The rise of nine, p.17
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       The Rise of Nine, p.17

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
 
Page 17

 

  ‘Kind of weird, right?’ I whisper, watching her for any signs of jealousy. ‘But I don’t think it means anything. ’

  ‘Not weird at all. I think it’s kind of great,’ she says, clearly thrilled for me, like a friend, or a sister. I’m ashamed of myself, for feeling jealous of her earlier. We both look over at Eight as Ella begins to make a drumroll noise to announce the Chest’s opening.

  Eight has his palms on the lock. Almost immediately, it shakes and the Chest falls open. He quickly dives in elbowdeep, trying to touch everything all at once. He’s like a kid in a toy chest; he’s so excited. We all crowd around and watch. I can see some of the stones look like mine, but other items are completely different. There’s a glass ring, a curved antler, a black piece of cloth that shimmers blue and red when Eight touches it. He grabs a thin piece of gold the length of a pencil and holds it up. ‘Ahh, good to see you again. ’

  ‘What is that?’ Six asks.

  ‘I don’t know its real name, but I call it “the Duplicator. ” ’ Eight holds it above his head, like a wand. Then he snaps his wrist and it expands out, and down, like a scroll. Soon, it’s the size of a doorframe. He lets go and the frame hovers in front of him. Eight steps behind and we can see the occasional pair of hands and feet when he starts doing jumping jacks.

  ‘Okay,’ Six says. ‘That is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. ’

  Eight teleports to her side and stands there, head cocked to the side as he scratches his chin, like he’s judging a show. Our heads snap back to the golden doorframe. The hands and feet are continuing their steady pace. Wait. There are two of him now! The one standing next to Six claps, opens his palm, and the piece of gold contracts and zips back into his hand. Immediately, the second Eight disappears.

  ‘Impressive,’ Crayton says, clapping his hands slowly and loudly. ‘ That will come in very handy sometime soon. At the very least, you will make an excellent distraction. ’

  ‘I used it to sneak out of our house a few times,’ Eight admits. ‘Reynolds never figured out what I could do. Even before he died, I was always trying to figure out how to do the most with my Legacies. ’

  Crayton throws Eight’s clothes to him, and picks up my Chest. ‘Now, we really need to get going. ’

  ‘Aw, come on,’ Eight says, pulling on his pants. As he hops about, he bats his eyes at Crayton and says in a wheedling voice, ‘I just got my Chest back. Can’t I get reacquainted with it? I’ve missed it so much. ’

  ‘Later,’ Crayton says curtly. When he turns towards us, though, I can see he is smiling.

  Eight drops the piece of gold inside the Chest and pulls out a green crystal, stuffing it into his pocket. He closes the Chest and picks it up with a dramatic sigh. In his most pathetic voice he says, ‘Oh, all right. Our reunion will just have to wait. Follow me, everybody. ’

  ‘How often has Setrákus visited you in your dreams?’ Crayton asks. We’ve been walking more than five hours and we’re making slow progress up the mountain. Eight is leading us up a winding path that is more ledge than road. There’s a thin blanket of snow everywhere, and the wind is brutally strong. We’re all freezing, but Six protects us with her Legacy, pushing the wind and snow out of our way. Weather control is one of the more useful Legacies, that’s for sure.

  ‘He’s been talking to me for a while now, trying to trick me and get me to lose my temper,’ Eight says. ‘But now that he’s on Earth, it’s a lot more frequent. He taunts me, lies, and now he’s trying to get me to sacrifice myself so that you all can go back to Lorien. He’s been getting to me more than usual lately. ’

  ‘What does that mean, exactly? “Getting to you”?’ Crayton asks.

  ‘Last night in a vision he showed me my friend Devdan hanging from chains. I don’t know if it’s a vision of something that’s actually happening or just a trick, but it’s really messing with my head. ’

  ‘Four sees him, too,’ Six chimes in.

  Eight spins around with a surprised look on his face and walks backwards, his mind clearly putting the pieces together. His foot comes dangerously close to slipping off the ledge, making me gasp and reach out nervously. But he never wavers as he continues. ‘You know, I think I saw him last night. I forgot about it until now. He has blond hair? Tall guy?’

  ‘And better looking than you? Yup, that’s him,’ Six says with a smile.

  Eight stops backpedaling and looks thoughtful. The drop off to our left is almost two thousand feet. ‘You know, I always assumed it was me, but guess I was wrong,’ he says thoughtfully.

  ‘Assumed you were what?’ I ask, willing him away from the edge.

  ‘Pittacus Lore. ’

  ‘Why would you think that?’ Crayton asks.

  ‘Because Reynolds told me that Pittacus and Setrákus were always able to communicate with each other. But now that I know Four can, too, I’m confused. ’

  Eight starts walking forwards again when Ella asks, ‘How can anyone be Pittacus?’

  ‘Each of us is supposed to take on the roles of the original ten Elders, so I guess that means one of us will take on Pittacus’s role,’ Six explains. ‘Four’s Cêpan told him so, in a letter. I read it myself. Eventually, we’re supposed to become even stronger than them. That’s why the Mogs are moving so quickly now, before we become more dangerous, better able to protect ourselves and attack them. ’ She looks over at Crayton, who is nodding as she speaks.

  I feel like I’m the only one who knows so little – nothing, really – of my history. Adelina refused to tell me anything, to answer a single one of my questions, or even hint at what I would one day be capable of. Now, I’m so far behind everyone else. The only Elder I even know of is Pittacus, never mind knowing which one I might become. I just have to believe I’ll figure out who I am when the time is right. Sometimes, I get sad when I think about everything I wish I already knew and when I think about what my childhood should have been. But there’s no time for me to mourn what can’t be changed.

  Ella comes to walk with me, brushing her hand against mine. ‘You look sad. You okay?’

  I smile at her. ‘I’m not sad. But I am mad at myself. I’ve always blamed Adelina for why I haven’t developed my Legacies the way that I might have. But look at Eight. He lost his Cêpan, but took what he had and just kept working at it. ’

  We walk together in silence for a few more minutes, until Eight speaks. ‘Do you ever wish the Elders had given us our Inheritance in locked backpacks instead?’ Eight says, switching his Chest to the other arm.

  I look guiltily at Crayton. I move to take my Chest from him, but he just pushes me away gently.

  ‘I have it for now, Marina. Soon enough I’m sure you’ll need to bear its burden alone, but I’ll help while I can. ’

  We walk for another few minutes until the path along the ridge suddenly ends at a steep cliff. We’re a few hundred feet from the peak, and I stare over the Himalayas spread out on my left. The mountains are vast and seem endless. It’s a breathtaking sight, one I hope I’ll remember forever.

  ‘So, now where?’ Six asks, looking skeptically up at the mountain. ‘There is no way we can go straight up the peak. There don’t seem to be a lot of other options, though. ’

  Eight points at two tall, hulking boulders leaning against the mountainside, and then clenches his hand. The boulders separate, revealing a curved stone staircase that winds around and leads inside the rock face. We follow Eight up to the stairs. I feel both claustrophobic and vulnerable. If someone follows us, there’s no way out.

  ‘Almost there,’ Eight says over his shoulder.

  The stairs are so cold; their iciness seeps up through my feet and body. They finally lead us to a huge rock cavern that has been carved out of the mountain.

  We pour into it, gazing around in awe. The ceiling is a couple hundred feet high, and the walls are smooth and polished. Carved deep into one of the walls are two sets of vertical lines several feet high and spaced fi
ve feet apart. A small blue triangle sits between the two lines, with three more curved lines carved horizontally above it.

  ‘Is that supposed to be a door?’ I ask, following the lines with my eyes.

  Eight steps aside, to let all of us see better. ‘It’s not supposed to be; it is a door. It’s a door to the far corners of the Earth. ’

  14.

  I pull my hoodie up over my head and hunch my shoulders. Nine’s wearing a dirty Cubs cap and cracked sunglasses, items he found in the train yard where we jumped off. After an hour’s walk south, we’re standing against the wall of a platform, waiting for another train. This one is elevated. The el, as Chicagoans call it. The Chests in our arms stand out against the other passenger’s briefcases and backpacks, and I do my best to act casual. Bernie Kosar sleeps comfortably inside my shirt, now a chameleon. Nine is still kind of pissed that I was skeptical that anyone would put a safe house in such a densely populated area. I know Henri would never have chosen such an exposed place.

  We don’t speak as the train rumbles into the station. Bells chime, the doors slide open, and Nine leads me into the last car. When the train pulls away, we watch the city of Chicago slowly grow closer.

  ‘Just enjoy the view for now,’ Nine says. He looks more and more at peace the closer we get to the city. ‘I’ll tell you more when we get off. ’

  I’ve never been to Chicago before. We pass what feels like a million apartment buildings and houses as we clatter through the different neighborhoods. The streets below are full of cars, trucks, people, dogs being walked, babies being pushed in strollers. Everyone looks so happy, and safe. I can’t help but wish I were one of them. Just going to work or school, maybe for a walk with Sarah to get a cup of coffee. A normal life. Such a simple idea, but it’s almost impossible for me to picture. The train stops, people stream off and others push to get on. The train gets so crowded that two girls, a blonde and a brunette, are forced to stand practically leaning over us.

  ‘Like I said,’ Nine says, smiling happily, ‘just enjoy the view. ’

  After a few minutes, the blonde kicks the Chest under my feet. ‘Ow! Jeez, guys. What’s with the ginormous boxes?’

  ‘Vacuum cleaners. ’ I’m nervous and Nine’s story from the other night is the first thing that pops into my mind. ‘We’re, uh, salesmen. ’

  ‘Really?’ The brunette asks. She looks disappointed. I sag a bit; even I’m a bit disappointed in my fictional life.

  Nine takes off his cracked sunglasses and elbows me in the ribs. ‘That was a joke. My friend here, he thinks he’s so funny. Actually, we work for an art collector and we’re taking these artifacts down to the Art Institute of Chicago. ’

  ‘Oh, yeah?’ the blonde asks. The two girls glance at each other and look pleased. As she turns back to us, she tucks her hair behind her ear. ‘I’m a student there. ’

 
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