Chapter 32 - Into the House of Night

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Silent as a tomb.

No one spoke aloud or even dared breathe too deeply as they walked the Paths of the Dead and into the Citadel of Night. Jaylina wondered how many souls had followed this course over the ages, since the beginning of time.

Now she found herself walking the same path before her own mortal time had passed, and thus, not for the last time. She kept Aiden close to her side. Bellamy walked behind, marveling at every detail like a tourist in a haunted museum.

Michael led the way with the Sword of the Sun drawn. Its flame played viciously on every surface it touched in this cold domain. Its light was not welcome here.

"She's waiting to trap you, Michael," whispered Jaylina.

"I know," he replied.

Jaylina stared at him, bewildered. Since their souls had merged for those long moments together, she thought she would have understood him better than before, but in fact, quite the opposite had occurred. She couldn't read him at all. He radiated a strange aura of calm. She found herself thinking everything was going to be all right.

They entered a great and misty hall filled with dark trees that formed a canopy fading into the impenetrable gloom above.

Will-o'-the-wisps winked softly on and off around them, fading in and out in gentle rhythms that made Jaylina sleepy.

"Stay on the path," whispered Michael.

Jaylina looked down and understood Michael's comment. There was no floor, save for the path they walked. The thick trunks of the trees descended into a darkness so deep they could see no bottom. A devilish trap that could not impede a floating spirit such as herself. This trap was made specifically for a mortal form. For Michael.

But the forest looked centuries old. How long ago must have the saplings been planted to form this ancient forest!

How long had the Shadow Queen been waiting for a man who had not been yet born when she laid this trap?

It made no sense.

Then Jaylina realized the truth of it. The path itself was the trap.

Before she could give warning, the path crumbled away, and Michael fell.

Shadows converged from behind every tree, from branches high above, from the depths beneath like spiders enveloping their prey.

She gasped as they each were bound and pulled down through the mist and into the darkness: two tethered spirits, a young free soul, and a mortal man.

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