Chapter 17 (Part One) - Warning

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The mine was pitch black about ten feet in. It stopped the rain pelting us, but the wind gusted through the entrance and whipped around us. It was better than nothing, but my body, accustomed to the heat, shivered uncontrollably.

Tobin trudged into the blackness waving for the rest of us to stay put. After a minute, he must have found something. A noise like something dragging over the gravel came closer. He materialized from the darkness holding up a large board of wood like a prized catch.

"It'll do," he said, and then he propped it over the entrance, wedging it in. It was still drafty, but at least the worst of the wind ceased. "There's more wood back there. We need a fire."

"We can't have a fire in here. The smoke will kill us." Mindy stood with her arms crossed.

Tobin pointedly looked at the entrance before saying, "I doubt anyone would consider this an enclosed space." Mindy continued to stare him down. "There's plenty of ventilation in here, and we don't need to make a huge fire."

As if to prove his point, the wind gusted, and even with the board, my hair blew across my face. Mindy harrumphed and sat down, and Tobin headed back into the darkness.

Since it didn't look like Mindy would help and Eluena was already pulling out her bedroll so she could put on dry clothes and get warm, I helped Tobin with the wood for a fire.

Only a few feet back in the darkness, the ground plunged downwards into the hillside. Pangs of danger rang beat across my chest. Stories of toxic gases killing small children who had stumbled into these abandoned mines ran through my mind.

"Should we be going this far in?" I squeaked.

"I've been back this far. It's fine." He kept moving forward. "Or if there is a poisonous gas, it can't be that bad." He let out a wry chuckle.

I wasn't amused.

"Speaking of poison. Nightbane. Where did you get that?" he said from somewhere ahead of me. I followed his voice, my eyes adjusting to the lack of light.

A pile of lumber was along the side, only apparent when I was right next to it. He loaded my outstretched arms. "Mindy's mother gave it to her. She said to use it if anyone threatened her."

"Sounds like not everyone is completely unaware of what the Elders are doing," he said as he turned to get more.

He put a third piece of wood in my arms, the old mossy wood making my shirt wet. "Yea, my mother left me a note."

The thought of my mother's note struck me like a lightning bolt to my heart. My book!

I dropped the wood and ran back to the front. My stomach was in my throat. No. No. No. I grabbed my satchel and threw the flap open. My open bag told me what I already knew. My book and my mother's letter weren't there. They lay together in the bottom of the hole.

In Redwater.

I fell back onto my bottom, swallowing, my mouth dry.

Everyone gathered around me. Tobin dropped a few pieces of lumber a few feet away. Confusion written all over his face, his forehead wrinkled beneath those longer curls.

"What's the matter?" Eluena crouched by me, concern flashing in her eyes.

I turned my head, a numbness creeping over my flesh. "My book. My book is still in the hole."

"Is that all? You and that damn book. We can find you another," Mindy chortled.

My eyes cut to her. Sometimes she had no clue. "It's not about the damn book. It's my mother's letter. The warning she gave me. It was in the book." I swallowed the bile threatening to rise. Curling my arms around my stomach, I leaned over my knees, rocking. I didn't wait for Mindy's response. It didn't matter if she understood or not. If she said another word, I'd strangle her.

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