They killed Carlie! Those Bastards!
The two surviving Seekers weren’t guiding their horses so much as hanging on. The animals knew as well as their riders that getting caught meant a bloody death. The pursuit of the mages that burned Amherst had turned into a rout when the pursuit was ambushed during the night by what looked like a dozen full-blooded Fangs.
They heard Carlie’s screams cut off as the ambushers finished draining her and turned to the chase. The horses had enough of a lead that Matthew was sure they could make it as long as they kept moving. It was a surety that lasted right until something burst from the bushes and took Issac out of the saddle.
Matthew made it back to the main trail and rode for the farmstead they’d passed previously. If people could live in the God forsaken woods, they must have ways to keep themselves safe. He never found out.
When Matthew woke up, the moon and the stars were gone. He smelled fresh earth and he knew he was underground, In his first terrified moment of confusion, he thought he had been buried alive. As he sat upright, he realized he was in a large underground chamber. He could hear grunting and shuffling.
A small candle flame lit neat him, and a deep reassuring voice said, “Easy now. You’re ok. My brothers and sisters aren’t going to hurt you.”
Matthew saw a man with light black skin and platinum hair sitting in a flimsy wooden chair. The man set a candle on a rock outcropping and continued speaking.
“You were warned about us I’m sure. Belial’s Brood, they call us. A silly name, for many reasons. I don’t take offense at it, but others might. The name you should use is Third Born. My name is Paimon, Advocate of the Third Born. And you are?”
Matthew hesitated, “I am Matthew Odiorn, Lead Seeker for the Lancea Sanctum.”
“Good!” Paimon smiled, “You passed the first test. Here, have some water, you’re probably parched.”
As Paimon tossed a thermos towards him, Matthew realized that he actually was thirsty. He had been too scared to notice until now.
Matthew asked, “My companion, Issac?”
“Unfortunately, my companions are not as restrained as myself. I intervened on your behalf, but the other riders were not taken safely,” said Paimon with a sincere tone of regret. “But you will be treated fairly, I assure you. We have much to learn from each other.”