The rise of nine, p.14
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       The Rise of Nine, p.14

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 14


  ‘On the third night in the mountains, she left to gather firewood, leaving me and Reynolds alone for the first time the whole trip. I knew something was wrong. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. Lola returned quickly – with a dozen Mogadorian warriors. Reynolds, he was so in love with her, he was heartbroken before he remembered to be scared. He screamed at her, begging her to explain why she would do this to him, to us, to me. Then one of the warriors threw a bag of gold coins in Lola’s general direction. She was promised a lot of money by the Mogadorians to provide a service. ’ Eight sneers the word. ‘Like a dog jumping on a treat, she dove at it. It all happened so fast. She dove, one of the Mogadorians raised a glowing sword and stabbed her in the back, and the bag of coins exploded at her feet. Reynolds and I just stood there, frozen, watching her die. ’

  I resist the urge to dash ahead, grab his hand, and squeeze it to show how much I understand how he feels. I look at his straight, proud back, watch the purpose in his long strides, and know what he needs right now is his space. At least, that’s what I want when I think about Katarina dying.

  His last word, die, hangs in the air. Finally, Crayton clears his throat and says, ‘We don’t need to hear any more right now. You can stop if you want. ’

  ‘They couldn’t kill me,’ Eight’s voice gets louder, as if he’s trying to drown out the sad memories. I know the trick. It rarely works. ‘Even when they managed a direct hit with one of their swords, across my neck or into my stomach, I didn’t die. But they did. The deadly cuts meant for me happened to them instead. They couldn’t kill me because of the charm, and I did everything I could to protect Reynolds. But we were separated in all the chaos and I teleported too late. Reynolds was . . . ’ He pauses for a second. ‘One of them took my Chest. I tried to stop him. I grabbed one of their swords and I tried to stab him through his stomach, but I missed by this much. Pretty sure I took off his hand, though. Anyway, he got away. Right after he ran into the woods, I saw a tiny silver ship shoot up through the trees. I killed the others. ’ His voice is so cold, so emotionless, I shiver.

  ‘I lost my Cêpan too,’ Marina says quietly after a moment.

  ‘Me too,’ I add. I glance over at Ella, who has moved closer to Crayton. At least she still has him. Hopefully we won’t lose the last Cêpan that any of us knows.

  The sky above us grows darker by the second. Marina volunteers to walk in front so that she can lead the way with her Legacy of night vision. I smile when she takes Eight’s hand, happy that someone tries to comfort him.

  ‘I’ve spent so much time in these mountains,’ Eight says.

  ‘All alone?’ Ella asks.

  ‘I was alone for some of it. I didn’t know where to go. And then one day I came across an old man. He was sitting under a tree with his eyes closed, praying. My Legacy to become other shapes had arrived months earlier, and I approached him in the form of a small, black rabbit. He felt my approach. He laughed before he even opened his eyes. There was something about his face that I trusted. I guess he reminded me of Reynolds, before Lola came into our lives. So I hopped into the bushes and teleported behind a line of trees in the opposite direction. When I approached him again, in my regular form, he offered me some lettuce. It was clear that he knew me, would always know me, no matter what form I took. ’

  ‘We’re coming to another lake,’ Marina says, interrupting Eight. Now that the talking has stopped, I can hear the lapping of water and a quiet waterfall beyond.

  ‘Yes, we’re close,’ Eight confirms. ‘We’ll eat and sleep soon. ’

  ‘So, then what happened? With the old man?’ Crayton asks.

  ‘His name was Devdan and he was a very enlightened, spiritual person. He told me all about Hinduism and Vishnu. I clung to his stories. In my mind, they represented how we’re trying to save Lorien. He taught me ancient forms of Indian martial arts, like kalarippayattu, silambam and gatka. I worked with my Legacies, my powers, to see how far I could take what I learned from him.

  ‘One day, I went to meet him in our usual spot and he wasn’t there. I went back day after day. But he never returned and I was alone again. It was many months later when I stumbled upon Commander Sharma and his army during a training exercise. ’ He hesitates before continuing. ‘Unfortunately – or fortunately, I’m not sure yet – it was while I was in the shape of Vishnu and they vowed to protect me from any evils. I knew it was because I was in a form they worshipped, and I hated preying on their beliefs, but I couldn’t resist. I guess I hated being alone even more. ’

  Marina starts to lead us around the lake. Eight tells her to head for the waterfall we can hear in the distance.

  ‘Did the Mogs ever come back?’ Crayton asks.

  ‘Yes. They still return in the tiny silver ships every so often, buzzing around the mountains to see if I’m still here. But I just turn into a fly or an ant and they keep going. ’

  Crayton says, ‘That lines up with all of the reports of UFO sightings in this region. ’

  ‘Yes, that’s them,’ Eight says. ‘With every visit, they become more careless about detection. I haven’t seen one in a few days, but they’ve been much more frequent in the last six or eight months. I took this to mean the conflict was escalating. ’

  ‘It is,’ I say. ‘We’ve been finding each other, joining up. Marina, Ella, and I just met up in Spain a few days ago. Number Four is waiting for us back in America. And now we’ve found you. That just leaves Five and Nine. ’

  Eight is silent for a moment. ‘I want to thank you for traveling all this way for me. It’s been so long since I’ve had anyone to talk to. To talk about my real life. ’

  The waterfall is now just feet away. ‘Now what?’ I have to yell to be heard over the noise of the water.

  ‘We climb!’ Eight yells back, motioning to a sheer, stone wall in front of us.

  I place my hand on the stone’s smooth surface and tap my foot around to find a toehold. My foot im mediately slips, and when I’m about to try it again, I hear Eight’s voice far away, above me. He is already at the top, yelling something down at us. Teleportation is even better than I thought. It may even be better than invisibility. I wonder if we can combine them somehow.

  ‘Just use your telekinesis to float your way up,’ Marina says to me. ‘You get Ella. I’ll get Crayton. ’

  I follow her advice and we float up. It’s actually much easier than I imagined. Up at the top is Eight’s campsite. Soon we’re sitting around a fire, cooking a vegetable stew in a large pot. The trees overhead form a thick canopy and, with the water below, it’s a perfect spot to hide. Eight’s mud hut is somehow both depressing and ideal at the same time. The walls are uneven and the door is a lopsided oval; but it’s also warm and dry, and it smells of fresh flowers. Inside is a homemade hammock and a small table, and three colorful rugs hanging from the walls.

  ‘Nice place you’ve got here,’ I say, walking back to the fire. ‘I’ve been on the run so long, I forget what it’s like to have a home. Even a hut. ’

  ‘There is something about this place. There will always be a piece of me that remains here. I’m really going to miss it,’ he says, looking around fondly.

  ‘So, does that mean you’ll come with us?’ Marina asks.

  ‘Of course I will. The time has come for us to be together, to work together. Now that Setrákus Ra is here, I have to go with you. ’

  ‘He’s here?’ Crayton asks, suddenly uneasy.

  Eight takes his first bite of stew. ‘He arrived a few days ago. He’s been visiting me in my dreams. ’


  We jumped a freight train in West Virginia. I’ve been trying to sleep, but too many thoughts are swirling around in my mind. I squint as my eyes adjust to the morning sun coming through the slatted door. I’m relieved to see we’re still headed west. That’s all Special Agent Walker said before disappearing: west. So, that’s where we’re going. I try not to think about the possibility that she may have del
iberately misled us, and instead focus on how she thought she was about to die and had nothing left to lose, and therefore no reason to lie to me.

  I roll onto my back. The ceiling of the train car is dirty, stained a variety of colors. I stare at a dark blue spot directly above my head for so long, I finally drift off to sleep. I dream, which I often do. But this one is different, more of a nightmare than a vision.

  I’m in West Virginia, back in the prison cell. Only this time, it is empty and brightly lit from above. The spherical cage that held Sam is now empty. The only indication he was ever there is a pool of still-wet blood on the floor. I walk into the middle of the cell, look around frantically and try to scream his name, but as soon as I open my mouth the bright lights from above are sucked into my throat, stealing my breath, choking me. I fall to my hands and knees, trying to get some air.

  Still gasping, I look up. Now I am in a large arena, with thousands of Mogadorians going wild in the stands. They chant and throw things down at me while fights break out among them. The floor is a shiny black slab of rock. I rise from all fours shakily. When I take one step forward, the ground behind me falls away, leaving only a black abyss. Above me is a giant hole and through this hole I see a group of clouds moving across a blue sky. It takes me a moment to realize where I am – inside the peak of a mountain.

  ‘Four!’ It’s Nine’s voice. Nine! I’m not alone. I look around and try to yell back, but my throat is still clogged. A beam of light escapes my mouth. Instinctively, I twist around and try to aim the light until it finally lands on Nine. He’s on the other side of the arena, but something is blocking my view of him. It’s Sam. He’s hanging between us, his wrists in shackles. Agent Purdy and Special Agent Walker stand below him, their Mogadorian cannons aimed at Sam’s chest. I don’t hesitate. I run to my best friend, the rock falling away behind me with every step I take. The roar of the crowd escalates until it’s absolutely deafening.

  When I’ve almost reached them, the black rock where the agents stand drops away, and they fall with it.

  ‘Help! Help me, please, help me,’ Sam yells, his body twisting, trying to break free from the shackles.

  I try using my telekinesis to free him, but it doesn’t work. I try to use my Lumen, but my palms remain dark. My Legacies are failing me.

  ‘Bring the rest, John,’ Sam says to me. ‘Bring them all. ’

  His voice sounds strange, like it’s not his. It’s almost like someone – or something – evil is speaking through him.

  Suddenly the tan, thin boy who appeared in my last vision is next to me. Once again, he’s transparent, like a ghost. When I see he’s wearing a Loric pendant around his neck, I reach out for him. But he shakes his head at me and places a finger to his lips. The boy leaps onto Sam and climbs up his legs and body until he can get his hands around the chains. I watch him strain, trying to pull apart the shackles, and I can see the surprise on his face when he realizes he doesn’t have the strength to do it.