"Give or take a few miles."

She gave him the look again.

"We don't have measurements on our maps like humans do."

"Because that would be too much work," she said mockingly as she shrugged. "I'm going to hunt. We'll meet up and leave when I get back."

"You may need more than just animal blood," Steele said stopping her at the door.

"I'll take my chances." Maybe one day she would explain to him why it was better that she did. Nerina rubbed the back of her neck feeling on edge. She felt like she wanted to crawl out of her own skin.

"Cold feet?" Steele asked.

"More like a slow descent into madness."

They covered the distance at preternatural speed never having to stop and go to ground because the sun was coming up. Because of that, they made good time. Covered more distance than just a few miles. Steele could not carry the map so he had a list of all the landmarks and realms they had to pass by and through to ensure they were going the right way. His spiritual journey had been a shortcut in and not the long way around.

In the unnamed realm where the dungeon was, their movements were careful. The werewolves would have left the woods as their first line of defense.

"How did they get through this?" From a distance, the forest looked calm and safe enough. With her heightened senses, she could feel the—things—hidden within. They were moving, aware of their presence.

"They have a witch, Camorra."

From his tone, she knew one thing for sure. "You don't like her." She had had her own encounter with a particular female witch.

"She was a spy. Camorra helped Duncan take the city. My sire trusted her and she betrayed him."

Scarred by her experience with her sire, Nerina still found it strange the relationship he had with his. It was like a father and son type of relationship. Eve had been more of a tormentor than a mother. Nerina drew her swords. She all but lopped off her hair when she pulled them out; the blades as sharp and thin as paper.

"How's the sheath." He had given her a leather sheath for her sword that she wore on her back. It freed up her hands to do other things.

"If I don't slice open my own neck I'll let you know." Beneath the sarcasm and toughness, she liked it. It was touching that he had even thought to get it for her. He had showed her more kindness in the days they had spent on their expedition together than she had received in years. Maybe to keep her distracted from the danger she was about to face or out of some genuine flicker of friendship. It did not really matter.

Standing just within the trees now, Nerina took a deep breath. At any moment, they would be rushed from all sides. They continued walking on high alert aware of all the things that stalked them silently. None of them made a move in their direction.

"Something is off." This declaration came from Steele.

Nerina could not deny the bead of cold sweat that ran down the center of her back. That was not the kind of thing she needed to hear when walking into mortal danger.

A ghost materialized in front of them, its hair a whirlwind of white blowing from its body though there was no wind. Its mouth and eyes were sloppily sewn shut. As it moved out of their way to float off to their left, other ghosts in various shapes of mutilation materialized around them. On either side, they flanked Steele and Nerina, not moving towards them, their heads keeping a track of the two as they continued to move. Nerina could feel the cold seeping into her bones, her breath coming out in an icy fog as she and Steele walked among them.

Steele stopped first. Nerina looked over at him puzzled before following his gaze to where he was looking. A ghost, a young woman, stood in front of them. While the others stood to the side, she was directly in their path. Unlike the others, too, she was not mutilated.

"Amara."

In Nerina's mind, she cursed. If this woman was now a ghost, it could only mean one thing. She was dead. They had been too late to save her. Her mind went to the others wondering if they were too late for them as well. He approached her saying nothing as if in a trance.

"Amara?"

"Steele." Her voice sounded far off.

He reached for her, his fingers going through the insubstantial misty form.

"Steele, I'm not dead. Duncan has me."

That had his shoulder straightening. "Where are you?"

"You can't save us all. Me or them." The voice seemed to be moving further and further away from them. The apparition itself started to float backward.

Steele followed it as Nerina hung back uneasy about the whole situation. During the time he had been talking to her, the entire forest had closed in with them in the center. Caught up as he was, she doubted Steele had noticed. Amara had been a distraction to keep them in one place while they were being surrounded.

"Where are you?"

"You can't save us all."

"Amara." Steele shouted her name as her form slowly faded away.

"I need to find her," Steele said, swinging around. It was then he realized what Nerina had for some time now—they were surrounded.

"Seems your lady friend was a distraction." Nerina resisted the urge to slap him.

"I need to find her."

"She was a distraction," Nerina said taking a step forward. "Don't you see that?" She could feel Steele drifting further and further away from their initial cause. They were not going to be storming into the dungeon when he thought his woman needed saving elsewhere. Nerina could see he had made his decision, but that did not stop her from being the voice of reason. "The whole thing was a trap and Duncan knew you would have fallen into it because of your feelings for her."

"You don't understand anything."

"I understand losing the ones you love Steele. Focus." He was going to get them killed.

"I need to find her."

Steele blurred in the direction they had come in fighting his way out of the forest. Nerina, surrounded, trapped and alone fought her hardest to stay alive.


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