“The last warden just died,” Brother Stephen said as if it were an explanation. “I was contacted to come and check over the protections we’ve laid down around the cells, as well as to offer my services in starting the next generation of wardens.”
It took a moment for Sara to process what he’d said, but when she did she rounded on the blue-eyed hunter ready to take a swing at him. “Did you just say what I thought you said? Are you here to impregnate me?”
“If that is your wish, yes. There are many fine hunters that you can choose from, and they will come here off and on between tasks. I just wanted to offer my services as any children we would have would also have a chance of inheriting my ability to see the magic behind the protections that were placed in the stone when it was first set into the ground.”
Sara didn’t know what to say, her eyes drifted over to the parish priest, the man’s kind eyes still glimmering in the low light of the ancient hallway. He gave her a soft smile and nodded slowly.
“You grandmother was an excellent warden, and lived long enough that your mother didn’t have to take over the job.”
“Mom would have had to do this?” Sara choked, thinking of the few memories she had of the vibrant redhead.
“Of course. It’s what your family does in the service of our Lord,” Father Dee nodded solemnly.
“Your bloodline is born from a reformed witch, one who delved deep into the darker aspects of the arcane and turned away, repenting and vowing to fight the darkness. She swore all of her female descendants would follow in her footsteps, in exchange for entrance to Heaven for their service.”
“So Grandmother is in Heaven?” Sara asked, her mind switching tracks quickly.
“Assuredly,” Brother Stephan replied, one finger tracing the stone archway around the iron door. “Now could we hurry and introduce her to the true prisoner of this place? I myself would like to see this legendary witch, and my eyes are beginning to hurt.”
“Of course,” Father Dee inclined his head before turning and resuming his pace down the hall, speaking slowly as he glided along the stone. “The original occupant of this prison is a witch that performed so many sacrifices for her patron Lord that she was able to ascend, shedding the mortal coil while taking on a new eternal form.”
“So what, we just have an immortal witch trapped down here behind a bunch of locked doors?” Sara asked sarcastically. She shivered when she noted Brother Brandon, who was walking beside her, nod slowly.
“The protections start just outside her cell, and need to be checked on every few years. We’ll stay a few weeks to show you how to maintain them,” Brother Stephen said with a hint of kindness. Sara turned and smiled at him in thanks before wondering when she actually agreed to do this nonsense?
They stopped before another iron gate, one that held a heavy lock on it. Sara watched as Father Dee pulled a surprisingly clean bronze key from his pocket, the tumblers within the lock clanking long and loud as he slowly unlocked the door. Once it was unlocked, her removed the key and passed it to Sara, pressing it into her hand. She was surprised how hot the metal was, and nearly dropped it.
“This is the key to the inner sanctum,” Father Dee told her, his eyes wide enough to show he was no longer humoring her, nor joking. “This is to never leave your possession, is that understood?”
“Y-yes?” Sara replied, not really knowing what to say.
Father Dee’s face instantly crinkled back up as he smiled at her. “Good,” he said, bringing the torch around as he pushed open the gate. “Now let’s go meet your primary tenant, shall we?”
Sara couldn’t suppress her urge to turn and run, but a hand looping around her waist gave her a surprising amount of courage all of a sudden. Looking at the offending hand, she followed the arm up to Stephen’s smiling face. His eyes, which had seemed exuberant before, now glowed with an inner light.
“I can see your fear, you know, as well as your doubt.” He whispered as Brother Brandon and Father Dee walked ahead. “Don’t worry, I joined once I was out of seminary. I’ve yet to regret a day of life within the Ravens.”
“Easy for you to say,” Sara grunted, stepping out of his hold as she jogged to catch up to the elderly priest, leaving Brother Stephen in the looming darkness.
She caught up to him just as the hall opened up to a wide room, the far wall lost in a swirling darkness. The room stank of moldering wood and a foul rot that Sara had never encountered before. Running her hands up her arms, she shivered for a moment, surprised at how chilly the room was. Not surprising of course, seeing as it was practically a tomb.
“Not practically Warden,” a sibilant voice hissed from the darkness, weathered and worn by years of disuse. “This is indeed my sepulcher, at least until I finally am free of it.”
“You know that day will never come Mary,” Father Dee replied calmly, holding the torch higher, allowing light to spill further into the room, pushing back the offending shadows. Sara was sure she saw a whip-like tail, blue and green, slide along the stone to where it would remain in the shadows.
“Ah, the once proud hunter returns! And with two fledglings in tow no less!” The voice chortled, the sound of a large body moving along the stone floor, not in any way that would indicate speed or ease of movement, but as if a large body was being dragged against its will. “I assume the presence of this youth means the last woman that was brought down here has died?”
“Yes, she is with the Lord now,” Father Dee replied calmly.
Sara shrieked as twin eyes gleamed in the darkness, a creature lunging with a snarl so fast she could hardly track it.