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The Rose Society

Marie Lu

  Also by Marie Lu






  an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

  375 Hudson Street

  New York, NY 10014

  Copyright © 2015 by Xiwei Lu.

  Map illustration copyright © 2014 by Russell R. Charpentier.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  G. P. Putnam’s Sons is a registered trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

  ISBN 978-0-698-17384-2

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


  For Cassie, sisters always, no matter what


  Also by Marie Lu

  Title Page




  Adelina Amouteru

  City-State of Merroutas Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Raffaele Laurent Bessette

  Adelina Amouteru

  Teren Santoro

  Adelina Amouteru

  Raffaele Laurent Bessette

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Teren Santoro

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Raffaele Laurent Bessette

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Raffaele Laurent Bessette

  Adelina Amouteru

  Raffaele Laurent Bessette

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan

  Raffaele Laurent Bessette

  Adelina Amouteru

  Teren Santoro

  Adelina Amouteru

  Maeve Jacqueline Kelly Corrigan

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru

  Adelina Amouteru


  About the Author

  Adelina Amouteru

  When I was a little girl, my mother would spend long afternoons telling me old folktales. I remember one story particularly well.

  Once upon a time, a greedy prince fell in love with a wicked girl.

  The prince had far more than he needed, but it was never enough. When he grew ill, he visited the Kingdom of the Great Ocean, where the Underworld meets the living world, to bargain with Moritas, the goddess of Death, for more life. When she refused, he stole her immortal gold and fled to the surface.

  In revenge, Moritas sent her daughter Caldora, the angel of Fury, to retrieve him. Caldora materialized out of the sea foam on a warm, stormy night, clad in nothing but silver silk, an achingly beautiful phantom in the mist. The prince ran to the shore to greet her. She smiled at him and touched his cheek.

  “What will you give me in return for my affection?” she asked. “Are you willing to part with your kingdom, your army, and your jewels?”

  The prince, blinded by her beauty and eager to boast, nodded. “Anything you want,” he replied. “I am the greatest man in the world. Even the gods are no match for me.”

  So he gave her his kingdom, his army, and his jewels. She accepted his offerings with a smile, only to reveal her true angel form—skeletal, finned, monstrous. Then she burned his kingdom to the ground and pulled him below the sea into the Underworld, where her mother, Moritas, was patiently waiting. The prince tried once again to bargain with the goddess, but it was too late. In exchange for the gold he’d stolen, Moritas devoured his soul.

  I think of this story now, as I stand with my sister on the deck of a trading ship, looking toward the shore where the city-state of Merroutas rises out of the morning mist.

  Someday, when I am nothing but dust and wind, what tale will they tell about me?

  Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.

  City-State of Merroutas

  The Sealands

  They were the flash of light in a stormy sky, the fleeting darkness before dawn. Never have they existed before, nor shall they ever exist again.

  —Unknown source on the Young Elites

  Adelina Amouteru

  I think he might be here.”

  I’m startled from my thoughts by my sister Violetta’s voice. “Hmm?” I murmur, looping my arm through hers as we wind our way through a crowded street.

  Violetta purses her lips in a familiar expression of concern. She can tell I’m distracted, but I’m grateful she decides to let it go. “I said, I think he might be here. In the main square.”

  It is early evening on the longest day of the year. We are lost in the thick of a celebration in the city-state of Merroutas, the wealthy, bustling crossroads between Kenettra and the Tamouran Empire. The sun has nearly dipped below the horizon, and the three moons hang low and plump, ripe golden orbs suspended over the water. Merroutas is alight with festivities for the Midsummer Feast of Creation, the start of a month of fasting. Violetta and I wander through the throngs of revelers, lost amid the celebration’s rainbow of colors. Both of us are dressed in Tamouran silks tonight, our hair wrapped up and our fingers adorned with bronze rings. People draped in jasmine garlands are everywhere, packed into the narrow alleys and spilling out into the squares, dancing in long lines around domed palaces and bathing temples. We walk past waterways swollen with cargo-laden boats and buildings carved in gold and silver with thousands of repeating circles and squares. Ornate tapestries hang from balconies in the smoky air. Soldiers pass us by in small clusters, wearing billowing silks instead of heavy armor, a moon-and-crown emblem stitched onto their sleeves. They’re not the Inquisition Axis, but no doubt they’ve heard news of Teren’s orders from across the sea to find us. We steer clear of the soldiers.

  I feel as if I were in a haze, the celebrations floating around me. It’s strange, really, to look out at all of this joy. What do I do with it? It doesn’t feed my energy. Instead, I stay silent, letting Violetta guide us through the busy streets, as I return to my dark thoughts.

  Since leaving Kenettra three weeks ago, I have woken to whispers at my bedside that fade away seconds later. Other times, the hushed voices talk to me when no one else is around. They are not always there, and I cannot always understand them even when they are speaking to me. But I can always feel their presence lingering in the corners of my mind. There is a blade there, a rotation of sound and silence, a lamp that burns black. A grim, growing fire. This is what they say:

  Adelina, why do you blame yourself for Enzo’s death?

  I should have had better control over my illusions, I respond quietly to the whispers. I could have saved Enzo’s life. I should have trusted the Daggers sooner.

  None of it was your fault, the whispers
in my head argue. You didn’t kill him, after all—it was not your weapon that ended his life. So why are you the one cast out? You didn’t have to return to the Daggers—you didn’t need to help them rescue Raffaele. And still they turned on you. Why does everyone forget your good intentions, Adelina?

  Why feel guilty for something that isn’t your fault?

  Because I loved him. And now he is gone.

  It’s better this way, the whispers say. Haven’t you always waited at the top of the stairs, imagining yourself a queen?

  “Adelina,” Violetta says. She tugs on my arm and the whispers scatter.

  I shake my head and force myself to concentrate. “Are you sure he’s here?” I ask.

  “If not him, then another Elite.”

  We’ve come to Merroutas to flee the Inquisition’s prying eyes in Kenettra. It is the nearest place outside of Kenettran control, but eventually we’ll make our way south to the Sunlands, far from their reach.

  But we also came here for another reason.

  If you had heard stories about only one Young Elite, they would have been about a boy named Magiano. Raffaele, the beautiful young consort who was once my friend, mentioned Magiano during my afternoon training sessions with him. Since then, I’ve heard his name on the lips of countless travelers.

  Some say he was raised by wolves in the dense forests of the Ember Isles, a tiny chain of islands far east of Kenettra. Others say he was born in the hot Sunland deserts of Domacca, a bastard brought up by wandering nomads. He’s rumored to be a wild boy, almost feral, dressed from head to toe in leaves, with a mind and hands as quicksilver as a midnight fox. He appeared quite suddenly several years ago, and has since avoided arrest by the Inquisition Axis dozens of times, for everything from illegal gambling to stealing the Kenettran queen’s crown jewels. As the stories go, he can lure you straight off a cliff and into the sea with music from his lute. And when he smiles, his teeth shine wickedly bright.

  Though we know he is a Young Elite, no one can say for certain what his power is. We can only be sure that he was recently seen here, in Merroutas.

  If I were still the same girl from a year ago, before I knew I had powers, I’m not sure I would have the courage to search for such a notorious Elite. But then I killed my father. I joined the Dagger Society. I betrayed them, and they betrayed me. Or perhaps it was the other way around. I can never be sure.

  What I do know is that the Daggers are my enemies now. When you’re all alone in a world that hates and fears you, you want to find others like yourself. New friends. Elite friends. Friends who can help you build your own society.

  Friends like Magiano.

  “Salaam, lovely Tamouran girls!”

  We enter another large square near the bay. All along the sides are food stalls with steaming pots and street operators in long-nosed masks, performing table tricks. One of the food vendors smiles when we look at him. His hair is hidden behind a Tamouran wrap, and his beard is dark and well-trimmed. He bows to us. I touch my own head instinctively. My silver hair is still short and scraggly from my attempt to cut it off, and it stays hidden tonight behind two long strips of gold silk, adorned with a headdress of gold tassels dangling above my brows. I have woven an illusion over the scarred side of my face. To this man, my pale lashes are black and my eyes are flawless.

  I glance at what he’s selling. Steaming pans of stuffed grape leaves, lamb skewers, and warm flatbread. My mouth waters.

  “Pretty girls from the homeland,” he coos at us. I don’t understand the rest of what he says, other than “please, come!” and “break your fast.” I smile back at him and nod. I’ve never been in a city so heavily Tamouran. It almost feels like coming home.

  You could rule a place like this, say the whispers in my head, and my heart fills with glee.

  Once we approach his stall, Violetta digs out a couple of bronze talents and hands them over to the man. I stay back. I watch as she makes him laugh, then he leans over to murmur something and she blushes demurely. Violetta responds with a smile that could devastate the sun. At the end of this exchange, she turns away with two skewers of meat. As she leaves his stand, the vendor stares at her back before turning his attention to new customers. He switches the language of his greeting again. “Avei, avei! Forget the gambling and come have some fresh flatbread!”

  Violetta hands a bronze talent to me. “A discount,” she says. “Because he liked us.”

  “Sweet Violetta.” I arch an eyebrow at her as I take one of the skewers. We’ve kept our purses full so far because I can use my powers to steal coins from noblemen. That is my contribution. But Violetta’s skill is entirely different. “At this rate, they’ll be paying us to eat their food.”

  “That’s what I’m working toward.” Violetta looks at me with an innocent smile that’s not innocent at all. Her eyes wander the square, pausing where an enormous bonfire burns in front of a temple. “We’re getting closer,” she says as she takes a delicate bite. “His energy isn’t very strong. It shifts as we go.”

  After we eat, I follow Violetta as she practices her power, guiding us in a long, jagged pattern through the mass of people. Every night since we fled Estenzia, we’ve sat across from each other and I’ve let her experiment on me, like how she used to braid my hair when we were little. She pulls and tugs. Then I blindfold her and walk silently around the room, testing whether or not she can sense my location. She reaches out to touch the threads of my energy, studying their structure. I can tell she’s getting stronger.

  It frightens me. But Violetta and I made a promise after we left the Daggers: We will never use our powers against each other. If Violetta wants protection with my illusions, I will always give it. In return, Violetta will always leave my abilities untouched. That is all.

  I have to trust someone.

  We wander for almost an hour before Violetta stops in the middle of the square. She frowns. I wait beside her, studying her face. “Did you lose him?”

  “Maybe,” Violetta replies. I can barely hear her over the music. We wait a moment longer before she finally turns to her left, nodding for me to follow.

  Violetta pauses again. She turns in a circle, and then folds her arms with a sigh. “I lost him again,” she says. “Perhaps we should go back the way we came.”

  The words have only just left her mouth when another street vendor stops us in our tracks. He is dressed like all the other operators, his face entirely obscured by a long-nosed dottore mask, his body shrouded in colorful, mismatched robes. At second glance, I notice that those robes are made of luxurious silk, finely woven and dyed with rich inks. He takes Violetta’s hand, holds it up to his mask as if to kiss it, and puts a hand over his heart. He gestures for both of us to join the small circle around his stand.

  I recognize the scheme right away—a Kenettran gambling game where the operator places twelve colorful stones before you and asks you to choose three. He’ll then mix the stones underneath cups. You often play as a group, and if you are the only one to guess where all three are hidden, then you not only win back your own money, but everyone else’s bet along with the operator’s entire purse. One look at the operator’s heavy purse tells me he has not lost a round in a while.

  The operator bows at us without a word and motions for us to choose three stones. He does the same to the others gathered beside us. I look on as two other revelers pick their stones enthusiastically. On our other side is a young malfetto boy. He is marked by the blood fever with an unseemly black rash across his ear and cheek. Behind his thoughtful façade is an undercurrent of fear.

  Mmm. My energy turns toward him like a wolf drawn to the scent of blood.

  Violetta leans in close to me. “Let’s try a round,” she says, her eyes also pinned to the malfetto boy. “I think I sense something.”

  I nod at the street operator, then drop two gold talents into his outstretched hand. He bows a
t me with a flourish. “For my sister and me,” I say, pointing at the three stones we want to bet on.

  The operator nods back at us silently. Then he starts to mix the stones.

  Violetta and I keep our attention on the malfetto boy. He watches the cups spin with a look of concentration. As we wait for the operator, the other players look in his direction and laugh. A few malfetto jeers are thrown out. The boy just ignores them.

  Finally, the operator stops spinning the cups. He lines up all twelve in a row, then folds his arms back into his robes and signals at all the players to guess which cups their stones are in.

  “Four, seven, and eight,” the first player calls out, slapping the operator’s table.

  “Two, five, nine,” another player replies.

  Two more shout out their guesses.

  The operator turns to us. I lift my head. “One, two, and three,” I say. The others laugh a little at my bet, but I ignore them.

  The malfetto boy casts his bet too. “Six, seven, and twelve,” he calls out.

  The operator lifts the first cup, then the second and third. I’ve already lost. I pretend to look disappointed, but my attention stays focused on the malfetto boy. Six, seven, and twelve. When the operator gets to the sixth cup, he flips it over to reveal that the boy had chosen correctly.

  The operator points to the boy. He whoops. The other players cast him an ugly look.

  The operator lifts the seventh cup. The boy has guessed correctly again. The other players start to look at one another nervously. If the boy gets the last one wrong, we all lose to the operator. But if the boy has guessed the third one correctly, then he gets all of our money.

  The operator overturns the final cup. The boy is correct. He wins.

  The operator glances up sharply. The malfetto boy lets out a surprised shout of joy, while the other players glare angrily at him. Hate appears in their chests as sparks, flashes of energy that merge into black spots.