Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 36

The two boys stood for several long minutes, swinging the ghost light in the pit. Swaths of light cut crazily back and forth above the pit as they did. But they seemed unsatisfied with their results. Adam leaned forward — Ronan gripped his arm tightly — and then the two of them turned back to where the others waited.

“Can’t see a thing,” Adam said. “There’s nothing to do but go in.”

“Please —” Gansey started, then stopped. “Be careful.”

Adam and Ronan regarded each other, and then the pit. They looked winsome and brave, trusting of Cabeswater or of each other. They did not look afraid, so Blue was afraid for them.

“Say it,” Ronan told Gansey.

“Say what?”


“That’s onward and upward,” Gansey said. “It means to ascend. That’s opposite.”

“Oh, well,” Ronan said. “Squash one, squash two, squash three on and on and on —”

Then he disappeared into the hole, his voice still carrying up.

Adam said, “I’m not singing along!” but he followed Ronan in.

Ronan’s voice sang and sang and then suddenly broke off.

There was silence.

A complete silence, the sort one can only achieve in a hole in the ground.

Then there was a skittering sound, like pebbles shimmying over rock.

And more silence.

“Jesus,” Gansey said. “I can’t take this.”

“Worry is weakness, king,” Gwenllian piped up.


Then a hoarse, cutoff shout in an unrecognizable voice. Adam, or Ronan, or something else entirely.

Gansey made a terrible sound and rested his forehead against the wall. Blue’s hand shot out to grab his, tightly. She couldn’t bear it, either, but there was nothing to do but bear it. Inside her, this new, black fear grew, the knowledge that death happened in a moment and to anyone. Ronan and Adam could be dead and there would be no earthquake. There would be no fanfare.

The dread was like blood filling her stomach.

Did they trust Cabeswater?

That was the question.

Did that pit stretch out of Cabeswater’s reach?

That was the second question.

“I can’t live with this,” Gansey said. “If anything has happened.”

“You’ll never be a king,” Gwenllian said. “Don’t you know how war works?”

But her bitterness wasn’t really for Gansey; it was a jeer for someone who had buried her or been buried with her long ago.

Suddenly, a voice came from down below.


“Adam,” Gansey shouted. “Adam?”

The voice came up again. “We’re coming back to show you the way down!”


They had found a valley of skeletons.

The pit was not bottomless, although it was vast and deep. The bottom had slanted and narrowed, shuttling them away from Gansey and the others, sliding them surprisingly and abruptly away from the surface. Under the diffuse gaze of the ghost light, Adam caught a glimpse of strange nests clinging to the wall. He flung his hands out, trying to slow himself. The holes of the nests heaved with something black and restless, but Adam couldn’t see what. They might have been insect nests, but then he heard Ronan, skittering ahead of him, speaking rapidly in Latin, and even as Adam skidded by them, he saw them transmuting to twiggy birds’ nests.

This was their job, Adam realized. This was what they had to offer: making it safe for the others. That was what they had promised: to be Gansey’s magicians.

So they had slid, and they had whispered, and they had asked, and together they’d convinced Cabeswater to transform the nests to something harmless. At least for a while.

Then they had shot out the bottom of the slope into a cavern.

Now the others had joined them, and they all gazed at the underground valley.

In between them and the faraway opposite wall was a herd of bones, an army of bones, a tragedy of bones. There were horse skeletons and deer skeletons, tiny cat skeletons and sinuous weasel skeletons. Every one of them was caught mid-run, all pointed toward the teens standing by the valley entrance.

Somehow the effect was of awe, not terror.

The room itself was a wonder, too. It was a vast bowl of a cavern room, twice as long as it was wide. Godfingers of light streamed down from holes in the cavern ceiling hundreds of feet overhead. Unlike the cavern they had just left behind, this valley had color: ferns and moss reached for the unreachable sunlight.

“Clouds,” whispered Blue.

It was true; the ceiling was so far overhead that mist clung to the roof, pierced by stalactites.

Adam felt as if he’d slid into one of Ronan’s dreams.

Gwenllian began to laugh and clap her hands. The laugh, a song itself, echoed off the ceilings.

“Shut her up, someone,” Ronan said. “Before I do.”

“What is this place?” Blue asked.

Adam was the first to step down.

“Careful —” Gansey warned.

Gwenllian danced ahead. “What are you afraid of? Some bones?”

She kicked one of the cat skeletons; bones flew. Adam winced.

“Don’t do that!” Blue said.

“The dead stay dead stay dead,” Gwenllian replied, and used a femur to crash through another skeleton.

“Not always,” Gansey warned. “Have a care.”

“Yes, Father!” But she wound up for another great kick.

“Ronan,” Gansey said sharply, and Ronan moved to stop her, binding her arms behind her without malice or squeamishness.

Adam stopped by one of the beasts near the front; its shoulder was taller than him, its great skull even higher, and above it all spread a set of antlers that seemed massive in comparison even to the giant skeleton. It was beautiful.

Blue’s voice came from very close. “It’s an Irish elk.”

He turned to find her beside him, touching one of the great white bones. She ran her finger along it so tenderly that it was as if it were alive.

“They’re extinct,” she added. “I always felt bad that I’d never get to see one. Look how many of them there are.”

Adam did look; there were many. But to look at them was to see beyond them, and to see beyond them was to be dazzled again by this spectacle of bones. A thousand animals, suspended on their toes. It was reminding him of something, though he couldn’t think what.

He craned to look at the entrance, then at Ronan and Gwenllian. Gansey moved through the skeletons as if in a dream, his face caught with wonder and caution. He touched the arched neck of a skeletal creature with respect, and Adam remembered him telling Ronan that he had never left a place worse for being there. Adam understood, then, that Gansey and Blue’s awe changed this place. Ronan and Adam may have seen this place as magical, but Gansey and Blue’s wonder made it holy. It became a cathedral of bones.

They slowly walked through the valley, searching for answers and clues. There was no other exit to the room. There was only this vast space, and a stream running along its floor, disappearing beneath a rock wall.

“What is the point of this?”

“Tricks and more tricks,” Gwenllian snarled. “All brave, young, and handsome — all noble and true —”

“Whosoever pulls this sword from this stone,” Gansey muttered. Blue nodded. “This is a test.”

“We wake them,” Ronan said suddenly. He released Gwenllian. “That’s what it is, isn’t it?”

“It’s not my test, bold sir knight,” Gwenllian said. “You’re up.” She made cowboy shooters at him.

Blue’s eyes were on the Irish elk; she was quite taken by it. “How do you wake bones?”

“Same as you’d wake a dreamer,” Gwenllian cooed, her words for Ronan. “If you cannot wake these bones, how can you expect to raise my father? But what do I see on your shoulders? Oh, failure is what you’re wearing these days, I see — it matches your eyes. You’ve tried this before, faulty dreamer, but you’ve got more passion than accuracy, don’t you?”

“Stop,” Gansey said.

He said it in such a way that they all stopped and looked at him.

There was no anger in his voice, no unfairness. He stood beside a brace of massive skeletal stags, his shoulders square and his eyes serious. For a moment, Adam saw the present, but he also saw the past, and the future, stretched out as when Persephone had inspired him to see his own death. He saw Gansey here now, but somehow here always, just about to leave this moment, or just about to enter it, or living it.

Then his thoughts hitched and time moved again.

“Stop goading them, Gwenllian,” Gansey said. “Do you think you’re the only one with a right to bitterness here? Why don’t you use your skills of seeing beneath to encourage instead of tear down?”

“I would like to see quite a bit of what’s going on beneath all of the young men here,” Gwenllian said. “You may volunteer first for my attention if you’d like.”

Then Gansey rolled his eyes and blew out a breath in a very unkingly way. “Ignore her. Adam, give me an idea.”

Adam was always called on, even when he didn’t lift his hand. He thought of what Ronan had already failed to accomplish, and he thought of the moment on the mountaintop with Blue and Noah, and then, finally, he remembered what Persephone had said about the power of three. Then he said, “Ronan, did you bring your dream thing?”

Ronan gestured to the bag that hung below the dream light.

“The what?” Blue asked.

Adam waved his hand; this wasn’t the time to explain. “Remember the Barns? You try to wake them like the cows, Ronan. I’ll see if I can redirect the ley line to give you more energy to work with; Blue will amplify. Gansey can … move stones?”

Gansey nodded his approval. He didn’t understand the plan, but he didn’t need to: He trusted Adam’s judgment.

Ronan unslung his bag, carefully unwrapping his dream thing from the now rather manky polar fleece. He hid it mostly from view as Adam crouched and pressed his fingers to the rock. He knew as soon as he touched it that they were not properly in Cabeswater anymore; they’d dug beneath it. The ley line was still there, though, and if he moved some of the stones, he might be able to point it at the skeletons.

“Blue, Gansey, help me,” he said, directing them.

Gwenllian watched with curled lip.

“You could help, too,” he told her.

“No,” she replied. “I couldn’t.”

She didn’t say that she couldn’t help him, but it was understood. Gansey didn’t even bother to chastise her this time. He merely worked with Blue to move the stones Adam indicated. Then they returned to the beast at the very front of the herd.

Ronan waited with the dream thing, eyes averted. Then, as they stood around it, he breathed over the top of the dream word, just as he had at the Barns.

His breath passed through it and on to the skeleton.

There was silence.

Adam could feel it, though. This vast underground valley was charged with energy, pulsing with life. It murmured against the walls. It darted from bone to bone in each skeleton, and then from one skeleton to the next. They wanted to spring; they remembered life. They remembered their bodies.

But there was still silence.

Adam felt the power of the ley line shaking and pulling at him, magnified by Blue. It was not destroying him, but it was diffusing. He was not the truest vessel for this energy, and he wouldn’t be able to keep it focused for much longer.

Blue’s lips were pressed together, and Adam knew she was feeling it, too.

Why wasn’t it working?

Perhaps it was just as it had been at the Barns. They were close, but not close enough. Perhaps Gwenllian was right; they were not worthy.

Gwenllian was backing up from them, her arms stretched by her sides, her eyes darting from beast to beast as if she expected one to break first and wanted to be watching.

Gansey’s eyebrows drew together as he surveyed the herds and flocks, Gwenllian and the streaming light, his friends frozen in an invisible battle.

Adam could not stop seeing his fallible king, hanging in the pit of the ravens.

Gansey touched his lower lip very gently. He lowered his hand, and he said, “Wake up.”

He said it like he had said stop earlier. He said it in a voice Adam had heard countless times, a voice he could never not listen to.

The beasts woke.

The stags and the horses, the lions and the hawks, the goats and the unicorns, and the creatures that Adam could not name.

One moment they were bones, and the next they were whole. Adam missed the moment of transformation. It was like Noah from smudged ghost to boy, from impossible to possible. Every creature was alive and shimmery and more beautiful than anything Adam could have ever imagined.

They reared and they called and they whinnied and they leapt.

Adam could see Gansey’s chest heave with disbelief.

They had done this. Were still doing this.

“We have to go!” Blue shouted. “Look!”

The creatures were galloping away. Not as one, but as a hundred disparate minds with one goal, and that goal was a cave passage that had appeared on the other side of the valley. It was like a gaping mouth, though, slowly closing. If they didn’t go through it, soon, it would disappear.

But no human could run that fast.

“This!” Blue shouted, and she flung herself onto the Irish elk. It tossed its massive antlers and twisted, but she clung on.

Adam couldn’t believe it.

“Yes —” Ronan said, and snatched at a deer, and another, before he seized the ruff of a primordial creature and pulled himself on.

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