Hey guys and girls, here we go, the last except that I received from Harper Collins. 🙂 If you haven’t yet read the previous chapters, here are the links for you: Prologue and Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, Chapter 6 and Chapter 7. 🙂
The events in this book are real.
Names and places have been changed to protect the lorien six, who remain in hiding.
Take this as your first warning.
Other civilizations do exist.
Some of them seek to destroy you.
Henri is parked exactly where he said he would be. I jump in the truck, still smiling.
“Good day?” he asks.
“Not bad. Got my phone back.”
He looks at me suspiciously. “Do I even want to know what that means?”
“Did your hands come on at all?”
“No,” I lie. “How was your day?”
He follows the driveway around the school. “It was good. I drove an hour and a half to Columbus after dropping you off.”
“Big banks there. I didn’t want to draw suspicion by requesting a transfer for an amount of money larger than what is collectively contained within the entire town.”
I nod. “Smart thinking.”
He pulls onto the road.
“So are you going to tell me her name?”
“Huh?” I ask.
“There has to be a reason for that ridiculous smile of yours. The most obvious reason is a girl.”
“How’d you know?”
“John, my friend, back on Lorien this ol’ Cêpan was quite the ladies’ man.”
“Get out of here,” I say. “There is no such thing as a ladies’ man on Lorien.”
He nods approvingly. “You’ve been paying attention.”
The Loric are a monogamous people. When we fall in love, it’s for life. Marriage comes around the age of twenty-five, give or take, and has nothing to do with law. It’s based more on promise and commitment than anything else. Henri was married for twenty years
before he left with me. Ten years have passed but I know he still misses his wife every single day.
“So who is she?” he asks.
“Her name is Sarah Hart. She’s the daughter of the real-estate agent you got the house from. She’s in two of my classes. She’s a junior.”
He nods. “Pretty?”
“Absolutely. And smart.”
“Yeah,” he draws out slowly. “I’ve been expecting this for a long time now. Just keep in mind that we might have to leave at a moment’s notice.”
“I know,” I say, and the rest of the trip home is made in silence.
When I get home, the Loric Chest is sitting on the kitchen table. It’s the size of a microwave oven, almost perfectly square, a foot and a half by a foot and a half. Excitement shoots through me. I walk up to it and grab the lock in my hand.
“I think I’m more excited about learning how this is unlocked than about what’s actually in it,” I say.
“Really? Well, I can show you how it’s unlocked and then we can just relock it and forget about what’s inside.”
I smile at him. “Let’s not be rash. Come on. What’s inside?”
“It’s your Inheritance.”
“What do you mean, my Inheritance?”
“It’s what’s given to each Garde at birth to be used by his or her Keeper when the Garde is coming into his or her Legacy.”
I nod with exhilaration. “So what’s in it?”
His coy response frustrates me. I pick up the lock and try to force it open as I’ve always tried doing. Of course it doesn’t budge.
“You can’t open it without me, and I can’t open it without you,” Henri says.
“Well, how do we open it? There isn’t a keyhole.”
“Oh, come on, Henri. Quit being secretive.”
He takes the lock from me. “The lock only opens when we’re together, and only after your first Legacy appears.”
He walks to the front door and sticks his head out, then he closes and locks it. He walks back. “Press your palm against the side of the lock,” he says, and I do.
“It’s warm,” I say.
“Good. That means you’re ready.”
He presses his palm against the other side of the lock and interlocks his fingers with mine. A second passes.
The lock snaps open.
“Amazing!” I say.
“It’s protected by a Loric charm, just like you are.
It can’t be broken. You could run over it with a steamroller and it wouldn’t even be dented. Only the two of us can open it together. Unless I die; then you can open it yourself.”
“Well,” I say, “I hope that doesn’t happen.”
I try to lift the top of the box, but Henri reaches over and stops me.
“Not yet,” he says. “There are things in here you aren’t ready to see. Go sit on the couch.”
“Henri, come on.”
“Just trust me,” he says.
I shake my head and sit down. He opens the box and removes a rock that is probably six inches long, two inches thick. He relocks the box, then brings the rock over to me. It is perfectly smooth and oblong, clear on the outside but cloudy in the center.
“What is it?” I ask.
“A Loric crystal.”
“What’s it for?”
“Hold it,” he says, handing it to me.
The second my hands come into contact with it both lights snap on in my palms. They are even brighter than the day before. The rock begins to warm. I hold it up to look more closely at it. The cloudy mass in the center is swirling, turning in on itself like a wave. I can also feel the pendant around my neck heating up. I’m thrilled by all this new development. My whole life has been spent impatiently waiting for my powers to arrive. Sure, there were times when I hoped they never would, mainly so we could finally settle somewhere and live a normal life; but for now—holding a crystal that contains what looks like a ball of smoke in its center, and knowing my hands are resistant to heat and fire, and that more Legacies are on the way that will then be followed by my major power (the power that will allow me to fight)—well, it’s all pretty cool and exciting. I can’t wipe the smile from my face.
“What is happening to it?”
“It’s tied to your Legacy. Your touch activates it. If you weren’t developing Lumen, then the crystal itself would light up the way your hands are. Instead it’s the other way around.”
I stare at the crystal, watching the smoke circle and glow.
“Shall we start?” Henri asks.
I nod my head rapidly. “Hell, yes.”
The day has turned cold. The house is silent aside from the occasional gust of wind rattling the windows. I lie on my back on top of the wooden coffee table. My hands dangle over the sides. At some point Henri will build a fire beneath them both. My breathing is slow and steady, as Henri has instructed.
“You have to keep your eyes closed,” he says. “Just listen to the wind. There might be a slight burning in your arms when I drag the crystal up them. Ignore it as best as you can.”
I listen to the wind blow through the trees outside. I can somehow feel them sway and bend. Henri begins with my right hand. He presses the crystal against the back of it, then pushes it up my wrist and onto my forearm. There is a burn as he has predicted, but not enough of one to make me pull my arm free.
“Let your mind drift, John. Go where you need to go.”
I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I try to clear my mind and breathe slowly. All at once I feel myself drift away. From somewhere I can feel the sun’s warmth upon my face, and a wind far warmer than what is blowing beyond our walls. When I open my eyes I’m no longer in Ohio.
I’m above a vast expanse of treetops, nothing but jungle as far as I can see. Blue sky, the sun beating down, a sun almost double the size of Earth’s. A warm, soft wind blows through my hair. Down below, rivers forge deep ravines that cut through the greenery. I am floating above one of them. Animals of all shapes and sizes—some long and slender, some with short arms and stout bodies, some with hair and some with dark-colored skin that looks rough to the touch—are drinking from the cool waters at the river’s bank.
There is a bend in the horizon line far off in the distance, and I know that I am on Lorien. It’s a planet ten times smaller than Earth, and it’s possible to see the curve of its surface when looking from far enough away. Somehow I’m able to fl y. I rush up and twist in the
air, then torpedo down and speed along the river’s surface. The animals lift their heads and watch with curiosity, but not with fear. Lorien in its prime, covered with growth, inhabited by animals. In a way, it looks like what I imagine Earth looked like millions of years ago, when the land ruled the lives of its creatures, before humans arrived and started ruling the land. Lorien in its prime; I know that it no longer looks like this today. I
must be living a memory. Surely it isn’t my own?
And then the day skips ahead to darkness. Off in the distance a great display of fireworks begins, rising high in the sky and exploding into shapes of animals and trees with the dark sky and the moons and a million stars serving as a brilliant backdrop.
“I can feel their desperation,” I hear from somewhere. I turn and look around me. There is nobody there. “They know where one of the others is, but the charm still holds. They can’t touch her until they’ve killed you first. But they continue to track her.”
I fly up high, then dip low, seeking the source of the voice. Where is it coming from?
“Now is when we have to be most cautious. Now is when we have to stay ahead of them.”
I push forward towards the fireworks. The voice unnerves me. Perhaps the loud booms will drown it out.
“They had hoped to kill us all well before your Legacies developed. But we’ve kept hidden. We have to stay calm. The first three panicked. The first three are dead. We have to stay smart and cautious. When we panic is when mistakes are made. They know it will only get harder for them the more developed the rest of you are, and when you are all fully developed, the war will be waged. We will hit back and seek our revenge, and they
I see the bombs fall from miles above Lorien’s surface. Explosions shake the ground and the air, screams carry on the wind, bursts of fire sweep across the land and the trees. The forest burns. There must be a thousand different aircraft, all dropping from high in the sky to land on Lorien. Mogadorian soldiers pour out, carrying guns and grenades that hold powers far greater than what is used in warfare here. They are taller than we are, and still look similar except in the face. They have no pupils and their irises are a deep magenta color, some of them black. Dark, heavy circles rim their eyes and there’s a pallor to their skin—an almost discolored, bruised quality to it. Their teeth glint between lips that never seem to close, teeth that look filed, coming to an unnatural point.
The beasts of Mogadore come off the planes close behind, the same cold look in their eyes. Some of them are as big as houses, razor teeth showing, roaring so loud that it hurts my ears.
“We got careless, John. That is how we were defeated so easily,” he says. I know now that the voice I’m hearing is Henri’s. But he is nowhere to be seen, and I can’t take my eyes off the killing and the destruction below me to look for him. People are running everywhere, fighting back. As many Mogadorians as Loric are being killed. But the Loric are losing the battle against the beasts, which are killing our people by the dozens: breathing fire, gnashing teeth, viciously swinging arms and tails. Time is speeding along, going much faster than normal. How much has passed? An hour? Two?
The Garde lead the fight, their Legacies on full display. Some are flying, some able to run so fast that they become a blur, and some disappear entirely. Lasers shoot from hands, bodies become engulfed in flames, storm clouds are brewed coupled with harsh winds above those able to control the weather. But they are still losing. They are outnumbered five hundred to one.
Their powers are not enough.
“Our guard had dropped. The Mogadorians had planned well, picking that exact moment when they knew we were at our most vulnerable, when the planet’s Elders were gone. Pittacus Lore, the greatest of them, their leader, had assembled them before the attack. Nobody knows what happened to them, or where they went, or if they are even still alive. Perhaps the Mogadorians took them out first, and once the Elders were out of the way, that is when they attacked. All we really know is that there was a column of shimmering white light that shot into the sky as far as anyone could see on the day the Elders assembled. It lasted the entire day, then vanished. We, as a people, should have recognized it as a sign that something was amiss, but we didn’t. We have no one to blame
but ourselves for what happened. We were lucky to get anyone off the planet, much less nine young Garde who might someday continue the fight, and keep our race alive.”
Off in the distance a ship shoots high and fast into the air, a blue stream following behind it. I watch it from my vantage point in the sky until it disappears. There is something familiar about it. And then it dawns on me: I am in that ship, and Henri is, too. It’s
the ship carrying us to Earth. The Loric must have known they were beaten. Why else would they send us away?
Useless slaughter. That is how it all looks to me. I land on the ground and walk though a ball of fire. Rage sweeps through me. Men and women are dying, Garde and Cêpan, along with defenseless children. How can this be tolerated? How can the hearts of the Mogadorians be so hardened as to do all this? And why was I spared?
I lunge at a nearby soldier but go straight through him and fall down. Everything I am witnessing has already happened. I’m a spectator of our own demise and there’s nothing I can do. I turn around and face a beast that must be forty feet tall, broad shouldered, with red eyes and horns twenty feet in length. Drool falls from its long, sharp teeth. It lets out a roar, and then lunges. It passes through me but takes out dozens of Loric around me.
Just like that, every one of them gone. And the beast keeps going, taking out more Loric. Through the scene of destruction I hear a scratching noise, something separate from the carnage on Lorien. I am drifting away, or drifting back. Two hands press down upon my shoulders. My eyes snap open and I’m back in our home in Ohio. My arms are dangling over the coffee table. Inches below them are two cauldrons of fire, and both of my hands and wrists are completely submerged in the flames. I don’t feel the effects at all.
Henri stands over me. The scratching I heard a minute ago is coming from the front porch.
“What is that?” I whisper, sitting up.
“I don’t know,” he says.
We are both silent, straining to listen. Three more scratches at the door. Henri looks down at me.
“There’s somebody out there,” he says.
I look at the clock on the wall. Nearly an hour has passed. I’m sweating, out of breath, unsettled by the scenes of slaughter I just witnessed. For the first time in my life I truly understand what happened on Lorien.
Before tonight the events were just part of another story, not all that different from the many I have read in books. But now I have seen the blood, the tears, the dead. I have seen the destruction. It’s a part of who I am. Outside, darkness has set in. Three more scratches
at the door, a low groan. We both jump. I immediately think of the low groans I heard coming from the beasts. Henri rushes into the kitchen and grabs a knife from the drawer beside the sink.
“Get behind the couch.”
“Because I said so.”
“You think that little knife is going to take down a Mogadorian?”
“If I hit them straight in the heart it will. Now get down.”
I scramble off the coffee table and crouch behind the sofa. The two cauldrons of fi re are still going, faint visions of Lorien still moving through my mind. An impatient growl comes from the other side of the front door. There is no mistaking that somebody, or something, is out there. My heart races.
“Keep down,” Henri says.
I lift my head so that I can peer over the back of the couch. All that blood, I think. Surely they knew they were outmatched. But they fought to the end anyway, dying to save each other, dying to save Lorien. Henri grips the knife tightly. He slowly reaches for the brass
knob. Anger sweeps through me. I hope it is one of them. Let a Mogadorian come through that door. He’ll meet his match.
There’s no way I’m staying behind this couch. I reach over and grab one of the cauldrons, thrust my hand into it and pull out a burning piece of wood with a pointed end. It’s cool to the touch, but the fire burns on, sweeping over and around my hand. I hold the piece of wood like a dagger. Let them come, I think. There will be no more running. Henri looks over at me, takes a deep breath and rips the front door open.
There we go, ending on a cliff-hanger! 🙂 I’m pushing to finish the book and have the review up for you tomorrow, so keep an eye on your Google Reader or inbox for it.