“What is this?” she asked. “Where are we?”
“We constructed a magical maze,” Van said. “You are standing at the center of our creation, and there is a solitary exit at the end. Soon, the wolves will be released into the maze at different points. It’s possible you could find the way out without battling more than one or two, but take care you don’t find yourself caught between them.”
Desperate to stall, she asked, “Can you set Keisha up with a Mock Battle soon? She thinks she’s getting rusty.”
“Keisha is a banshee. They don’t get rusty. She just wants to kill something, but she’ll have to wait. There are others that need Battles more than she does.”
He disappeared, leaving her alone in the maze, and she stood frozen for several seconds while he used the Spirit Realm to leave the maze. Any moment now the werewolves would be released. Then what? How was she going to survive this?
Bay-Lee pulled out the poisoned comb Keisha had loaned her. She also had her favorite dagger hidden in an ankle sheath beneath her pant leg. If she hurried and chose her path wisely, maybe she wouldn’t have to face any of the wolves.
She took a quick walk around the half-finished room. There were three small openings leading to hallways that looked the same. Three options. If she chose wrong, it could mean death.
Pressure built. Her heart thundered in her chest, and the longer she paced the more she felt like she needed to pee. If she didn’t make a decision soon, the werewolves would all find her at once. They’d rip her to shreds, and her father wouldn’t lift a finger to save her.
She stopped in the middle, and her gaze moved from opening to opening. Bouncing on the balls of her feet, she silently screamed at herself to pick one. Just pick one!
Without thinking, she ran through the nearest opening and plunged down the long hallway. She took the first detour she found. Another hallway. Next, she chose to use the last opening.
She retraced her steps in a sprint.
A growl floated to her on the wind. Or was it her imagination?
Panic set in, and she realized she was running in circles. If she didn’t stop to create a plan, she’d continue to repeat the maddening process.
She took out her dagger and carved an X into the wall. Every time she entered a new area she did the same thing. The sight of the X near an opening warned her to continue on to the next. Better than bread crumbs. At last she felt like she was getting somewhere.
In the distance she heard several giant paws pounding the ground, and her heart skipped a beat. The werewolves were inside the maze. They were closing in on her.
She ran faster.
A huge, hairy beast appeared at the end of the hallway she was using.
Bay-Lee slid to an abrupt stop. She pulled out the poisoned comb and temporarily sheathed her dagger. A single weapon was all she needed at the moment.
The werewolf stamped a foot like a bull preparing to charge. At least it was alone. She could run the other way, but she was almost positive the thing was blocking her escape route. If the only way out was through the monster, she would go through the monster.
Besides, she didn’t want to get caught between two of them.
She held up the poisoned comb and ran straight at the werewolf.
The thing seemed surprised. Ears cocked, it tilted its head to the left and stared at her. At the last second before she reached the werewolf, it solidified its stance. Back arched, mouth snarling, it got ready to pounce.
It leaped at her.
She hit the ground as if sliding into home plate with bases loaded. The wolf sailed over her, while she went under it. In her mind it happened in slow motion. She lifted the comb and pricked the monster’s furry stomach.
By the time the werewolf landed, it was stone cold dead.
Hands on knees, she tried to catch her breath and wondered how much poison was in the comb. Could it be used more than once? She should have asked Keisha. It wouldn’t be good to find out the hard way that the comb needed to be recharged or reloaded or something.
Since she didn’t know if the comb was immediately reusable, she traded it for her dagger. Time to return to business mode and find her way out of the maze.
It didn’t take long before she found new hallways without an X on the walls.
An occasional growl reached her ears.
Hands in pockets, she kept moving. She ran until her legs began to ache, and a painful stitch stabbed her in the side just below the ribs. If she stopped now, she’d be dead for sure.
Her run slowed to a fast-walk. The growls seemed to be getting closer. She pushed herself to keep going. If it wasn’t for the X’s she’d carved into each new wall, she would think she was running in circles.
She rubbed her side, momentarily easing the pain as she continued on.
The wolves drew closer. Any second, they would be snapping at her heels. Then what?