Hello, all! Happy Tuesday!
Underneath Paris, there are miles and miles of old mining tunnels, about 2km of which are currently open to the public. It's been very tricky to research these, so if you happen to know more about the catacombs than I do, please correct me. But when you're trying to hide a couple of werewolves in the middle of the city, underground is the best place (also the scariest place) to do it.
Rose doesn't think it's such a good idea, though.
“Are you afraid of the dark, Rose Estienne?” he scoffed.
Rose did not answer; instead, she tried her best to scowl at him. But she knew that her freckled face had turned white at the sight of the small, black space. It loomed up at her, tantalizingly terrifying, calling for her to set foot in the darkness and lose herself there, never to be found again.
She tore her eyes away and looked back at Avar, who chuckled. This time, she found she could scowl at him.
“If you are so frightened, I will go first. Here, hold the grate open – and make sure to close it behind us.”
“Why should I trust you?”
“What choice do you have?”
Without another word, he thrust the grate into her hands and stepped onto the staircase, descending carefully. Rose thought the darkness was slowly swallowing him as he descended, like some enormous beast with its mouth open, waiting to devour them both. She stood frozen, watching, clutching the iron grate with both hands to keep them from trembling. When his head finally vanished from view, she had to remind herself to breathe.
She was alone now. She could choose to follow him into the blackness, or fend for herself on the streets of Paris, out in the open. The dirty streets would be no more accommodating than the tunnels, but it was more likely that the guards would find her, or that someone would recognize her and turn her in. The darkness below beckoned her silently, temptingly. Had she not always longed for an adventure? To escape the lot in life she and her family had been dealt? Now she had the perfect opportunity – she merely had to conquer her deepest fear –
“Rose?” a voice from the darkness called. Avar’s voice.
And she put a foot onto the staircase. Then the other. She followed him into the devouring dark, into the mouth of the monster. And with a soft clang, she closed the grate behind her, sealing off the light.
She froze when she stepped below the level of the sunlight, one foot halfway off the step, her eyes wide and searching to no avail. It was like being suddenly blinded. She kept staring into the infinite blackness, searching for something, anything, that her eyes could latch onto. But there was nothing – no hint of a change in direction ahead, no outline of Avar waiting for her, just blackness. Reaching out to the side, she groped for the wall, desperate for some direction, and for what seemed a worrying amount of time her fingers touched only air. When her fingertips scraped stone, she gave a sigh of relief, realizing that she had been holding her breath.
Tentatively, she took a step downwards, then another. The wall curved slightly, and Rose realized she was on a spiral staircase, looping around endlessly into nothing. The only sounds she could hear – and she was straining her ears nearly as hard as her eyes, hoping that there would be some clue as to what exactly she was getting herself into – was her own pulse thudding in her head with each panicked gulp of the stale air, and a faint sound that was almost like a whistle, but not quite. It sounded like wind, or someone breathing – panting, perhaps.
A thought seized Rose’s throat and made her stop again. What if Avar had transformed? What if he was waiting as a wolf, fangs bared, at the bottom of the step to kill her? Should she run back up? Would he follow her?
“Rose, what are you doing to take so long?”
Rose jumped, only just holding back a scream; it came out as a strangled sort of squeak. In the darkness, his voice sounded very strange – loud, as though it was right in her ear, but she had no way of knowing just how close or far he was.
“C-coming,” she stammered, barely a whisper.