I needed a way up. I tried scaling the wall again. The faeries were still murmuring their discontent; as long as they remained that way, I was fine. I again latched onto the muddy wall, digging into the pliable dirt. All I got was freezing mud digging beneath my nails as I slid to the ground yet again.
The stench of the place invaded every part of me. I bit down on my nausea as I tried again and again. The faeries were laughing now. “A mouse in a trap,” one of them said. “Need a stepping stool?” another crowed.
A stepping stool.
I whirled toward the piles of bones, then pushed my hand hard against the wall. It felt firm. The entire place was made of packed mud, and if this creature was anything like its smaller, harmless brethren, I could assume that the stench—and therefore the mud itself—was the remnant of whatever had passed through its system after it sucked the bones clean.
Disregarding that wretched fact, I seized the spark of hope and grabbed the two biggest, strongest bones I could quickly find. Both were longer than my leg and heavy—so heavy as I jammed them into the wall. I didn’t know what the creature usually ate, but it must have been at least cattle-sized.
“What’s it doing? What’s it planning?” one of the faeries hissed.
I grabbed a third bone and impaled it deep into the wall, as high as I could reach. I grabbed a fourth, slightly smaller bone and set it into my belt, strapping it across my back. Testing the three bones with a few sharp tugs, I sucked in my breath, ignored the twittering faeries, and began climbing my ladder. My stepping stool.
The first bone held firm, and I grunted as I grabbed the second bone-step and pulled myself up. I was putting my foot on the step when another idea flashed, and I paused.
The faeries—not too far off—began to shout again.
But it could work. It could work, if I played it right. It could work, because it had to work. I dropped back to the mud, and the faeries watching me murmured their confusion. I drew the bone from my belt, and with a sharp intake of breath, I snapped it across my knee.
My own bones burned with pain, but the shaft broke, leaving me with two sharp-ended spikes. It was going to work.
If Amarantha wanted me to hunt, I would hunt.
I walked to the middle of the pit opening, calculated the distance, and plunged the two bones into the ground. I returned back to the mound of bones and made quick work of whatever I could find that was sturdy and sharp. When my knee became too tender to use as a breaking point, I snapped the bones with my foot. One by one, I stuck them into the muddy floor beneath the pit opening until the whole area, save for one small spot, was filled with white lances.
I didn’t double-check my work—it would succeed, or I would wind up among those bones on the floor. Just one chance. That was all I had. Better than no chances at all.
I dashed to my bone ladder and ignored the sting of the splinters in my fingers as I climbed to the third rung, where I balanced before embedding a fourth bone in the wall.
And just like that, I heaved myself out of the pit mouth, and almost wept to be exposed to the open air once more.
I secured the three bones I’d taken in my belt, their weight a comforting presence, and rushed to the nearest wall. I grabbed a fistful of the reeking mud and smeared it across my face. The faeries hissed as I grabbed more, this time coating my hair, then my neck. Already accustomed to the staggering reek, my eyes watered only a little as I made swift work of painting myself. I even paused to roll on the ground. Every inch of me had to be covered. Every damn inch.
If the creature was blind, then it relied on smell—and my smell would be my greatest weakness.
I rubbed mud on me until I was certain I was nothing more than a pair of blue-gray eyes. I doused myself a final time, my hands so slick that I could barely maintain a grasp on one of the sharp-ended bones as I drew it from my belt.
“What’s it doing?” the green-faced faerie whined again.
A deep, elegant voice replied this time. “She’s building a trap.” Rhysand.
“But the Middengard—”
“Relies on its scent to see,” Rhysand answered, and I gave a special glower for him as I glanced at the rim of the trench and found him smiling at me. “And Feyre just became invisible.”
His violet eyes twinkled. I made an obscene gesture before I broke into a run, heading straight for the worm.
I placed the remaining bones at especially tight corners, knowing well enough that I couldn’t turn at the speed I hoped I would be running. It didn’t take much to find the worm, as a crowd of faeries had gathered to taunt it, but I had to get to the right spot—I had to pick my battleground.
I slowed to a stalking pace and flattened my back against a wall as I heard the slithering and grunting of the worm. The crunching.
The faeries watching the worm—ten of them, with frosty blue skin and almond-shaped black eyes—giggled. I could only assume they’d grown bored of me and decided to watch something else die.
Which was wonderful, but only if the worm was still hungry—only if it would respond to the lure I offered. The crowd murmured and grumbled.
I eased around a bend, craning my neck. Too covered in its scent to smell me, the worm continued feasting, stretching its bulbous form upward as one of the faeries dangled what looked like a hairy arm. The worm gnashed its teeth, and the blue faeries cackled as they dropped the arm into its waiting mouth.
I recoiled around the bend and raised the bone-sword I’d made. I reminded myself of the path I’d taken, of the turns I’d counted.
Still, my heart lodged in my throat as I drew the jagged edge of the bone across my palm, splitting open my flesh. Blood welled, bright and shining as rubies. I let it build before clenching my hand into a fist. The worm would smell that soon enough.
It was only then that I realized the crowd had gone silent.
Almost dropping the bone, I leaned around the bend again to see the worm.
It was gone.
The blue faeries grinned at me.
Then, shattering the silence like a shooting star, a voice—Lucien’s—bellowed across the chamber. “TO YOUR LEFT!”
I bolted, getting a few feet before the wall behind me exploded, mud spraying as the worm burst through, a mass of shredding teeth just inches away.
I was already running, so fast that the trenches were a blur of reddish brown. I needed a bit of distance or else it’d fall right on top of me. But I also needed it close, so it couldn’t check itself, so it was in a frenzy of hunger.
I took the first sharp turn, and grabbed onto the bone-rail I’d embedded in the corner wall. I used it to swing around, not breaking my speed, propelling me faster, giving me a few more seconds on the worm.