Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 3

Every ten times around Ronan’s reel, Blue deposited a marker. As the stack in her hand diminished, she wondered how far they would go, how they would know if they were even getting close. It seemed difficult to believe that a king might be hidden away down here. Harder still to imagine that her mother might be. This was not a place to inhabit.

She calmed her thoughts. No earthquakes. No stampedes.

She tried not to long or hope or think of or call for Maura. The last thing she wanted was for Cabeswater to produce a copy of her mother for her. She only wanted the real thing. The truth.

It became steeper. The blackness itself was fatiguing; Blue longed for the light, for space, for the sky. She felt buried alive.

Adam slipped and caught himself, hand outstretched.

“Hey!” Blue ordered. “Don’t touch the walls.”

Ronan broke off whistling to ask, “Cave germs?”

“It’s bad for stalactite growth.”

“Oh, honestly —”

“Ronan!” ordered Gansey from the front of the line, not turning, his canary sweater rendered light gray by the headlamps. “Get back to work.”

Ronan had only just begun to whistle once more when Gansey disappeared.

“What?” said Adam.

Then he was snatched from his feet. He slammed the ground and skidded away on his side, fingers trailing.

Blue didn’t have time to realize what this meant when she felt Ronan grab her from behind. Then the rope at her waist snagged tight, threatening to pull her off her feet as well. But he was well planted. His fingers were rooted into her arms so tightly they hurt.

Adam was still on the ground, but he’d stopped sliding.

“Gansey?” he called, the word doleful in the vast space beyond. “Are you okay down there?”

Because Gansey had not just vanished — he’d fallen into a hole.

Thank goodness we were tied together, Blue thought.

Ronan’s arms were still locked around her; she felt them quivering. She didn’t know if it was from muscle strain or worry. He had not even hesitated before grabbing her.

I can’t let myself forget that.

“Gansey?” Adam repeated, and there was just an edge of something terrible behind it. He had spackled confidence too heavily over his anxiety for it to be invisible.

Three tugs. Blue felt them shiver through Adam to her.

Adam laid his face down on the mud in visible relief.

“What’s going on?” Ronan asked. “Where is he?”

“He must be hanging,” Adam replied, uncertainty letting his Henrietta accent snatch the last g from hanging. “The rope’s cutting me in half it’s pulling so hard. I can’t get closer to help. It’s slimy — his weight would just pull me in.”

Freeing herself from Ronan’s arms, Blue took an experimental step closer to where Gansey had disappeared. The rope between her and Adam slackened, but he slid no closer to the hole. Slowly, she said, “I think you can be a counterweight if you don’t move, Adam. Ronan, stay up here — if anything happens and I start slipping, can you anchor yourself?”

Ronan’s headlamp pointed at a muddy column. He nodded.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m going to go over and take a look.”

She crept slowly past Adam. His fingers were hooked uselessly into the sloppy ground by his cheek.

She nearly fell into the hole.

No wonder Gansey hadn’t seen it. There was a rock ledge and then, just — nothing. She swept her headlamp back and forth and saw only inky black. The chasm was too wide to see the other side. Too deep to see the bottom.

The safety rope was visible, though, dark with mud, leading into the pit. Blue shone her flashlight into the black.


“I’m here.” Gansey’s voice was closer than she expected. Quieter than she expected, too. “I just — I believe I’m having a panic attack.”

“You’re having a panic attack? New rule: Everyone should give four tugs before suddenly disappearing. Have you broken anything?”

A long pause. “No.”

Something about the tone of the single syllable conveyed, all at once, that he had not been kidding about his fear.

Blue wasn’t sure that reassurance was her strong point, especially when she was the one who wanted it, but she tried. “It’ll be okay. We’re anchored up here. All you need to do is climb out. You’re not going to fall.”

“It’s not that.” His voice was a sliver. “There is something on my skin and it is reminding me of …”

He trailed off.

“Water,” Blue suggested. “Or mud. It’s everywhere. Say something again so I can point the flashlight at you.”

There was nothing but the sound of his breathing, jagged and afraid. She swept the flashlight beam again.

“Or mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are everywhere,” she said, voice bright.

No reply.

“There are over two dozen species of cave beetle,” she added. “I read that before we came today.”

Gansey whispered, “Hornets.”

Her heart contracted.

In the wash of adrenaline, she talked herself down: Yes, hornets could kill Gansey with just a sting, but no, there were not hornets in this cave. And today was not the day that Gansey was going to die, because she had seen his spirit on the day he died, and that spirit had been wearing an Aglionby sweater spattered with rain. Not a pair of khakis and a cheery yellow V-neck.

Her flashlight beam finally found him. He hung limply in his harness, head tilted down, hands over his ears. Her flashlight beam traced his heaving shoulders. They were spattered with mud and grime, but there were no insects on them.

She could breathe again.

“Look at me,” she ordered. “There are no hornets.”

“I know,” he muttered. “That’s why I said I think I’m having a panic attack. I know there are no hornets.”

What he wasn’t saying, but what they both knew, was that Cabeswater was a careful listener.

Which meant he needed to stop thinking about hornets.

“Well, you’re making me angry,” Blue said. “Adam is lying on his face in the mud for you. Ronan’s going home.”

Gansey laughed tonelessly. “Keep talking, Jane.”

“I don’t want to. I want you to just grab that rope and pull yourself up here like I know you’re perfectly capable of. What good does me talking do?”

He looked up at her then, his face streaked and unrecognizable. “It’s just that there’s something rustling down below me, and your voice drowns it out.”

A nasty shiver went down Blue’s spine.

Cabeswater was such a good listener.

“Ronan,” she called quietly over her shoulder. “New plan: Adam and I are going to pull Gansey out very quickly.”

“What! That is a f**king terrible idea,” Ronan said. “Why is that the plan?”

Blue didn’t want to shout it out loud.

Adam had been listening, though, and he said, quietly and clearly, “Est aliquid in foramen. I don’t know. Apis? Apibus? Forsitan.”

Latin hid nothing from Cabeswater; they only meant to spare Gansey.

“No,” Ronan said. “No, there is not. That is not what is down there.”

Gansey closed his eyes.

I saw him, Blue thought. I saw his spirit when he died, and this was not what he was wearing. This is not how it happens. It’s not now, it’s later, it’s later —

Ronan kept going, his voice louder. “No. Do you hear me, Cabeswater? You promised to keep me safe. Who are we to you? Nothing? If you let him die, that is not keeping me safe. Do you understand? If they die, I die, too.”

Now Blue could hear the humming sound from the pit, too.

Adam spoke up, voice half-muffled from the mud. “I made a deal with you, Cabeswater. I’m your hands and your eyes. What do you think I’ll see if he dies?”

The rustling grew. It sounded numerous.

It is not hornets, Blue thought, wished, longed, dreamt. Who are we to you, Cabeswater? Who am I to you?

Out loud, she said, “We’ve been making the ley line stronger. We have been making you stronger. And we’ll keep helping you, but you’ve got to help us —”

Blackness ate her flashlight beam, rising from the depths. The sound exploded. It was humming; it was wings. They filled the pit, hiding Gansey from view.

“Gansey!” Blue shouted, or maybe it was Adam, or maybe it was Ronan.

Then something flapped against her face, and another something. A body careened off the wall. Off the ceiling. The beams of their headlamps were cut into a thousand flickering pieces.

The sound of their wings. The sound.

Not hornets.




This was not where ravens lived, and this was not how ravens behaved. But they burst and burst from the pit below Gansey. It seemed as if the flock would never end. Blue had the disorienting sensation that it had always been this way, ravens coursing all around them, feathers brushing her cheeks, claws scraping over her helmet. Then, suddenly, the ravens began to shout, back and forth, back and forth. It grew more and more sing-song, and then it resolved into words.

Rex Corvus, parate Regis Corvi.

The Raven King, make way for the Raven King.

Feathers rained down as the birds careened toward the cave mouth. Blue’s heart burst with how big it was, this moment, and no other.

Then there was silence, or at least not enough sound to be heard over Blue’s thudding heart. Feathers quivered in the mud beside Adam.

“Hold on,” Gansey said. “I’m coming out.”


Adam Parrish was lonesome.

There is no good word for the opposite of lonesome. One might be tempted to suggest togetherness or contentment, but the fact that these two other words bear definitions unrelated to each other perfectly displays why lonesome cannot be properly mirrored. It does not mean solitude, nor alone, nor lonely, although lonesome can contain all of those words in itself.

Lonesome means a state of being apart. Of being other. Alone-some.

Adam was not always alone, but he was always lonesome. Even in a group, he was slowly perfecting the skill of holding himself separate. It was easier than one might expect; the others allowed him to do it. He knew he was different since aligning himself more tightly with the ley line this summer. He was himself, but more powerful. Himself, but less human.

If he were them, he would silently watch him draw away, too.

It was better this way. He had not fought with anyone for so long. He had not been angry for weeks.

Now, the day after their excursion into the cave of ravens, Adam drove his small, shitty car away from Henrietta, on his way to do Cabeswater’s work. Through the soles of his shoes, he felt the ley line’s slow pulse. If he didn’t actively focus on it, his heartbeat unconsciously synced up with it. There was something comforting and anxious about the way it twined through him now; he could no longer tell if it was merely a powerful friend or if the power was now actually him.

Adam eyed the gas gauge warily. The car would make it back, he thought, if he didn’t have to drive too far into the autumnal mountains. He wasn’t yet sure what he was meant to do for Cabeswater. Its needs came to him in restless nights and twinging days, slowly becoming visible like something floating to the surface of a lake. The current feeling, a nagging sense of incompletion, wasn’t really clear yet, but school was about to start, and he was hoping to get it taken care of before classes began. That morning, he’d lined his bathroom sink with tinfoil, filled it with water, and scryed for clarification. He’d only managed to glimpse a vague location.

The rest will come to me when I get closer. Probably.

Instead, though, as he drew nearer, his mind kept drifting back to Gansey’s voice in the cave the day before. The tremulous note in it. The fear — a fear so profound that Gansey could not bring himself to climb out of the pit, though there was nothing physically preventing him.

He had not known that Richard Gansey III had it in him to be a coward.

Adam remembered crouching on the kitchen floor of his parents’ double-wide, telling himself to take Gansey’s oft-repeated advice to leave. Just put what you need in the car, Adam.

But he had stayed. Hung in the pit of his father’s anger. A coward, too.

Adam felt like he needed to reconfigure every conversation he’d ever had with Gansey in light of this new knowledge.

As the entrance for Skyline Drive came into view, his thoughts switched abruptly to Cabeswater. Adam had not been to the park, but he knew from a lifetime in Henrietta that it was a national park that stretched along the Blue Ridge Mountains, following the ley line with an almost eerie precision. In front of him, three lanes fed into three squat brown booths. A short line of cars waited.

His gaze found the fee board. He hadn’t realized he needed to pay to enter. Fifteen dollars.

Although he hadn’t been able to pinpoint a precise location for Cabeswater’s task, he was sure it was on the other side of these toll booths. There was no other way in.

But he also knew the contents of his pockets, and it was not fifteen dollars.

I can come back another day.

He was so tired of doing things another day, another way, a cheaper way, a day when Gansey could tidy the edges. This was supposed to be something he could do by himself, his power as the magician, tapped into the ley line.

But the ley line couldn’t get him through a toll plaza.

If Gansey had been here, he would have breezily tossed the bills out of the Camaro. He wouldn’t have even thought about it.

One day, Adam thought. One day.

As he sat in line, he plucked his wallet free, and then, when it failed to produce enough, he began digging for change under the seats. It was a moment that would have been both easier and worse if he’d been with Gansey, Ronan, and Blue. Because then IOUs would have had to be created, the haves assuring them it wasn’t necessary to be paid back, the have-nots insisting that it was.

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