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Mortal Kiss: Fool's Silver *Chapter 17*
Faye tried to swallow her fear as they crept back down the bell tower steps. Part of her wanted to stay up there, out of harm’s way, but how could she let Finn walk into danger alone? Something was very wrong with this town – wrong enough that both of them knew discovery would be disastrous.
Finn opened the chapel door a crack, letting a shaft of silver light filter into the dusty, abandoned room. He motioned for Faye to stay back in the shadows as he watched what was going on outside. Through the gap, Faye saw more of the townsfolk shuffling past; none of them looked in their direction. It was as if they weren’t really aware of what was around them at all – as if they were on auto-pilot, or something. As they passed, Faye began to realize something else. At first she’d thought that the monsters that had attacked them outside the town – like the one she’d seen from the roof – were different from the miners. But the more people she saw, the more she thought that there was something even more horrible going on. All the men looked gaunt and tired . . . but some more than others – eyes sunk in their sockets, cheeks hollow, hands bent and skeletal. Faye was beginning to think that they were all the same, all slowly turning into those monsters. Gradually, bit by bit, their lives were draining away, until there was nothing left but a dried-up creature. She shuddered, and was about to tell Finn her theory when he turned to her.
‘I think that’s all of them,’ he whispered. ‘We’ll have to follow behind at a safe distance. Are you ready?’
She felt her heart banging against her ribcage, and swallowed hard to control it. She nodded. ‘Let’s go.’
Finn slipped out of the door first, moving quickly into the deeper shadows on the other side of the street. Faye followed, her feet silent in the dust. They ducked and wove through the darkness, tailing the men as they moved slowly towards the looming bulk of the mountain.
The gates of the mine stood open, but even if they’d been shut they wouldn’t have kept anyone out. The wire had rusted through. Faye wondered why the mysterious owner, the Mr Koskay that Jeff had mentioned, didn’t get anyone to repair the damage. Then she shivered as the answer occurred to her: either no one dared enter without an invitation, or any potential thief never made it out again. She tried to push both thoughts to the back of her mind, concentrating instead on not stumbling in the dark.
Before they reached the gate, Finn turned to her, holding one finger to his lips and then ducking down out of sight. She followed his lead and they waited until the last of the men had disappeared into the mouth of the mine.
When the sound of shuffling feet had finally been swallowed up by the mountain, Finn took Faye’s hand and straightened up. Together they dodged through the open gate and headed for the entrance to the mine. The opening disappeared into total blackness. Faye couldn’t help shivering. It looked as if it could swallow a person whole. From far below came the faint sounds of metal striking rock – an eerie chinking sound. Without thinking, she gripped Finn’s hand harder.
He turned back to look at her, his eyes glittering in the moonlight. Pulling her close, he pressed her to him, resting his chin on her hair. After a moment his lips found her ear. ‘You can stay here,’ he told her again. ‘You don’t have to come.’
Faye shook her head. ‘I’m not letting you go in alone. You might need me.’
Finn drew back to look at her face. His serious expression relaxed into a faint smile. ‘Always,’ he whispered. ‘I always need you.’
Pulling away, he took her hand again and they crept into the mine. The ground sloped away immediately. Faye struggled to keep her balance, loose stones skittering from under her feet as they slipped in the thick dust. Finn supported her as they went down the tunnel.
At first the mine seemed completely devoid of light, but as her eyes adjusted, Faye realized there was a yellow glow coming from far below them. It grew brighter as they went on, until she could see her feet, and her hand clutching Finn’s fingers. They saw no one coming towards them – which was good because there was nowhere to hide in the narrow mine shaft, and they would have been caught immediately.
Faye’s heart rate was beginning to slow a little. Whatever they found down here, she told herself, she and Finn could deal with it. Together.
Finn squeezed Faye’s hand as he struggled to focus in the gloom. He didn’t want to scare her, but as soon as they’d entered the mine, something had felt very wrong. He was aware of a sickness writhing in the pit of his stomach, and waves of nausea engulfed him with every step he took. His head began to ache, the blood pounding in his temples like a jackhammer. It must be the silver – now that they were below ground, it was everywhere. It surrounded them, bleeding his energy from him, making him weak . . .
Finn refused to give in to the pain. Faye had been brave enough to follow him into the mine, and he wouldn’t let her down now.
Ahead, the flickering lights showed the miners moving deeper and deeper underground, oblivious to the two people following behind. Finn paused for a moment, just to catch his breath, and leaned against the rock. Faye stopped immediately, placing her hand on his chest.
‘Finn?’ Her worried voice was hushed in the darkness. ‘What’s wrong? Are you OK?’
‘I’m fine,’ he managed, although the pain was suddenly worse, threatening to swamp him. ‘Just . . . just give me a minute.’
‘Is it the silver?’ Faye asked urgently. ‘It’s everywhere. I can see it in the walls – look.’
He tried to focus on what she was pointing at. A few yards from his head he saw a thin silver thread embedded in the uneven strata of the rock. He blinked as the throbbing in his head grew worse . . .
‘Finn,’ Faye whispered. ‘Finn, get up!’ He could feel her warm lips against his ear, but for some reason she seemed very far away. ‘We can’t stay here!’ she was saying. ‘We’ll be caught – we have to move . . .’
He nodded in total agreement, although he couldn’t seem to get his legs to work. He coughed weakly as dust went up his nose, and suddenly noticed that he was now slumped on the ground. He felt arms around him and realized that Faye was trying to pull him up. With a monumental effort, he put one hand against the rock wall beside him, planted his feet, and forced himself up.
His legs had turned to jelly. Faye held him as they stumbled forward a few yards, and stopped again.
‘We have to go back,’ she said. ‘You can’t do this – we have to go back.’
Finn shook his head, screwing up his eyes as he tried to look down into the mine. ‘I’ll be fine,’ he managed. ‘In a minute . . . I just need . . . just need to get used to it . . .’
‘There’s a door,’ Faye was saying, though he struggled to hear her. ‘Look – down there.’
There was another tunnel branching off from the main route into the mine, almost hidden from view in the flickering shadows. Despite his hazy, uncertain vision, Finn could just make out a door. It was white, clean . . . How could anything be clean in this dirt?
He tried to shake his head. ‘We don’t know what’s behind it. And . . . and we should follow the miners. They’re – they’re getting away . . .’
‘You need to sit down,’ Faye was saying as she pulled him towards the door. ‘It’s probably locked, but—’
Her hand reached for the handle. Finn saw it open smoothly, silently, swinging in on itself like something in a dream. There was a blaze of light, and Finn shut his eyes to shield them from the glare.
He stumbled into it, was enveloped by it. And suddenly the pain disappeared, like a tide going out, leaving him lightheaded. He blinked, still weak, though the pounding in his head was gone.
‘Ah-ha,’ said a voice. ‘There you are. Well, well, well. Aren’t you two persistent little American children?’ In the centre of the room stood a tall man, his handsome features chiselled beneath his dark hair. His accent was Russian. Mr Koskay, no doubt. ‘Usually little insect pets are enough to scare people away. And if not, then my sentries take care of unwanted visitors. But I suppose you are very determined, yes?’
Finn was about to tug Faye back towards the door when she let out a cry.
She wrenched herself away from him. Finn’s legs, still weak, buckled without her support. He slipped to the floor and watched her rush across the room. It was covered in white tiles, which glared brightly in the harsh light. Lucas was tied to a chair in the corner. He looked even whiter than the room around him. His eyes were shut, but at Faye’s shout he gave a moan, the sound echoing against the walls. Faye put her hands to his face, calling his name.
Finn looked away, and found Koskay watching him, eyebrow raised, a calculating smile on his face. Finn pushed himself to his feet – to see that the door they’d come through was now blocked by two of the gaunt, zombie-like men who had attacked them as they entered Silver Cross. He looked around. The only other exit was another metal door in the wall to his right. But he’d never make it – not in his weakened state, and not when Faye was over there with Lucas. Finn felt his legs tremble, and cursed.
‘Tie them up,’ Koskay ordered shortly, before striding out of the room.
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