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After the sun went down, they left the base. Amanda stopped at a small corner store and bought all the salt she could find. Steopa raised his eyebrow when he saw the bag.
“Salt?” he asked.
“It seems to be the only thing that works,” Amanda said.
The only lead they had was the old Vaness Cider warehouse. The cider warehouse was one of the larger buildings in the dock area. Half of the building sat over the river. That part was falling into the river.
As they turned onto the street that lead straight to the warehouse, Steopa paused.
“Something is strange here,” Steopa said.
Teodor sniffed. He couldn't smell anything unusual. Steopa has never been wrong before, he thought.
“What?” Teodor asked.
“We are being watched,” Steopa said. He faded into the shadows.
Teodor glanced at Amanda. She changed into the hybrid. Teodor did the same. The people they were looking for knew what they were, there was no reason to hide now.
Steopa took off and on to the top of the nearby buildings. Teodor stayed in the middle of the street, but Amanda stayed along the side. He could feel it now. There was the feeling of being watched. Teodor glanced around, nothing could be seen.
He sniffed the air. There were people nearby. Teodor could not tell how many. The human smells were strong, stronger than they were in the city. That was strange.
The snow blew along the street in swirling eddies. The smell of the crisp, clean snow wiped the smell of the humans from Teodor's nose for a moment. When the wind died down, the human smell came back.
There was blood, sweat, urine, shit, vomit, and sex, all mixed up. Teodor's stomach turned. Hospitals did not smell this bad. Amanda whined.
Teodor turned his head to look. She scratched at a door. Teodor joined her. The smell was the strongest here. He glanced up at the roofs. Steopa was still above them, a faint silhouette in the dark night. Teodor motioned with his head, that he was going in. Steopa nodded.
This building was not the cider warehouse. That was still looming down at the end of the street. This looked like a nondescript storage warehouse. The windows were boarded up. The boards heldt in place with shiny screws. These buildings had been abandoned for years, but the wood on the windows was new.
Teodor hooked his claw on the door handle and twisted it. The door creaked open. The smell hit him like a wall. The room on the other side of the door was empty, but the stench was strong. A human could smell this, Teodor thought.
The room was large. There were winches and pulleys, that ran along tracks, on the ceiling. One of the ropes hung down near the door, a large hook was attached to the end of it. The hook was stained, a rusty brown color, but it was not rust. Teodor ran his claw along the hook.
Steopa landed in front of them, his feet hit the ground without a sound. He pointed to a room that was off to the side. Teodor walked over to it. The smell of blood made him drool. Steopa opened the door.
It was a storage room, full of old metal milk pails. The tall ones that the farmers had used to send their milk to the diary, ages ago. Steopa opened one and grimaced. Teodor could smell it. Blood, very old blood, almost rancid.
“Who needs this much?” Steopa asked.
Amanda stood at the entrance of the room, not coming any closer. “It's human, right?” She asked.
Both Steopa and Teodor nodded.
“Mainly human,” Teodor said, “But I smell dog and cat as well.”
“This is a waste,” Steopa said.
Amanda glared at him.
“Bilge said they were dark mages,” Teodor said.
“Human sacrifice?” Steopa asked.
“Then they must have a place they do the killing,” Navaroo said.
Amanda shook. “I don't think I can go on.”
Steopa scoffed. Teodor turned to her. “Think about Trucker, do you want him to end up here?”
“You are a real bitch,” Steopa said.
“He's right,” Teodor said.
Amanda shook her head and turned around. She yelped.
Teodor spun around. Amanda laid on the ground, trying to get back up. A large man was standing over her. He had a silver hammer in his hand. Teodor and Steopa both took a step towards him.
“Don't you dare,” the man said, “I'll hit her again.”
Steopa moved forward. Teodor held his arm out to stop Steopa. The large man smiled. His shaggy black hair covered most of his face. “That was too easy."
Steopa nodded. “You are correct.”
Teodor dropped his hand. Steopa blurred and stood behind the man, before the large man could turn his head. Steopa struck the man in the back of the head. It should have crushed the man's skull. It should have killed the man instantly. But the man's head jerked forward from the impact, but he did not fall.
Amanda bit the man's leg. She pulled her mouth away and howled. The man raised the hammer again. Steopa grabbed the hammer out of the man's hand and struck the man with it.
What the hell? Teodor thought. This man is not going down. Teodor ran and tackled the man. When he wrapped his arms around the man, he could feel why. The man was not really there. Teodor fell through the man, and knocked Steopa over.
The man disappeared.
Teodor jumped up. “I am sick of these ghosts!”
Amanda rolled over, blood flowed down the back of her head. The wound from the silver hammer healed, but not as fast as a wound should. She growled. “I am too.”
“They are cowards,” Steopa said.
“Is that why they need the blood?” Amanda asked, now sitting back on her haunches.
One of the milk pails fell to the floor and bounced. A small amount of blood remained inside it. A few moments before it had been full. Teodor ran back to the door.
“Their using the blood, storing it,” Teodor said. “Like batteries?”
Amanda shook her head, “No, they need the emotions, for their magic, remember?”
“Then why the blood?” Teodor asked.
“Rancid,” Steopa said.
“Rancid blood,” Teodor shook his head. He reached down and helped Amanda up.
“Necromancy,” Steopa said.
Magic that uses the dead, Teodor thought. Dead like a woman that died tragically, or horribly. The kind that would come back and become a story that was told to scare bad kids?
“Then you should be careful,” Teodor said.
Steopa was not listening. He turned his head and stared across the floor. Teodor turned his ears to the room. There was faint breathing inside. The breathing was labored and shallow. Teodor fallowed Steopa across the floor.
There were no doors here. Just a wall. Teodor sniffed the wall. He could smell them now. Someone was on the other side. Steopa slammed himself against the wall. The old wood cracked. Steopa and Teodor pulled the wood away. Amanda drew in a breath.