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Descending the stairs was easier after Blake allowed her to light one of her stakes on fire to light the way.
“The fire announces our presence to all the demons a mile away,” Blake told her as he held her hand securely in his. “If you can see through my eyes you wouldn’t need it.”
“See through your eyes?” Vivienne asked, wondering if this was really the time for a lesson in basic demon bonding 101.
“Like the blind witch uses her goat,” Blake told her, with a curt nod as though this was obvious. “Not to worry, the demons here can sense it’s to their best interest to let us pass. Not unless they want to serve as a very welcomed aperitif.” In the light of her torch, Vivienne saw the fangs reappear under Blake’s lips. She could sense his hunger for blood - demon blood, human blood - it made no difference.
Vivienne felt her skin crawl as she saw the flicker of demon eyes blinking back at her from the darkness. Some of them were rather beautiful, in all sort of colors. They were eyes that might have been human once. Vivienne tried not to think too hard about it. She tried to keep looking forward. The path forward split off and led into different corridors. It was a maze that one could get lost for an eternity in. Blake continued moving with confidence as though he knew the caves here like the back of his hand.
“Are you sure we’re not lost?” Vivienne asked.
Blake motioned for her to stay silent as he listened. “We have company,” Blake said. “Humans. Do I have your permission to resolve the problem? It can be quick and painless.”
Vivienne rolled her eyes. “No, absolutely not.”
“Very well,” Blake said, impatiently. “But can I remind you that at this point of the journey there can only be one survivor. They’re all just walking and breathing corpses now.”
Vivienne stared into the darkness. “Even so, I’m not ready to start acting like a murderer yet,” she said. As Vivienne turned back to face Blake she realized that he was gone. She heard the flutter of wings nearby and she sighed. “Fine. Go ahead, throw your tantrum, brat.”
Vivienne saw a pair of figures appear in the darkness. They were using the Strigoi wood as a light. There was one short figure and one tall and stately one. It wasn’t Zissa and Asher. The short one was carrying a cane made of Strigoi wood with what looked to be skull carved onto of it. The bottoms of his shoes also lit up with blue-gold with his every step. Vivienne groaned. There was only one person she knew of who was the vain. Just as she recognized him, he also recognized her. Jonathan appeared before her. It was his companion who Vivienne didn’t expect to see. Her reptile crawled beside her. It was Yasmin. What were the two of them doing together?
“Viveen!” Jonathan yelled out nervously. “Hey, imagine seeing you here. You got pretty far for someone so green.”
Vivienne had a feeling he wasn’t coming in peace. Beside him, Yasmin smiled a blood-thirsty grim.
“You’re conspiring with the Lethes now?” Vivienne asked. “Have you been working with them all along?”
“No way!” Jonathan yelled. “I would never, but you know there are only two seats on that boat and no way and I going to get on it if I went about all this alone. You know, a man has to do what he has to do to survive. And Yasmin here agrees that if the price is right, loyalties can be flexible.”
“So you’re selling out Asher?” Vivienne asked.
Jonathan smiled. “I love the man but I’m not dying for him. Sorry, Viveen. Only space on the boat for two. Nothing personal, okay?”
“Wait!” Vivienne said, raising her hands to shield herself as Yasmin motioned for her reptile to attack. “I can help you. You’re going the wrong way. If you keep going this way, the other kids are going to find the boat first.”
“And you want to help us?” Yasmin asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Better than to die,” Vivienne said, nervously. “I swear, I’m too much of a coward to plot against you.”
Jonathan nodded. “Verified, she’s a coward. She won’t hurt us. She’s just Zissa’s punching bag.” Jonathan motioned for her to lead the way into the darkness. Yasmin grabbed Vivienne by the shoulder and gave her a rough push. Vivienne slowly began walking.
Vivienne noticed that Jonathan’s pockets were full of stakes. She recognized those marks by Nicole’s paring knife.
“Where’s Nicole?” Vivienne asked.
“Dead,” Jonathan said. “Why waste good Strigoi wood, right?” Jonathan gestured to his blood splattered pants. “It’s a massacre back there. The little pipsqueak was the only one I could take down. So, I put her out of her misery.”
Vivienne bit her lip and continued to walk. She couldn’t get Michael’s face out of her mind. She had promised him to bring his sister back. In the distance she heard the fluttering of wings. She followed the sound only she could hear. She was going to have to trust Blake to lead her from afar. Still playing the angel of mercy? Blake’s deriding voice appeared inside her head. I could make it quick. Or, if you would like, I could make him squeal like a little pig. Your choice, beloved.