âDonât zombies eat bâ¦brains?â Dean called from behind.
Oliver ignored him. He reached the end of the fountain walkway and stopped in the shadows. He crouched and lifted up one of the heavy sections of metal grating beneath their feet. Emalie and Dean reached him and looked down into a sewer drain.
âUmâ¦â Dean croaked.
âNow listen,â Oliver said. âStay behind me, and no matter what happens, keep your hoods up and your heads down.â He dropped out of sight.
Emalie and Dean climbed gingerly down a metal ladder. As they reached the sewer tunnel below, Oliver helped them step over to a ledge. They started forward, black water rushing beside them. In moments, the darkness became complete. Oliver felt Emalieâs hand grasp the back of his sweatshirt.
âI canât see a thing,â Dean muttered.
After a minute, light began to returnâa soft green glow. A thin vein of neon appeared on the ceiling of the tunnel, providing more than enough light for vampire eyes, and just barely enough for human. Still, Emalie kept hold of Oliverâs sweatshirt.
They reached an intersection, lit with sconces of magmalight. Oliver hadnât taken this route before, so he turned to the wall and whispered, â Anemoi .â
The wall blurred and a map appeared, floating before them in sparkling light. It was a three-dimensional depiction of the sewer system and the streets above, drawn in tubular lines of molten light, from searing whites to warm magentas, that sparked with bits of flame. The map resembled a square funnel, with the Underground Center dropping down out of the middle. Oliver pinched the corners of the map and twisted and turned it. It fluttered like fabric in front of them, sparking and hissing.
He zoomed in on a section and studied their location.
âWow,â Emalie breathed âItâs a map?â Oliver nodded. âWhat are these?â She pointed to a scrawled Skrit symbol.
âThose are Skrit,â Oliver said. âItâs a vampire language.â
âThey look like theyâre written in blood,â Dean whispered.
âWhat does this one mean?â Emalie pointed to one. It was a spiraling shape set within a square, thicker and thinner at points, as if drawn with a brush. There was a crimson tinge to the color:
âThatâs the Underground Center,â Oliver replied. âThe boundary indicates this world. Square corners are the boundaries of matter. The spiral is the Underground. It says more than that, but I havenât learned much Skrit yet.â
Emalie ran her finger through it. The symbol flamed when she touched it, and a soft, whispering voice announced, âWestlake Underground Entrance: Access to level nine, and express elevators to charion station. Entrance is point-three kilometers from your current location, due south.â
Oliver double-checked their route. âCome on.â He blew out the map, then turned and continued.
They were now walking down a major tunnel that sloped steadily downward. Its wide walls were lit with sconces and adorned with a series of long tapestries. The candelabras, tucked into half-moon recesses in the floor, cast their wild shadows on the walls.
âI didnât think it would be soââ Emalie started, then paused.
âWhat?â asked Oliver.
âWarm. It feels warm down here,â she continued. âNot just the air, but like, the light and the art, and â¦â She halted, pulling Oliver to a stop by the back of his sweatshirt. âOh.â
Oliver turned to find her staring wide-eyed at the tapestry beside them, yet the fascination in her eyes had turned cold.
âYâ¦you were saying?â Dean muttered softly.
Oliver glanced up and down the hall at the long weaving they were passing: It depicted a wide room of stone. Every few feet along the tapestry, there was a collection of hooded figures employing