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September 26, 2022

Good Morning? 47

By Lydia Manx

I must have spaced out because Riley snapped his fingers in my face. "Esmeralda, focus here. You can't go down into those mines. Even if you calculate the jump correctly, you still could find yourself trapped."

Nice of him to remind me of what had already been one of my major worries whirling around in my brain. I sighed and said, "Yeah, sure."

Granted it was my bratty voice, still he bristled and growled, "Knock that shit off. Emma, really!" He hadn't returned to the chair by my desk once he'd wigged out a bit. I had found myself standing out of self-preservation if nothing else. Werewolf or not, he was one big-ass creature and his concerns were making him radiate heat when he first reacted -- to me overreacted -- but then I wanted to find out more and wasn't overly troubled by many facts. Riley knew things he hadn't shared yet and that, I think was adding to his stress.

Reluctantly, I admitted to myself that it was quite possibly a very bad idea for me to pop down into the huge mining tunnels beneath the earth. A thousand feet wasn't exactly a little bounce and the only known exit I'd found near where I wanted to be was the elevator shaft. My backup plan involved me going up that way if I found I couldn't pop up once I got there. I had been quietly musing about that, to his growing disgust. I could see it when I glanced over at him.

He hadn't flipped over to his werewolf nature, but it sure looked to be closer to the surface of his skin than I'd cared for -- werewolves were unpredictable, and Riley already was pissed off at having been sent to basically babysit me. The warmth his anger had given my small house was fading as the blizzard continued to dump snow on us. The furnace hadn't made a sound since the power went out in the area so there must have been some electrical component to the system I didn't know about. Who was I kidding? I didn't have a clue how the furnace heated the house and it wasn't like I stayed anywhere I wasn't comfortable for long.

Riley gave his own sigh but it sounded more like a pout to me. He was obviously waiting for me to say something, but I didn't think mentioning his pouting was a good conversational gambit. I liked my skin unscathed, so I resisted poking him with my comments and tumbled through a few stray thoughts before I latched onto what I could say.

"Okay, so you are here to help me find out about the crypt, something in the mines that knows the local werewolves that you've already angered. And there may or may not be anything down there. Do I have all that right?" I was a bit nasty but that summed everything up in a nutshell. He was trying to force me to reconsider my popping into the mines, but everything he said just reinforced to me that there were more than likely many answers for me to find.

He raked his fingers through his thick head of hair, and with quick strides he began to pace behind me. That was unnerving because the nape of my neck was tingling, and everything inside me was urging me to flee. I hated feeling weak and helpless, but an upset werewolf certainly wasn't anything that I wanted to tangle with despite all my physical training. Uncle Harry pointed out long ago that using my brain first, before my fists, was the safest course of action nearly every time. Personally, I liked the idea of fleeing to run again another day -- my favorite option.

Carefully, I turned to face him and said, "Riley, give me more information. Convince me why you think it's such a bad idea. Maybe I won't go."

Pretty much a lie, but then there was a possibility he could say something that wouldn't make me happy, and that I'd decide to stay topside and read books about miners for the next decade or so. The little notion of some creature that escaped its trap below the earth was a slight buzz kill. Besides, I needed more information on how exactly these supernatural prisoners were stored. If there was magic involved, it could really screw up my life. It wouldn't be the first time, and I definitely didn't want it to end up being the last time. The notes had mentioned a dead body down there that the miners had found when trying to get to some better salt. And now it looked like that body hadn't been just some stray human stuck down in the ground, but something otherly. What if it was otherly like I was -- otherly?

"Emma, stop it already. You don't have any clue what you are facing anymore. Before, when you just thought it was a fun place to explore, you already had concerns about popping into the right spot. Now add in the fact that this long-abandoned mine was used as supernatural nuclear storage with fangs, claws and anger -- that has to make you rethink your game plan. I saw the notes and I understand what you think you found. I am here to say that I have a gut feeling there is so much more there than you ever expected." Riley had slowed his pacing and was watching me with a carefully-guarded look. He nearly was pleading, which for that arrogant bastard was saying something. I felt my skin crawl and a tickle of fear push into my thoughts.

My heart raced but I pushed back at Riley with, "Then why are they talking about reopening the mines?"

"Because humans are greedy and stupid!" he thundered out and nearly roared.

I resisted flinching by thinking about the sketches he'd just made. In order to double-check something, I gave him my back and went back to my desk. I took a minute and said, "Okay, so this whole mining area has built-in magic in the layout of the tunnels?"

He joined me and nodded. "Plus," here he trailed off and a frown creased his forehead.

"Plus?? Hello, finish your sentence here, Riley."

Shaking his head, he raked his fingers again through his hair, making me want to take a razor blade and shave his damned head. But I knew from my old high school werewolf companion Bobby that it was pretty useless because they furred up fast. He'd been forever whining about his lush, long hair. Worse than more most of the cheer squad squealers that littered the landscape in my old high school. It was pretty bizarre, but I figured it had something to do with the nature of the beast, so to speak.

"Fine. Plus, the local werewolves may be brokering a deal to start back up the storage and need to have easy access again. From what I could find out before I got here, it's hard to get in there now even with all the right connections. An active mining crew could easily pave the way for supernaturals to be put back down in cages." He looked at me, waiting for my reaction.

"Nice. So I gather like that the local werewolves get money or something for this little enterprise?" He wouldn't meet my eyes, but shrugged his shoulders, neither disagreeing nor agreeing with me. "So yes or no -- are there still creatures down there or just legend?" I cut to the chase. I needed to figure out the truth from the fiction fast.

"Damn it, Emma, why won't you just take my word for it and leave? This mess is beyond anything you ever have encountered." This was a new one, Riley actually pleading with me. His anger had retreated a bit and in its place, oddly enough, was concern and worry. That alone made me stop a heartbeat, and try to find out if they were ill-placed thoughts or valid. Way too much to absorb quickly, but I wasn't left with much choice.

Waiting, I continued to look over the notes and pages on the desk. Something in Riley's notes bugged me -- and not just that they were in Latin. Dead languages were great and all, but I wasn't that up on Latin anymore. I'd grown dependent on translations due to the time constraints in my existence, and that Uncle Harry was happy to point me in the right direction. Now it seemed my direction was off-kilter, because Riley wasn't coughing up much information.

Regarding one of his notes I asked, "What's this say?" I pointed to the scribbling he'd done in the margin of his map.

Laughing, he said, "Here be dragons."

"No way. You just said that to freak me out." His eyes were dancing as he figured out that I was relying on him for a change. I felt a growl of my own rumbling in my throat.

Meeting my eyes with a flat stare, his amusement diminished, and he answered, "No, I am not. There is plenty in your notes and what I know that tell me your going down there is not going to be a walk in the park, or a casual stroll through a pretty little museum. Emma, those mines smell of death and destruction even from here."

I resisted audibly gulping and instead scoffed again, "No way."

Riley growled back and said, "Emma, that's it, I am calling Harry."

"Fine, go ahead. And let me take a minute to fill him in on your little escapades," I taunted.

Puzzled he looked at me and snarled, "Mine? What the hell are you talking about?"

He really hadn't paid too much attention to me and my little talents, I guessed. He figured me for a fluffy-headed ditz who couldn't keep two stray thoughts together. Actually, I had a rather good memory and was good at stringing together incidents in a manner that wasn't always perceived. To illustrate, I ticked off on my fingers, "Let's see. You arrived here in a blizzard. And then somehow you managed to arrive at the Wal-Mart in time to seriously harm a manager. You went on to terrorize some street punks at the airport because they had your baggage. You capped the whole little fiasco with getting noticed by the local werewolves, and there is possibly a picture of my safe little house on a camera that some kids have here."

Horror etched his face and he stammered, "That's not right."

"Excuse me? What part of it? Everything happened." I bit back.

"But it wasn't like that." He was looking uncomfortable and a bit confused.

"Sure it was. And Uncle Harry knows me well enough to know I am telling him the truth exactly how I see it. When I add in that you can't be bothered to explain much to me, I can see how he takes your challenge to his simple request to help me stay safe." I pushed the button knowing it could cause a major meltdown, but I hadn't been left with much of a choice.

Watching Riley's face I was slightly amused to see he was turning over what I'd just said with the 'facts' and my spin. I hadn't been lying and I did have everything slanted ever so slightly in my favor. I mean why not?

"Fine, let's go to the living room and I'll fill you in on more of what I know from the stories I've been told about this area." Riley concluded he wasn't going to win this fight, and caved rather than hear what else I had percolating in my little mind. He still had a completely befuddled look on his face, but he wasn't resisting me, and I was pretty sure I'd finally get some answers from the werewolf.

The chill outside didn't seem to bother me even though our breaths were foggy and my nose was slightly numb. I was glowing with happiness at getting my way -- for now. The lights flickered on briefly before going back out. The rooms were dark and the shadows seemed to create hollowed-out spaces of nothing. A perfect setting for story time, I thought while picking up one of the battery-operated lanterns. Riley picked up the other two and we headed to the couch. The wind howled as another burst of chilly snow hit the house, reminding me that winter was here. Settling back, I waited to see if he was going to be able to change my mind about the tunnels.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-08-19
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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