The Void of Mist and Thunder (The 13th Reality #4)(16)


by James Dashner

Gretel flicked both of them a knowing look. Then she lifted the warped lid and flipped it over. Inside the box lay a small cube of gray metal with a green button on top. The old woman lifted up the cube and held it out for everyone to see.

“Push this button,” she said in a mesmerized voice, almost like a chant, “and the Realities will change forever. For good. Or for evil.”

Chapter 15

The Ladies of Blood and Sorrow

Tick sat in the snow in the meditative pose of a Buddhist he’d seen once on TV—his legs crossed under him, his arms resting on top of them with his fingers pushed together and pointing upward, and his eyes closed. Couldn’t hurt, he’d thought.

He’d been trying for at least a half hour to push all other thoughts from his mind and focus on the riddle he’d seen written on the ice. But he was having a hard time concentrating. The words floated in the darkness of his thoughts, visible in his mind’s eye as white letters on a black background. He ran through the lines, letting the skills he’d developed for this sort of thing take their natural course as his brain digested and regurgitated the riddle again and again:

The smallest thing begins to grow

It needs no light, it needs no glow

This thing, it fears the weakest breath

And yet it cannot embrace death

The greatest man or bull or steed

Or queen or doe or stinging bee

Eats it, smells it, drinks it some

And one day it they will become

Tick sat in the wind and the cold and relaxed, doing what he did best.

Thinking.

Lisa and her mom followed Mordell down a long, cold passage under the hard stone of the castle, walking along the dark waters of the stream that rushed by. Lisa knew this was the place Tick and his Realitant friends had barely escaped from during their first harrowing trip to the Thirteenth Reality. Imagining them at that time—Tick and the others desperately waiting for the Barrier Wand to kick in and wink them out, while hordes of bloodthirsty fangen beat down the walls and came after them—sent chills across her skin. It made her feel incredibly sorry for her lost brother, and made her love him more than ever before. Tears welled up in her eyes.

She knew what had happened next. The Barrier Wand didn’t even have a Chi’karda Drive inside its golden case at the time—Mistress Jane had secretly removed it—but Tick had displayed his unbelievable power over Chi’karda, using his powers to wink everyone to safety on his own. There had been signs and hints his whole life that there was something special about him, but after that day, the Realitants knew it for sure.

Tick was a wizard. A silly word, but that’s how Lisa saw him. Sure, Master George claimed Tick’s power could be scientifically explained—or someday would be—but Lisa didn’t care about the specifics, the nitty-gritty details. Her brother was magic, he was special, and they needed to find him so he could do great things for the world. For all the worlds.

The passageway led through an arch to the right and into a small chamber carved out of black rock. Mordell silently led them through the opening and into the room that had absolutely no decoration or furniture of any kind. The only light came from a single torch that burned and hissed in a sconce on the wall. About twenty other women sat upon the hard ground in a circle. One break in the ring was vacant, and it was just big enough for the three newcomers to sit down.

“Even though its size is humble,” Mordell said in a solemn voice, “we call this the Great Hall because its purpose is grand. This hallowed place is where the Ladies of Blood and Sorrow come to show our respect and devotion to Chi’karda and to renew our commitment to seek a Utopia for all mankind.” She looked at Lisa and her mom. “Your presence here is allowed by my invitation only. Please, sit.”

She motioned toward the empty spot in the circle. Lisa and her mom, holding hands, went over and sat down on the smooth surface of the black rock floor. Her mom cradled the Barrier Wand in her lap, and Lisa noticed that her finger hovered over the trigger button at the top.

Lisa took a moment to study the circle of women, all of whom were dressed in the same off-white, coarse robes that Mordell wore. The Ladies each had a meditative, almost blank look on their hooded faces. It was creepy in the scant light.

Mordell sat down next to Lisa. “We all know of the nature of this room in which we have gathered,” she began. “The Great Hall, birthed by the will of our master, Mistress Jane herself. For reasons we may never learn, the Thirteenth Reality is more focused with Chi’karda’s might, more concentrated, more plentiful in its power than any other world. And this hallowed place is the heart of that power, which is why our master built her castle on this land and carved the Great Hall in this rock. Using the methods taught to us by She Who Tamed the Fire, we will now join hands and probe the universe together. And when we find our master—and her companions, if possible—we must unite to bring them back here.”

“ ‘If possible?’ ” Lisa asked, not liking the sound of that one bit. Maybe they were using Tick as a means to an end and were planning to dump him as soon as they found Jane. And what was with all the fancy mumbo-jumbo talk?

Mordell turned to her, not looking pleased by the interruption. “You’ve spoken out of turn, girl. This is not allowed in the Great Hall.”

Lisa refused to be intimidated by this servant of the woman who’d tried to kill Tick. “I just want my brother to come back safely too. Make sure he does.”

Mordell considered her for a moment then finally nodded. “I give you my word that if it’s possible in any way to do so, we will. But understand that our master is our first priority, for the sake of you, and your children, and your children’s children.”

Lisa thought of a million nasty things that she wanted to say, but she kept her mouth shut. She could only hope now. She squeezed her mom’s arm, who gave her a nod and a look as if to say, Don’t worry. Tick can fend for himself.

Mordell returned her attention to her counterparts sitting in the circle. “We have with us today the mother of Atticus Higginbottom—yes, we know who you are—with a Barrier Wand constructed by her own hand. She has locked onto the nanolocator of her son, which will serve to benefit us in our search. The Wand’s presence alone will aid us. Now, we must all take hands, including our visitors’.”

Lisa had no problem grabbing her mom’s hand, but she was a little wary of taking one of Mordell’s. She clasped her fingers around those of the woman, which were icy cold and felt brittle, as if they’d collapse into a heap of powder if Lisa squeezed. So she didn’t.