The rise of nine, p.38
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       The Rise of Nine, p.38

         Part #3 of Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore
Page 38


  Setrákus Ra is just standing there, watching the show. He roars so loud I can feel the vibrations in my chest. My years of training were all leading up to this moment. The only way I could feel stronger is if the rest of the Garde were here; we should be fighting him together. I shake off the thought. I will take him out for all of us.

  After I finish off the last soldier, Setrákus Ra moves into the middle of the room to where I stand. He reaches behind his back and produces a massive double-headed whip that he snaps against the ground. It lights up with orange flames.

  I don’t even flinch. There is nothing he can do to scare or stop me now. I race forward, yelling, ‘For Lorien!’

  He flicks the whip over my head, sending a thick blanket of flames over me. I dive under its edge and roll in the direction of his feet. As I dodge his stomping boot, I see several scars branded around his ankles. I register them but don’t have time to think if there’s a connection between his scars and mine. My sword slashes his calf just above the highest scar on his left leg and then I spring to my feet. The mark I made immediately hardens and fades to another scar. He is completely unaffected by the wound, he doesn’t even limp a single step.

  He snaps the whip at me again and I try to cut off one of its two tails but when the flames touch my sword, the blade melts. I throw the remains of the sword at him. He raises his hand and halts the weapon in midair. It twirls and glows and as he stretches open his fingers, the melted blade climbs back above the handle, reforming into a gleaming sword again. He smiles and lets it fall to the ground.

  I dive for the sword, but when I reach down to grab it, his whip snaps across the top of my right hand. My skin boils and opens and, instead of blood, a hard black substance appears in the gash. I look at it and know I should feel unbelievable pain, but I’m numb. I stagger forward and finally get hold of the sword. Weapon in hand, I circle back around to face the Mog leader. But something is terribly wrong with my right hand now. It won’t move.

  Setrákus Ra cracks his whip again and I jump out of the way as it flies past me, leaving a trail of flames in its wake. When he raises his arm to pull the whip back over his shoulder again, I see an opening and take it. Gripping the sword in my left hand, I rush at him and plunge it deep into his ribcage. I yank it downwards, ripping his waxy skin apart until the sword is lodged at the bottom of his torso. I fall backwards, looking up at him and desperately hoping I’ve delivered the final blow, that I’ve ended the war.

  No such luck. Though Setrákus Ra grimaces for the first time, instead of turning into a pile of ash he just reaches down and pulls the sword out of his body. He examines the blade, watching his thick black blood dripping off of it. Then he puts the blade in his mouth and bites down on it, breaking it in half, and lets it drop to the ground. It’s like he’s playing with me. What’s going on? I rise to my feet, calculating quickly what my next move should be. Step one is avoiding Setrákus Ra long enough to figure it out. I wish, more than ever, that my Garde was standing with me.

  Ella? Can you hear me?


  I continue to back away from Setrákus Ra, trying to put more distance between us to give myself a fighting chance. That’s when I notice my right hand is starting to tingle. I look down and see the skin around the whip’s wound has turned black. As I watch, the discoloration spreads to my knuckles and fingernails; in a matter of seconds my entire right hand is black up to my wrist. The tingling sensation vanishes. My hand feels incredibly heavy. Like it’s turned to lead.

  I look up at Setrákus Ra. The purple scar on his neck begins to pulse with a bright light. ‘Are you ready to die?’ he asks me.

  Ella? If you’re coming, now is the time. In fact, it’s now or never.

  I want so much to hear her voice in my head, telling me that she and the others are just outside the door. We should be together, fighting Setrákus Ra with our Legacies, the gifts the Elders bestowed upon us, until there is nothing left to him but the worthless, powerless, pile of ashes all of the other Mogs have become. Instead, I’m here alone, my hand injured and useless, playing cat and mouse with Setrákus Ra. And he’s just standing here in front of me, fire whip in hand, having rendered my Legacies useless, toying with me. What is going on?

  I take one more look around at the desert, then reach for the wheel on the brown door and give it a spin. After one rotation, I decide to speed things up and just yank it off its hinges. A steel ladder goes down into a black hole.

  ‘I can see in the dark,’ Marina volunteers. ‘I’ll go first. ’ I stand aside to let her get by.

  Marina climbs down the ladder into the darkness and drops out of sight. Eight tosses her Chest down after her.

  ‘It’s about twenty feet down. Looks like there’s a long tunnel,’ Marina calls up. ‘All clear so far. I don’t see anyone. ’

  Nine looks at Ella and me and says, ‘Ladies first. ’ Ella starts down the ladder, and when she disappears, Nine smirks at me and says, ‘Well, okay, but I was referring to you, Four. ’

  I shake my head at him. He’s nothing if not consistent. He gestures for me to go down next. ‘You know I love you, man. Get in there. ’

  Using telekinesis, I let Bernie Kosar down first, back in his beagle form, then tuck my Chest under one arm and awkwardly climb down using just the other hand. It’s musty and cold inside the tunnel. Ahead of me, I can hear Ella and Marina walking and BK ’s toenails clicking on the cement. I turn the Lumen on in my free hand and sweep the concrete tunnel for a few seconds, getting my bearings.

  I use my Lumen to illuminate the distance between our location and a sharp turn far up ahead, then I turn it off. ‘Marina, you can see to keep us moving, right?’ Eight and Nine have now caught up to us. She nods and we all start to follow her down the dark passageway. We haven’t gone very far when I almost slam into Ella, who has stopped dead in her tracks.

  ‘Oh no! I finally got through to Six. She needs us! She says it’s now or never!’

  ‘Let’s pick up the pace, people!’ Nine calls out from the rear.

  We run as fast as we can through the dark. I flash my Lumen every few seconds to keep us from running over each over. We make a sharp turn and I wave my hands again to light up the tunnel and reveal what’s ahead. The next hundred yards slope downward, and my Lumen lights up a concrete door at the end. I slide my chest down ahead of me until it slams against the door. Still sprinting, I turn on both of my palms to give us all a better view.

  Nine quickly rips open his Chest and pulls out the yellow ball covered in small bumps. Like a magician, he holds it in his fingers and then whips it at the door. It bounces just a few inches off the metal before expanding while turning black. Long, razor-sharp spikes explode out of it and the door is blown inward on impact. The spikes instantly retreat until it’s just a yellow ball again, lying innocently on the floor. Nine leans down, grabs it, and tosses it back into his Chest, which he closes with a loud snap.

  ‘I was hoping that would happen,’ Nine says admiringly. If I were him I’d have taken advantage of my Chest of wonders to see through the door first, to know what we were about to get to. But this is no time to critique anyone’s decisions.

  We all bolt through the doorway. As soon as we enter, motion-sensor lights come on above us. Red lights flash and sirens blare, attacking our senses. At the end of this shorter passageway, we come to another large concrete door. This one rises as we approach it, revealing dozens of enormous Mogadorian soldiers with cannons and swords up and ready to use.

  ‘Mogs? What are they doing here?’ asks Eight in disbelief.

  ‘Yeah. Bad news; the government and the Mogadorians have teamed up,’ I say.

  ‘Easy pickings,’ Eight says. Nine nudges me and makes an exaggerated gesture of approval at our new-found Garde member.

  I feel a surge of adrenaline pump through my body that I’ve only felt in my visions. All of a sudden I know what to do. I look over at the others.

  ‘Follow my lead!’ I yell. They nod back at me. I drop my Chest, light the Lumen in both palms, and rush straight ahead. The last thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Ella scooping up my Chest.

  Just like in my vision, I aim the Lumen at my feet as I run and they catch on fire. The flames climb up my legs and engulf my body just as I reach the first soldier. When I jump, I’m a fireball that burns right through him. He turns to ash and I keep running.

  The Mogs I pass swing around 180 degrees to shoot at me, but my flames offer the perfect protection. I lower my head and run with my arms stretched out, effectively keeping any other soldiers away. Marina, Eight, and Ella are on the heels of the soldiers, picking them off from behind as I race ahead. Nine has run up onto the ceiling and is battling the Mogs from above. I toss fireballs at the closest ones to me and in a matter of seconds, they’re all torched, leaving a thick cloud of ash and smoke hanging above. I slow my pace when I see the last one go down. When we reach the back of the room, I launch a large ball of fire at the door, blowing it to pieces. I take a second to admire how well that worked, BK even getting his share of Mogs, though this is clearly neither the time nor the place for self-congratulation. Maybe Nine’s rubbed off on me. We all turn to see what’s next.

  Setrákus Ra has done something to me. I can’t move at all and stand rooted in place. At first, I wonder if it’s just all the punishing battle or the bizarre wound on my hand, or both. Then I realize there is something seriously wrong, something stopping me from being able to move. I force my chin up to look at Setrákus Ra looming before me. Setrákus Ra has produced a golden cane with a black eye on the handle. He holds it out and the eye opens, blinks, rolls left and then right before it finds me. Then the eye slowly closes, and snaps back open to emit a crazybright, blinding, red light. As the beam crawls over my helpless body, it leaves behind a weird, buzzing sensation on my skin. I really need to move. I need to get away from that creepy light, away from whatever it’s doing to me, but I’m immobilized. My hand weighs a ton. I am vulnerable and I need to get control – of the situation, of myself. But I can’t.

  The light from the eye is now purple and it rolls over my face. I lick my lips and taste something burned. Setrákus Ra moves towards me until he’s a few feet away. I close my eyes and tighten my jaw, thinking of John and Katarina and Sam and Marina and Ella. I see Eight and Henri and Crayton, and even Bernie Kosar. I will not give Setrákus Ra the honor, the pleasure, of looking at him while he kills me. Something hot and soft touches my forehead, like a blast of air. I steel myself for whatever is about to happen; brace myself for the certain agony it will bring. When nothing happens, I open my eyes to see Setrákus Ra just standing there. Well, not exactly. There are bands of red and purple light shining out of the head of his cane and crawling up and down his massive body.

  Setrákus Ra starts to shake and a white light outlines his shoulders and arms. He falls to his knees, convulsing, his huge head jerking up and down. Then his dull, waxy skin pulls away from the muscle and bone. When the skin snaps back down onto his shrinking body, it has a new, olive tone. Long blond hair grows out of his scalp until he has a full head of hair. When he looks up at me, I am more desperate than ever to attack but I still can’t move. He’s me – gray eyes and high cheekbones and dyed blond hair.