The rise of nine, p.13
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       The Rise of Nine, p.13

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 13


  The anger bubbling inside of me pops and disappears. We have found another member of the Garde. We just got stronger.

  Crayton steps forward and offers his hand. ‘We’ve been looking for you, Eight. We’ve traveled a long distance. I’m Crayton, Ella’s Cêpan. ’

  Eight stands and shakes Crayton’s hand. He’s tall, and every muscle in his upper body and stomach is very well defined. He’s clearly been training for years, surviving alone in the mountains.

  Ella stands as well. ‘I’m Ella,’ she says. ‘I’m Number Ten. ’

  ‘Whoa!’ Eight says. He looks into her eyes. ‘What do you mean, you’re Number Ten? There’re only nine of us. Who told you you’re Number Ten?’

  All of a sudden, Ella shrinks down to become a six-year-old girl. I guess there’s nothing quite like having your identity being questioned by a former statue to give you a crisis of confidence. Crayton nudges Ella, and then, just as quickly, she transforms back into her tall, twelve-year-old self.

  Eight responds by growing five feet taller to tower over her. ‘That all you got, Ten?’

  Determination covers Ella’s face and it looks as if she’s trying to grow another few years, but nothing happens. After a few seconds, she shrugs, ‘I guess so. ’

  Crayton turns to Eight. ‘I’ll fill you in later, but there was another ship that left Lorien after yours. Ella and I were on that ship. She was just a baby at the time. ’

  ‘Is that it, or is there a Number Thirty-Two I should know about?’ Eight asks, shrinking back down to his regular height. His voice is husky, but also kind. For the first time, I notice his eyes are the most amazing shade of deep green. By the look on Marina’s face, she is noticing all of this too. I can’t help but smile as she nervously tucks her hair behind her ears.

  ‘Ella’s the last,’ Crayton answers. ‘This is Six, and this is Marina, Number Seven. You appear to be able to shape shift. Anything else we should know about?’ Crayton asks.

  In response, Eight expands into a two-headed giraffe, towering twenty feet above us this time. I try to suppress my smile.

  ‘Indeed I do have that Legacy,’ the head on the left says.

  The head on the right lowers to the water and takes a drink before looking up and adding, ‘Among other things. ’

  ‘Oh, yeah? Like what?’ Marina asks.

  Eight turns back into a boy and skips along the surface of the pool as if it were solid ice. When he circles back to us, he begins to sprint before skidding to a stop, sending a wave of water towards Marina.

  But Marina is not going to get shown up by the new guy. Without flinching, she lifts her hands and stops the water midair, then pushes it back at Eight with her telekinesis. He in turn blows the wave high into the air like a geyser. Not to be left out of whatever game it is they’re playing, I take control of the wind and I use it to push the geyser across the pool until a wall of moving water surrounds Eight on three sides.

  ‘What else ya got?’ I shout, my voice daring him to keep things going.

  Eight disappears from where I’ve trapped him behind the water and an instant later reappears on the jagged rocks above the pool. He disappears again and shows up inches from my nose.

  Eight’s sudden closeness is so jarring I reflexively throw a fist into his ribs. He grunts and stumbles backwards.

  ‘Six! What are you doing?’ Marina yells.

  ‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘It was a reflex. ’

  ‘I deserved it,’ says Eight, shrugging off Marina’s protectiveness.

  ‘So you can teleport?’ Marina asks. ‘That is very cool. ’

  He suddenly appears at her side and casually leans an arm on her shoulder. ‘I’m a fan of it. ’ Marina giggles and shrugs him off. Giggles? Is she kidding me?

  Eight smiles, disappears and shows up again standing on Crayton’s shoulders, balancing with exaggerated arm circles and wobbly legs. ‘Sometimes I pick stupid places to land, though. ’ Eight is our jester, all of a sudden.

  I’m struck by his playfulness, unsure if it’s going to be an attribute or a liability. I decide to view it as a positive. I can just see the annoyance and confusion on the Mogadorians’ faces moments before this kid turns them to ash. Crayton leans forward and, as if they’d rehearsed the routine in advance, Eight does a flip onto the ground, then claps his hands, obviously pleased with himself.

  ‘Where’s your Cêpan?’ Marina asks.

  Eight’s cheerful face turns serious. We all know what this means. Instantly, my mind goes to an image of Katarina gagged and chained to a wall. I think of John and his Cêpan, Henri. I shake away the memories before tears form in my eyes.

  ‘How long ago?’ Crayton gently asks the question we are all thinking.

  Eight spins to look out over the field of high grass beyond us. With his mind, he parts the grass left and right until there’s a narrow path. He raises his head at the setting sun. ‘Listen, we have to get out of here. The light is going. I’ll tell you all about Reynolds and Lola on the way. ’

  Commander Sharma runs up to Eight and grabs his wrist. ‘What about me? What can I do for you? Please tell me. ’ He startles me. I’ve been so wrapped up in our little session of getting-to-know-you, and he’s been so quiet, I completely forgot his role in all this.

  ‘Commander,’ Eight says. ‘You have been a loyal friend to me and I want to thank you and your soldiers for all your hard work. Vishnu would be very happy with your devotion. I’m afraid now we must part ways. ’

  It’s clear by the expression on the commander’s face that he thought he was in this for the long haul.

  ‘But I don’t understand. I have done everything you have asked of me. I brought you your friends. My men have died for you. ’

  Eight looks Commander Sharma in the eyes. ‘I never wished for anyone to die for me. That’s why I refused to leave the mountain and walk with you in the streets. I’m sorry lives were lost, more sorry than you will ever know. Believe me, I know what it feels like to lose people. But, this is where we must go our separate ways. ’ He’s firm, but I can see it’s hard for him to do this.

  ‘But –’

  Eight cuts him off. ‘Good-bye, Commander. ’

  The man turns, a look of despair on his face. Poor guy. But he is a soldier who knows when to take an order, when to accept how things are going to be. ‘You’re leaving me. ’

  ‘No,’ Eight says. ‘ You are leaving me . You are off to something bigger and better. A wise man once told me that only by leaving someone good can you meet someone better. You will be with your Vishnu, and you will only know him once I am gone. ’

  It’s hard to watch. Commander Sharma opens his mouth to say something, but closes it when Eight turns and walks down the path without looking back. At first, I think Eight is being too harsh. Then I realize, this is the kindest way he can do what must be done.

  ‘Hey! Wait!’ Crayton calls after Eight. ‘The base of the mountain is the other way. We have to get to the airport. ’

  ‘First, I need to show you all something,’ he calls back. ‘And we may not need an airport. ’

  ‘Where are you going? There are things you don’t know yet. We need to sit down and talk, we need to make a plan!’ says Crayton.

  ‘I wish I didn’t break those glasses,’ Ella says. ‘We can’t just follow him without knowing where he’s taking us or if it’s a good idea. He thinks he knows everything, but he may not. ’

  We watch Crayton think about what to do. I know what think we should do. We’ve finally found another member of the Garde, and we have to stick together now. I nod towards Eight’s quickly disappearing figure. Crayton looks at me, then nods back. He scoops up Marina’s Chest, and begins to walk after Eight. Without saying anything, Marina and Ella hold hands and start to follow him. I get in line behind them. I use my advanced hearing to listen for sounds of the commander moving from the spot where we left him. I hear nothing. I can picture him standing there, still and
silent long after we’ve left. I understand why it had to be done, but I still feel sorry for the guy. Left behind, after all his loyalty. I look at Eight’s back, ramrod straight ahead of me, and I feel bad for both of them.

  Eight leads on. We follow him down a hill and find ourselves in a wide-open valley. Everywhere I look there are snow-tipped Himalayan Mountains. Closer by, there are patches of forest with fields of yellow and purple flowers in between. It’s beautiful. We’re all soaking it in as we walk when Crayton breaks the silence.

  ‘So. Who were Reynolds and Lola?’

  Eight slows so we can walk together. He reaches down to pick a handful of purple flowers only to crush them in his hand. ‘Reynolds was my Cêpan. He laughed a lot. He was always laughing. He laughed when we were on the run and when we slept under a bridge or hid in someone’s leaky barn in a monsoon. ’ He turns to look at us each in turn. ‘Does anyone remember him?’

  We all shake our heads, even Crayton. I wish I could. But I was only two years old when we made the journey.

  Eight continues. ‘He was a great Loric and an even better friend. But Lola . . . Lola was a human he fell in love with when we first got here. That was eight years ago. They met at the market, and from that moment on they were inseparable. Reynolds was so in love. Lola moved in with us very quickly. She barely left our house. ’ Eight kicks a patch of flowers. ‘I should have known she couldn’t be trusted by the way she looked at me, how she always wanted to know where I was, what I was doing. I wouldn’t let her near my Chest, no matter how many ways she tried. But Reynolds trusted her so much, he eventually told her who we were. He told her everything. ’

  ‘Not smart,’ I say. John told Sarah, and look at where that got them. Trusting humans with our secret is too risky. Love only makes it more risky.

  ‘I can’t even describe how angry I was. When I realized what he had done, I lost it. He and I fought for days. We had never argued before. I trusted him completely, and it wasn’t that I suddenly didn’t trust him. It was her . That was when Lola started pushing us to come into the mountains with her to hike and camp. She said she knew the perfect place. She convinced Reynolds it would help him make peace with me, for us to bond. I thought Lola’s plan to get Reynolds and me to kiss and make up was unlikely, but I went anyway. ’ He stops walking long enough to point at a mountain peak due north. ‘We went to that mountain right there. I brought along my Chest. By that point I could teleport and I had telekinesis, plus my strength was off the charts – and I needed to train and figured the mountain air would help me get stronger, faster. But as soon as we arrived, Lola kept trying to separate us. She did everything to get Reynolds to leave me alone. In the end, she had to make do with Plan B. ’ He turns away and resumes walking. We give him a few steps to pull himself together.

  ‘So what was Plan B?’ Marina asks gently, trying to move him along. He needs to tell us all of this, but we don’t have to torture him.