The rise of nine, p.16
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       The Rise of Nine, p.16

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 16



  I lie awake for hours, sitting and watching the fire outside the hut. Inside, Ella sleeps on the hammock; Six and Crayton snore under blankets on the floor. After a while, the fire goes from a raging and crackling blaze to glowing embers. I watch the smoke waft through the air, drifting to hang around beneath the canopy of trees. Eventually, the fire dies out entirely.

  I just can’t sleep. For so many years, I was alone with my envy and anger, trapped in that orphanage. Now, finally, I can let it go. Now I believe there’s nothing we can’t do with all of us together. So I don’t know why I still feel this pit in my stomach whenever I get a moment to think. I know what the pit is, too; I feel lonely. But I’m not alone, I keep telling myself.

  I look over at Eight, sleeping as close as he can to the fire for warmth. In the early morning light, all curled up, he looks small. He sleeps restlessly, under a thin blanket of twisted vines. I watch him toss and turn, running his hands through his already messy hair. I stoke the coals to create as much heat as possible and the crackle is enough to make him stir. I don’t know why, but I feel protective of him. At the same time, I think about his muscular arms and I want him to protect me. Must be something about opposites attracting. He is playful and I am, well, not.

  Crayton’s forehead is creased with worry when he finally gets up and wakes the others. We all try to shake off the sleep cobwebs as quickly as possible. I know Crayton is wondering how he’s going to get us all on a plane.

  My thoughts turn to Eight’s vision of Setrákus. He poses the greatest threat of all, even more than a bunch of well-armed Mogs. I know Crayton doesn’t think we’re ready to face Setrákus. We haven’t developed our Legacies, we haven’t had a chance to learn how to fight together, and we must find Four, Five and Nine before we face a threat like Setrákus Ra. When I said as much last night, Eight shook his head, frustrated by all the skepticism. ‘I know we could take him, together,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen him in my dreams and felt his power. I know what he’s capable of; but I also know what we are capable of, and it is far greater than anything he could ever be. I believe in us. But it won’t happen if we aren’t all convinced. ’

  ‘I agree, we do need to bring down Setrákus Ra. But first we need to find the others. The chances of beating him are far better if you are all together. ’ Crayton had argued. I could hear the worry in Crayton’s words.

  Eight stood firm, clearly believing we’re enough to take him. ‘My dreams have guided me to you all. And they tell me we can do this; we can’t run away, even if it is to find the others. ’

  Now Eight stands and stretches, revealing a bit of his stomach as his shirt lifts. He leans down and picks up a walking stick and twirls it in his hands. I can’t take my eyes off of him. It’s such a new and unusual feeling for me and makes me feel shy and excited at the same time. ‘So where do you want to go?’ he asks, looking around at all of us.

  ‘East coast, United States,’ Six says. She kicks the bottom of his walking stick as it swings by and it flips up and into her hand. These two are quite the comedy duo. Six throws the stick back to him and he makes a big show of diving and missing it on purpose. Their play looks a lot like flirting. I have to admit, it makes me jealous. Even if I wanted to, I could never be this way with Eight, with anyone. This is just how Six is, easy. No wonder they’re having so much fun.

  ‘Okay, if that’s where you want to go, we have a couple options. A plane? Do we have enough money to buy tickets for all of us?’

  Crayton pats his shirt pocket, nodding. ‘That shouldn’t be a problem. ’

  ‘Great. We head back to New Delhi, buy some tickets, and we can be in the United States in a day or so . Or, we could be in the state of New Mexico in just a few short hours. ’

  ‘We can’t all teleport,’ Six points out, drawing in the dirt with her toe.

  ‘Maybe we can,’ Eight says, a sly smile on his face. Six has drawn a circle and Eight reaches his foot over to add two eyes, a nose and a big smiley face. They grin at each other. ‘We just need to take a short walk, then it’s a simple matter of a giant leap of faith. ’ He is clearly enjoying keeping us in the dark; I see the others nodding at him, so caught up in his confidence they forget to ask for any details. I don’t want to be the one to point out we have no idea what he has in mind.

  ‘Sounds a lot faster than a plane,’ Ella says. ‘And a whole lot cooler. ’

  ‘You’ve got my attention,’ Crayton says, hefting my Chest up onto his shoulder. ‘You need to show us what you’re talking about, the quicker, the better. If Setrákus Ra is already here on Earth, we’ve got to move fast. ’

  Eight holds up a finger, telling Crayton to be patient. Then, he pulls off his shirt and pants. Wow. ‘Not before my morning swim,’ he says.

  Eight sprints to the edge of the cliff where the waterfall drops off. Without pausing, he dives with his hands out at the side. Like a bird, he seems to float, riding the waves of air. I rush to the edge of the cliff and look over the side, just in time to see him change shape and enter the water as a red swordfish, and then surface as himself. I suddenly get the urge to jump in too, and I follow him.

  The water is startlingly cool when I dive in, but when I come up for air I can feel my face is flushed. What is going on with me? I’m not usually this impulsive.

  ‘Nice dive,’ Eight says, swimming over and treading water close to me. He shakes his head and his black, glistening curls whip around his head. ‘So, do you prefer being called Marina or Seven?’

  ‘I don’t care. Whatever,’ I say, feeling shy.

  ‘I like Marina,’ he says, speaking decisively for both of us. ‘Is this your first time in India, Marina?’

  ‘Yes. I was in Spain for a long time. In an orphanage. ’

  ‘An orphanage, huh? At least you had lots of kids around you; you could make friends. Not like me. ’

  I can see how lonely he’s been. I decide not to correct him and tell him how all the other girls hated me and I had no friends until Ella showed up. I just shrug. ‘I guess. I’m happier now. ’

  ‘You know what? I like you, Marina,’ he says. It sounds like he is rolling my name around in his mouth, savoring it. ‘You’re quiet, but cool. You remind me of –’

  Suddenly, there’s a huge splash right between Eight and me. The waves rock us away from each other and I watch Six emerge, her wet blond hair falling perfectly down her back. She doesn’t say a word then dives back under the water, pulling Eight with her. I dive too, and watch them wrestle underwater until Eight, laughing, begs for mercy and Six lets him go.

  ‘Damn, you’re strong,’ he says as he breaks the surface, coughing.

  ‘And don’t you forget it,’ she says, grinning. ‘Now, can we please get out of here?’

  The sight of Six and Eight all tangled up makes me jealous, but this is not the time for it. I duck my head under water to give myself a minute to pull myself together. I let the water enter my lungs and I sink and sink, until my toes touch the muddy and rocky floor. I sit down in the mush and try to collect my thoughts. I’m angry at myself for feeling so vulnerable. This is a crush! Nothing more. And do I really care if Eight prefers Six’s perfect, blond hair to my mop? I mean, she isn’t a threat to me. We have to work as a team, trust each other. I don’t want to be angry with Six, especially after everything she has done for me. For a minute I pace around the bottom, hoping to come up with something witty to say when I surface. I can do this.

  I realize I’m directly under the spot where the waterfall enters the pool, where the water is clear and sparkling. The glint off something catches my eye. It’s a long silver object stuck in the muddy floor.

  I go to take a closer look. It’s maybe fifteen feet long and, when I circle it, I’m stunned to realize it’s some sort of cockpit behind a long windshield. That’s when I see a Chest, just sitting there on the seat inside. I can’t believe it – is it possible that this is the silver ship that Eight s
aw fly away the day that the Mogs attacked, the day that his Cêpan was killed? I hear a muffled cry and realize it’s mine. I grab a handle on the fuselage, and pull. It doesn’t budge. The pressure at the bottom of the lake is so strong, but I keep pulling and soon the cockpit door swings open. A rush of water mixes with water that was trapped inside. The Chest is slimy when I grab it and race for the surface.

  The first thing I see is Six and Eight, sitting in the grass and talking. Ella is twirling Eight’s walking stick over her head, then out in front of her. Crayton is watching Ella, his chin cupped in his hands. Ella sees me coming out of the water and spikes the stick into the grass.

  ‘Marina!’ she calls.

  ‘Hey, there you are! Where’d you go?’ Eight yells, coming over to the edge.

  ‘Come on out, Marina,’ Six calls. ‘We really have to boogie now!’

  I lift the Chest up and out of the water, holding it aloft so they can all see it. I don’t even care the most revolting, mucky water is pouring off it and onto my head. I’m grinning so wide, my face hurts. I love the looks on their faces, mouths agape and eyes wide. I’m enjoying it so much I use my telekinesis to float the Chest over to Eight and Six and leave it there, in midair.

  ‘Look what I found, Eight!’

  Eight disappears from the grass and reappears up in the air next to the Chest. He wraps his arms around it and hugs it. Slime and all. Then he teleports back to the edge of the lake, the Chest still in his hands. ‘I can’t believe it,’ Eight finally says. ‘All this time, it was right here. ’ He looks stunned.

  ‘It was inside a Mog ship at the bottom of the lake,’ I say, walking out of the water.

  Eight disappears again and teleports directly in front of me, our noses practically touching. Before I can register how nice his warm breath feels on my face, he picks me up and kisses me hard on the mouth as he twirls me around. My body stiffens and I suddenly have no idea what to do with my hands. I don’t know what to do at all, so I just let it happen. He tastes salty and sweet at the same time. The whole world disappears and I feel as if I’m floating in darkness.

  When he sets me down, I pull back and look into his eyes. One glance and I know this huge, romantic moment was a spontaneous and grateful gesture for him. No more, no less. I’m an idiot. I really need to let this crush go.

  ‘I never swim over here. From the start, I always dove off on the other side there,’ Eight says. ‘Stuck in the same area. ’ He shakes his head. ‘Thank you, Marina. ’

  ‘Um, you’re welcome,’ I whisper, still dazed by the first part of his thank-you.

  ‘Now that you’ve hugged it hello, don’t you want to open it?’ Crayton asks. ‘Come on, already!’

  ‘Oh! Right, of course!’ Eight yells, and he teleports back to the Chest.

  Six walks towards me. ‘Marina! That was so awesome!’ She hugs me, then pulls away to shake me by the shoulders, smiling at me meaningfully. In a low voice, she whispers, ‘And am I seeing things, or did you just get kissed?’