“We’ll manage,” Caleb said with confidence I didn’t feel. “We’ll have to find someone here on this island we can bend into submission.”
Mona sighed and cast one last glance at her husband before vanishing. The rest of us gathered closer together.
“Firstly,” Caleb said, “we need to try to figure out whom we are up against.” He addressed Micah. “You have the best hearing. Listen carefully, can you hear anyone up in the castle?”
Micah held his breath, his brows furrowing in concentration as he listened. He nodded slowly. “There are voices coming from there.”
“Any idea of how many?”
Micah bit his lip. “Perhaps half a dozen people. It’s hard to say from this distance. There are a number of voices overlapping each other. I can’t hear Rhys among them though, or his sister and aunt. I’d recognize their voices.”
“Okay,” Caleb said. “Then we ought to assume the worst-case scenario, that all the black witches are here.”
“Prisoners are usually kept right at the base of the castle, in the dungeons, correct?” Aiden said, addressing Caleb.
“Yes,” Caleb replied.
“Then the dragons should cause a distraction in the upper levels,” Kiev said, following their line of thought.
“You’d be able to do that, Jeriad?” I asked.
“You just need to be careful not to breathe too much fire until we’ve made it safely back out of the castle,” I said. “Ibrahim will levitate up toward you to inform you once we’ve finished looking around inside.”
“Okay,” Caleb said. “Let’s head to the stairs.” He caught my hand and we all began running through the trees. Still falling behind Caleb’s speed, I ended up just jumping onto his back and allowing him to carry me the rest of the way.
Once we arrived at the steps leading up to the towering castle, he addressed the dragons again. “Since you object to being transported by magic, I suggest you turn back into your dragon forms now and begin flying up toward the top of the castle. Ibrahim, in the meantime you should vanish us up the steps.”
The dragons began transforming again while the rest of us huddled around Ibrahim, who vanished us all from the spot and made us appear just outside the door of the castle.
Shivers ran along my spine as I looked out at the view, my eyes traveling from the dense woods to the mountain peaks surrounding us, and then settling on the wide step beneath my feet. A rush of memories flooded my mind. I held Caleb’s hand tighter. I remembered so clearly the night I had hugged Caleb, sitting right here on the step, looking down on the dark island. That same night I had lured him into dancing with me in his room, and I’d kissed him for the first time on his cheek. It seemed so long ago now, and yet it wasn’t. I remembered how he’d tried to keep me locked up in my room. I hadn’t realized at the time that he’d been trying to keep me safe.
Caleb squeezed my hand, glancing down at me as if he were experiencing the same nostalgia.
I forced my eyes back up to the sky. The horde of dragons was flying full speed toward the top of the castle.
“I don’t hear anyone until at least halfway up the castle,” Caleb said, his eyes narrowed. “Do you, Micah?”
Micah shook his head.
Caleb looked worried now. While this meant we would hopefully not bump into any of the residents, it was also chilling to realize that the humans likely weren’t on this island. Surely if they were they would be making noise.
As if reading my thoughts, Caleb said, “We should check anyway.”
I nodded, even as my heart sank into my stomach.
“They’ve started,” Griffin said. He stood several feet away from us with his father, both of them staring up at the dragons.
Billows of flames were beginning to hit the turrets. Although they were far up, I could still feel the wave of heat rushing down, touching my skin.
“Keep your ears peeled, Micah,” Caleb said. “Tell me what you hear.”
“Footsteps, moving further up the castle.”
“Then let’s go.” I urged. I looked nervously back up at the dragons. Hopefully they would heed my warning not to release too much fire just yet.
We all stepped back as Ibrahim stepped in front of the double doors and held out his palms. The doors blasted apart and we hurried inside. Goosebumps prickled my skin as I looked around the grand entrance hall—yet more memories resurfacing.
I could almost see the dark memories whirling behind Caleb’s eyes as he took in the room.
He pointed to a door on our left. “Through there,” he whispered.
Caleb led us through the door and slammed it behind us. He moved toward a trap door in the corner of the room and pulled it open. “There’s no point in us all going down. Stay here while I look.”
He disappeared into the darkness of the hole. My heart hammered in my chest as his footsteps faded. Caleb arrived back a few moments later.
“No luck,” he said. “Let’s head to the kitchen next.”
We opened the door again and hurried across the hallway, darting into the kitchen. We snaked around the stainless-steel tables until we arrived at the entrance to a dungeon I was familiar with. Caleb had once carried me down here and locked me up with my parents. We entered and looked around, but it was obvious after a few seconds that it was empty.
“We’re just fooling ourselves,” Caleb said. “None of us can smell warm human blood in this castle.”