Together we made our way back to yet another trail in the mines that Uncle Harry assured us was the right direction. I wasn't worried as much as I'd been earlier since I was back with them both and for the most part safely. Not that I wouldn't be having nightmares about the crap I'd seen, but I wasn't going to go walking off track if I could help it. It was slowly dawning on me that I could have quite easily been stuck in the rock concert from hell for eternity or death -- whichever came first.
Riley caught the expression on my face and wisely kept his mouth shut, even though I knew if Uncle Harry hadn't been with us he would have definitely felt obligated to torment me just a bit. I kept walking between them -- Uncle Harry decided to take the lead even without the lights coming on until I approached. Riley trailed behind me after Uncle Harry sent him a look. I knew that Uncle Harry didn't want me getting sucked into another area between worlds. He didn't have to say anything aloud and I wisely kept my mouth shut also. It was a very quiet journey. I wasn't hearing any creatures stirring and there were less and less signs of recent occupants in any of the cells we saw. In fact it was like this corner of the mine hadn't seen anyone for centuries, not decades, again letting me know that I wasn't exactly where I thought I was. The supernatural prison was scary even with a vampire and werewolf for traveling companions.
"Emma, you doing okay?" Uncle Harry called over his shoulder while walking slowly through some huge salt clusters that had been broken free from the walls and what looked like possibly the ceiling. I didn't even want to hazard a guess how big a creature was to knock the salt free from both the sides and top of the large corridor. Maybe the dragon Sapphire had been bopping around in her free time.
Palming my sword to a more comfortable place in my grip I said, "I am okay. Thanks."
Riley had moved up next to me instead of trailing like he'd been earlier, and naturally he'd noticed the shifting of the blade.
"Did you use it over there?" He meant that horrid concert I'd just come from where everyone was prey or predator.
"Hello, no! I am not stupid. The silver could have helped or simply declared me a free lunch. It was not a nice place." I understated while wondering why I hadn't even thought to use the weapon to save anyone.
"Emma, you are right. Had you tried to wield the weapon, more than one of them would have felt it necessary to focus on you instead of the cattle." Uncle Harry didn't usually call humans cattle but it was an accurate comment on the zombie-like stupid humans that lusted after Valentina on stage while they were slain effortlessly with little to no resistance.
Uncle Harry chose to ignore Riley's shift in line and continued to weave and twist through the mine. I noticed that it was becoming more familiar in an odd way. It took me a full minute to figure out what it was that made me feel somewhat more comfortable, then like a puzzle piece it snapped into place in my mind. The walls had started to resemble the human side of the corridors I'd seen in photographs from mining tours, and the cell doors had been replaced with wood frames that led to other mining corridors. We were out of the prison, from everything I was seeing. I kept my lips sealed and waited for further confirmation. I didn't have long to wait.
"Damn, Harry! You did it. We're out of that prison. This is the way we came in, but I don't see that closed door." Riley was looking around and sniffing the air. To my utter shock he stopped and licked a wall.
"Eww! Heaven only knows how many hands have touched that wall!" I felt compelled to say.
Riley laughed and said, "Exactly. I can taste the humanity and look above you -- normal lights!"
I hadn't even noticed that the weird lights that had been lighting my way had disappeared, to be replaced by the typical bare bulb and a string of wires running along the ceiling. Something inside me relaxed and I felt myself breathing a bit easier. Yeah, we were still a thousand feet below Michigan but I didn't feel that itchy spot between my shoulder blades of supernatural others watching us. I hadn't realized how tense it had been making me.
Uncle Harry said, "Look behind you, Riley."
We both did and saw that we'd passed through a door. A closed door at that.
Laughing Riley said, "Okay then, now where?"
"Same way we came in," Uncle Harry answered while walking us to another passageway with another door.
Sighing, Riley said, "Damn that sucks. It hurts like a -- " Seeing the glare on Uncle Harry's face Riley decided not to complete his sentence.
Uncle Harry was muttering softly in what probably was a derivative of Latin. What I overheard from Uncle Harry's soft voice, I changed my thoughts and figured it was Latin because all the Latin always seemed to have too many 'et' and 'num' and 'ems' at the ends of their words. Like they couldn't just say what they meant. It was the intensity of his voice, coupled with a slight accent that sounded nothing like his normal speaking voice that had confused me. Uncle Harry had always sounded like newscasters. It was that well-modulated voice that had come about during the sixties and seventies with all of the country-wide television broadcasts. It dawned on me that he probably taught himself to mimic the local dialect whenever he could as protective covering.
When he completed whatever he'd been muttering he stood back and gestured at the now open door. It had a rippling look as if there was a sheet of water frozen in place. I guess he decided to skip heading towards another pool after my last solo journey. Taking a deep breath I looked at him and said, "Now?"
"Yes, Emma, ladies first." Uncle Harry sketched a hand to the opening while I heard Riley snicker, not even trying to hide his amusement at my being called a "lady," and for that I quickly grabbed his hand and yanked him through with me. That way I figured if the portal went sideways and I ended up between my known world and another ring of hell I would at least have a werewolf to call.
Riley hadn't been kidding. The space between the doorway and the snowy landscape we both stumbled out into really tore every molecule of my body into tiny bits and roughly slammed them back with pain and a nasty taste in my mouth. Made me half wish that I'd licked the salt wall before we'd left the mine. The burst of copper in my mouth alerted me to the fact that I'd nipped my tongue when we stumbled. My backpack was still on me and the hand not gripping Riley had the silver sword. I dropped it when I fell to my knees in the snow not willing to slice my hand open and really feel some pain.
Uncle Harry stepped through and stood right next to me. Looking up at him I saw that there wasn't a doorway behind us, but instead a big ass tree. I shook my head and saw that I was still gripping Riley's hand. He hadn't fallen so my arm was stretched up and he was grinning down at me.
"There she is -- graceful as ever." He chuckled.
I tossed his hand free from mine and pushed up from the snowpack. I was pretty damn cold, and the blizzard that had been raging when we'd gone into the mines had not diminished despite the time I'd been apparently down in the salt mines. My stomach was still heaving up and down from the portal, but I didn't have enough food inside me to voluntarily let anything exit so I choked down the impulse to vomit.
My jacket that had kept me comfortable in the mine wasn't keeping me anywhere near warm in the snow. I'd actually forgotten how bitter cold the blizzard was, and we weren't in the same spot that Star the Fey creature had sent us down, so I didn't see any signs of werewolves or humans waiting. Rubbing my hands briskly up and down my arms, I reached into my backpack and snagged a pair of gloves I hadn't needed in the temperate mine. Once my fingers were able to flex I picked up the blade and looked around slowly.
"And your car is where exactly?" I asked of Uncle Harry.
He smiled and said, "I haven't a clue. This is not where I thought we'd end up. The mine seems to have its own opinion of where we belong."
I remembered that when I first entered the mine it had shut the werewolves off from me. Ever the fun prison, it seemed that the mine had taken on the task of redirecting the exits. Other than the bone chilling wind and the mounds of snow, I didn't much care because we were out and I was pretty sure we were in Michigan. With that in mind I turned to Riley to see him deeply breathing in and out. He saw the question on my face and said, "Yes, we're back in Michigan. We are on the other side of the pack land."
I noticed he didn't mention the dead Alpha so I figured there was some more werewolf politics involved with that. I hoped that Gordon would be okay, but quite honestly if Riley was the only fur face I saw for a few days I'd be more than fine. I didn't think Uncle Harry would let me go very far unescorted for a day or seven at the least.
Riley seemed to shake off something before saying, "I don't think we should head for the werewolves. Without Gordon to back me or their Alpha things could become awkward at best."
Uncle Harry tilted his head to one side and said, "Probably not, but I don't wish to travel beneath the moonlight to disturb the pack. I have made arrangements to compensate them for my visit, but there are some of the younger males that by now know their Alpha is gone. It is more than likely that they will be fighting for dominance until the next full moon."
I saw the moon in the sky and it was just a smidgen past full. I agreed with Uncle Harry's comment. The moon was clear in the crisp freezing air and the stars seemed to be brighter. My eyes were happy that we weren't out in the daylight. After having been in the mine for however many days I knew the sun would be blinding especially bouncing off the white snow. Even with the blizzard raging my luck would have it drop off at dawn and I'd be snow blind before noon.
Riley nodded his agreement and said, "Then we need to travel this way." He pointed past the big tree we'd popped out from and towards even more trees. He began walking the direction he'd indicated and with a sigh I trailed after him. Uncle Harry paused and asked, "Emma, where are you bleeding?"
Oops I'd forgotten about that. I was surprised that Riley hadn't said anything since both predators had a wonderful sense of smell. I gulped softly hoping to rid my mouth of the blood oozing from my tongue into my mouth.
I stopped and pulled one of the containers of water out from my backpack and took a sip. I found a packet of peanuts and tossed them into my mouth chewing briskly. Once I finished nibbling I took another mouthful of water then said, "I nipped my tongue when I fell into the snow."
"The peanuts are not masking the smell, Emma." Riley said while he stood closer to the portal tree than I would.
I shrugged, "Sorry, I am hungry." I'd been missing for a few days, and though it only seemed like less than an hour to me, I now was starving.
Uncle Harry said, "It's okay, my dear."
I snagged out a power bar and first offered it to Riley who said, "No, I'm good. You have it."
I ignored the rumbling coming from inside Riley, and devoured the bar.
"Okay, let's go," I said, zipping up the bag, ready for the journey home.