we were a quarter of the way up, despite my father and me having superhuman speed.
We paused, looking downward. My stomach lurched at how high up we were. The wind was harsher; it seemed to be getting stronger and stronger the higher we climbed. As a particularly strong gust passed by us, I was afraid that I might be blown away. I gripped the rocks so tight my knuckles grew white.
It was clear when we’d made it halfway up. The stairs gave way to a wide ridge and, as Micah had said, there were tunnels—lots of dark tunnels. I counted seven of them on our side of the mountain.
“Which do you think we should enter?” I asked.
My father pointed to the one nearest to us and led me through it. It was winding and narrow, though not too narrow for a wolf to comfortably travel down. The light outside of the tunnel soon disappeared as we traveled down several twists and turns.
The silence was eerie, the sound of my uneven breathing only adding to my nervousness. I clutched my father’s hand tighter. The tunnel gave way to a large circular chamber with a high ceiling. It was dark, though unlike the tunnel we had just passed through, there were dim lanterns lining the walls. There was a strange musty smell that could only be described as wolf.
“Hello?” my father called out. When nobody responded, he called out again louder this time. Still no sign of anybody approaching.
“Micah said that we should have met one of the wolves by now,” I said.
“We just need to keep looking,” my father replied.
He pointed to the tunnel opposite us. I followed him as he crossed the chamber and entered through it. We passed along more twists and turns until we reached yet another, larger chamber. I could feel the damp of the walls, and it was colder here. I wondered how much further we would have to travel before we reached the center of the mountain.
“Hello?” we called out together.
“Perhaps they are all out hunting,” I murmured.
My father seemed to be distracted by something in the corner of the chamber. I followed his gaze. He was staring at a dark form crumpled on the ground. We moved toward it cautiously. It was a werewolf—in human form. That meant that the sun had risen on the horizon outside. He was a dark-skinned man, thickly built. The expression on his face looked like he was in pain.
“Excuse me,” my father said, his mouth right above the man’s ear.
The werewolf didn’t budge. My father gripped one of his shoulders and shook him. Still no response.
“Odd,” he said.
We continued along another tunnel. The chamber we arrived in this time was filled with more werewolves—men and women alike, all strewn on the floor and unresponsive to anything my father and I did to wake them. We even tried applying heat to their skin. After checking their pulses, we were certain that they were not dead, just in some kind of profound sleep.
I glanced up toward the ceiling, noticing that there was a level above us, lined with a low stone railing.
“Hey,” I said suddenly.
“What?” my father asked, frowning.
“I swear I just saw something stir up there in the shadows,” I said.
My father headed straight for the wall beneath the spot I was staring at. The wall’s surface was rocky and jagged, allowing him to climb up toward the railing easily. He pulled himself over it with a thud and looked around.
“You see anything?” I asked.
I had barely finished my question when my father lurched forward and disappeared out of sight.
“Dad?” I said, holding my breath. “What’s happening?”
There was a struggle, grunting and gravel crunching, and then my father spoke. “It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“No! Let me go!” The voice was young—it sounded like that of a boy.