Looking at me carefully, Kirk repeated slowly, "Esmeralda, this is your last chance to back out. None of us will think less of you if you decide not to go inside. Once we go into the mine there are no guarantees what we'll find."
I stopped for a second and looked at the three tense werewolves that were standing very close to me, and then I glanced over at Star. Star had a nasty little smirk on her face letting me know she'd definitely think less of me than she already did -- which was from what I gathered slightly less than turtle spit. She really was lousy with her glamor or she didn't much care what I figured out. Fey didn't much care for anything human. That also reminded me I needed to ask one of the fur boys why the fey liked natural brunettes, no hair dye and unsculpted -- something that had been said to me earlier made me wonder about that.
Uncle Harry proved he wasn't far from my thoughts as I heard mentally his soft chuckle, then he answered quickly, "Emma, my pet, you have the oddest questions at the oddest moments. Just to satisfy that tidbit of absolute fixation I'll quickly explain."
Needing the distraction, I tipped my head as if I was actually considering bailing on the salt mine, in order to delay any actual movement, and instead listened to my vampire uncle tell me why fey snatched such women. I probably should've saved it for another day, because what he told me disturbed me on a whole new set of levels, given I was going down into the mines and actually had dark brown hair and never had gone under the knife.
"Okay, Emma, the fey prefer natural brunettes with no dye or fake boobs because they are trying to mate. Fey have hard time conceiving, but when there are at times 'ripe' female humans that cross their paths they succumb to the strong breeding temptation. They will even risk having a child more human than fey as long as they can continue their line. But dyes and 'plastic' parts poison the fey seed. The misshapen faces of those who've undergone the knife, the shots and the sculpting -- gives them features no longer recognizable by their immediate family much less their casual acquaintances; but when they cross with a male fey trying to plant a baby the results are far worse. Sadly the poison doesn't always kill the embryo. If born, the child is kept as an example and also because they can't resist the thought that something may fix their offspring. Most of the children go mad, some find a way to kill themselves, but even worse, many live very long lives as mutants to both species." Uncle Harry stopped while I simply tried to breathe; the idea of such poor children was deeply horrifying. It also caused me to wonder if some of those children were stored in the salt mines and left to die.
"She's going to bail," Riley declared misinterpreting my look of revulsion. If the fey didn't kill their children born so screwed up, I doubted they'd abandon them to whatever caused the mines to be closed. No, they had to be elsewhere.
"Screw you, Riley, I was just wondering if you were going to get my back should everything go sideways," I put the snarky voice on and shoved past the frozen Gordon. The look on his face wasn't nearly as settled as Kirk. Gordon, too, had obviously thought I was going to bail, and with my decisive step towards the portal fear had seeped into his mind. When a werewolf gets scared, folks can get killed or worse. The 'or worse' option was mildly distracting but not enough for me to change my mind. One way or the other, I was going to go down into the mine. I wondered if Kirk was the other creature that Gordon was waiting for earlier at the house or if he'd showed up due to something Star had done. I wasn't ready to change my mind and I did have Uncle Harry nestled inside my brain. I wasn't into guns and figured that silver knife that I'd put into the backpack over my shoulder wouldn't do me much good with the age and speed of these werewolves, but at least it was better than nothing. I wondered if silver harmed Star's brand of fey and shoved that thought aside and stepped closer to Kirk.
Kirk put his hand out and I gave him my left hand, somewhat reluctantly. I wasn't comfortable with the thought that if I was frightened, I could possibly pop out of the mine with Kirk in tow. Even considering how big Kirk was in his human form, I was pretty sure a straight shot of adrenaline pumping fear would cause him to transport with me -- unless I tore his arm off. Another disturbing image filtered through my thoughts. Uncle Harry thought back for me to be safe and gave me 'permission' to flee if I was in danger.
I smiled and said, "No time like the present now is there?" They all spun to me and waited until I said, "Well, then let's go."
Looking around the group in front of me, I sure hoped that I could pop out if needed once we were firmly underground. It wasn't as if I thought that they would protect me like I was part of their werewolf pack. Add in that with all my research about the mine, it had never been established as any sort of possibility that the magic that was imbedded in the walls could or couldn't prevent me from fleeing if the need arose. The humans writing the journals and the newspaper articles in the local papers didn't cover the possibilities either. The only thing I knew for sure that I should be able to do, if I didn't get slaughtered by something immediately, would be for me to trek through the miles of the mine and find the old elevator and go a thousand feet topside that way, with or without the claustrophobic werewolves. I hadn't been told precisely where we would land once we stepped through the portal -- a bit of a concern for me. But I wasn't going to ask, either, because Star didn't much care for me and I wasn't sure she'd answer me honestly. My talent for popping here and there could very well be impossible in the cursed mine below, stretching across a few states and parts of Canada. Happy thoughts.
Kirk took me at my word and carefully led me towards the opening across the snow-filled pathway to the portal that Star had magically created a few minutes ago. Kirk and I hit the first dirt step of the abyss that Star had created, and it was what I thought of as a middle-of-the-universe-black-hole dark. There was a bang and a flash of prism colors sparkling and just like that we were falling. I wasn't even breathing. Kirk's hand tightened on mine, and that I could feel the pulse of his blood and the warmth of his werewolf skin, but he wasn't sucking in much air either. It was a free fall, and I wondered if Star had decided simply to kill us rather than deal with our issues. As we continued to fall I could hear nothing but a humming and then my heart jumped as my feet suddenly were touching ground. It was like the fall happened and then stopped and we were simply stepping down to the next step down. I half stumbled at the feeling and then together we both walked forward a foot automatically. My heart was still racing but I'd stopped fretting. I was in the mines and there wasn't anything else to do for now but go forward.
To my surprise we were in a small cave that sparkled with crystal white salt and bits of shiny silvery flecks mixed in a random pattern. I'd never thought silver naturally embedded in salt, so I figured that it was something done when closing the chamber or related to the supernaturals stored beneath the earth. It was roughly the size of an average efficiency and on the wall opposite us was a dark wooden door barred from our side. There was no visible light, yet the space we were in glowed lightly as if a nightlight had been suspended in the corner of the room and lit up the entire area. It was nothing harsh, just a soft illumination. I let go of Kirk's hand and spun back to watch Riley and Gordon step off the step we'd just come from with startled looks on both of their faces. They weren't holding hands but standing far closer than most humans did. I expected to see Riley sprout some fur he was so agitated. He let out a deep huff of air and looked around slowly. I watched his shoulders stay locked in place as he looked and saw that the space behind them was just as black and unforgiving as the one we'd come through. Obviously the portal went both ways -- for now. He didn't seem any more assured than I did. Star had only promised us three hours. Knowing that, I looked at Riley and asked, "So what time is it?"
Automatically he glanced down at his wrist and said, "Half past."
"Half past what?" I grumbled, trying to defuse my worry.
"Something o'dark. I haven't reset my watch since one of the stops on the way here from California. Not precisely sure." He looked disturbed by that for some reason. I didn't have a clue what hour it was myself, so I wasn't going to judge.
Gordon shook his head and said, "It's half past ten." The look on his face was disgusted, which I took to mean he wasn't overly happy with Riley either. I bit back a smile knowing that Gordon was not in the least pleased with Riley. Silly, granted, but I'd take it.
Well, all of that also explained why Uncle Harry had so easily caught my thoughts. Time had been weird for the past day or so through no fault of mine. Because I knew that a vampire who was in California -- Uncle Harry -- could tap into me easily. Plus it was during the winter so it was already dark and cooler out there, not nasty like the blizzard running over Michigan. Here it was well past freezing, and from what Gordon said not as late as I'd thought. I didn't bother to tell them I'd been off by an hour or so. The day had sunk unnoticed by me into frozen night and the blizzard's snowfall had kept me from seeing the sun, so I figured it wasn't exactly my fault.
The dark portal stayed there behind the two werewolves as Gordon and Riley walked into the room where Kirk and I had landed -- there really wasn't any other word for it in my opinion. I was somewhat relieved until I heard a roar from the other side of the door. That was not in the least reassuring us that we were alone inside the mine. I wanted to ask the werewolves if they had any idea what was going on, but they all had equally puzzled expressions on their faces. Not in the least a good thing in my little book of life! Mentally I reached out for Uncle Harry and was shocked for the first time in the longest time to find absolutely nothing. Not even a light static. Just empty brain. Something nearly snapped in me as it dawned on me I wasn't in Michigan any more as far as my vampire link was concerned. I bit my lower lip and wondered if I should try to pop out of the mine, but figured that would be stupid. There was no way I'd be able to convince the werewolves to let me back in through a portal -- and with my inability to reach Uncle Harry I wasn't sure I could pop out of the mine, either.