Exposure Level 2 - 10 | iv

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Sven checked the wound in his side. The gash was deep, but it was healing. He stood in a stone tunnel cut off from the outside world. One of his men had tripped another booby trap. It triggered a cave-in that saw the stone roof above them buckling. On the other side of the rubble that had him trapped, there was one survivor. His injuries were grave, and Sven could feel it. The man had minutes to live. None of Salvay's men made it out alive.

As it stood now, Sven had lost more than half of his pack. First to the abomination he created at the manor, then to the attack on the prison and the fight at the portal. To the trip here, he lost six—Sven looked at his arm as another sign disappeared—that made seven men lost to this hell bound trip. On their journey to the temple, Sven felt as another six died. Men he sent into hiding to preserve his ranks. He had to figure that Marx and his pack found them. Sven gritted his teeth. So far, all of his plans have been countered at every angle. If Marx were to find out about the full extent of his abilities, Sven knew he would be in trouble. He felt a little desperate for this plan to work, and he hated it. Sven did not like the feeling of being backed into a corner.

Passerini had Pentorium in a frenzy. The distraction that the impending threat of exposure provided gave them—Salvay and Sven—a much-needed head start. By the time Marx and his pack found out what they were up to it would be too late to stop them. Crossing this desert was a treacherous endeavor.

Since stepping on the sands of Zanu, they have been fighting for their lives. Salvay never mentioned how dangerous this journey would be. Then again, he hadn't mentioned much overall. The only thing Sven knew was that Salvay had an artifact. One that could open another door to Lansguard. The problem was that it was incomplete. For it to work, they needed the four gems that powered it. To find the stones required magic that Salvay did not have at his disposal until he made a deal with Sven. It took hours and a massive amount of energy to penetrate the magic that had this location protected. Then there were the revenants. Powerful beings that materialized from the sands. They made it to the temple by their sheer will to live. If it had been a trial for Sven, it would be an absolute death sentence for any who came after them.

Inside the temple, they feared no better when it came to staying alive. Booby traps were everywhere, placed to maim and kill. For a split second the question of whether or not it was worth it popped into Sven's mind. He dismissed it. Getting the Book of Shadows was worth all the risks he took, all the lives lost. All the lies he had to tell.

One thing nagged Sven, though, and that was the thought that Salvay had more up his sleeves. More than just reclaiming his long lost home. Salvay was not a man of sentiments. He was a man of means and opportunity. A man with lofty ambitions. A man arrogant enough to burn his bridges while he stood on it with much to lose. That meant there was a greater gain to be had from opening this portal. A gain that had nothing to do with the sentiments of 'home.' It was Sven and Salvay now, and the knife that hung over both their heads. Who would grab the hilt first was an open question.

"The stones are somewhere in this temple."

Salvay's voice got Sven's attention. The vampire had little time to react as Sven grabbed him, throwing his against the stone wall. Sven pinned Salvay against it with his forearm pressed into the man's throat.

"I lost good men," Sven said. "And for what?"

"A chance to make more," Salvay answered. "Men greater than you can imagine."

"I can already create my own men." Sven snapped his teeth together.

"Can you make them permanent?" Salvay challenged. "You get a week at best before they die. With the Book of Shadows, you can perfect it." Salvay smiled. "You won't need a woman to spawn the first."

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