The raven boys, p.28

The Raven Boys, page 28

 part  #1 of  The Raven Cycle Series


The Raven Boys

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Page 28


  "What are we looking for?" Helen asked.

  Gansey said, "The usual. "

  "What’s ‘the usual’?" Blue asked.

  The usual more often than not turned out to be acres of nothing, but Gansey said, "Sometimes, the ley lines are marked in ways that are visible from the air. Like in the UK, some of the lines are marked with horses carved into hillsides. "

  He’d been in a small fixed-wing plane with Malory the first time that he’d seen the Uffington Horse, a three-hundred-foot horse scraped into the side of an English chalk hill. Like everything associated with the ley lines, the horse was not quite … ordinary. The horse was stretched and stylized, an elegant, eerie silhouette that was more suggestion of a horse than actual horse.

  "Tell her about Nazca," murmured Adam.

  "Oh, right," Gansey said. Even though Blue had read much of the journal, there was a lot that wasn’t in it, and unlike Ronan and Adam and Noah, she hadn’t lived this life for the past year. It was suddenly difficult not to be excited by the idea of explaining it all to her. The story always sounded more plausible when he laid all of the facts out at once.

  He continued, "In Peru, there are hundreds of lines cut into the ground in the shapes of things like birds and monkeys and men and imaginary creatures. Thousands of years old, but they only make sense from the air. From an airplane. They’re too big to see from the ground. When you’re standing next to them, they just look like scraped footpaths. "

  "You’ve seen them in person," Blue said.

  When Gansey had seen the Nazca Lines for himself, massive and strange and symmetrical, he’d known that he wouldn’t be able to give up until he found Glendower. The scale of the lines was what had struck him first — hundreds upon hundreds of feet of curious drawings in the middle of the desert. He’d been stunned by the precision. The drawings were mathematical in their perfection, faultless in their symmetry. And the last thing to hit him, right in his gut, was the emotional impact, a mysterious, raw ache that wouldn’t go away. Gansey felt like he couldn’t survive not knowing if the lines meant something.

  That was the only part of his hunt for Glendower that he could never seem to explain to people.

  "Gansey," Adam said. "What’s that, there?"

  The helicopter slowed as all four passengers craned their necks. By now, they were deep into the mountains, and the ground had risen to meet them. All around them were rippling flanks of mysterious green forests, a rolling dark sea from above. Among the slopes and gullies, however, was a slanting, green-carpeted field marked by a pale fracture of lines.

  "Does it make a shape?" he asked. "Helen, stop. Stop!"

  "Do you think this is a bicycle?" demanded Helen, but the helicopter’s forward progress stopped.

  "Look," Adam said. "There’s a wing, there. And there, a beak. A bird?"

  "No," Ronan said, voice cold and even. "Not just a bird. It’s a raven. "

  Slowly the form became clear to Gansey, emerging from the overgrown grass: a bird, yes, neck twisted backward and wings pressed as if in a book. Tail feathers splayed and claws simplified.

  Ronan was right. Even stylized, the dome of the head, the generous curve of the beak, and the ruffle of feathers on its neck made the bird unmistakably a raven.

  His skin prickled.

  "Put the helicopter down," Gansey said immediately.

  Helen replied, "I can’t land on private property. "

  He cast an entreating gaze at his sister. He needed to write down the GPS coordinates. He needed to take a photo for his records. He needed to sketch the shape of it in his journal. More than anything, he needed to touch the lines of the bird and make it real in his head. "Helen, two seconds. "

  Her return look was knowing; it was the sort of condescending look that might have caused arguments when he was younger and more easily riled. "If the landowner discovers me there and decides to press charges, I could lose my license. "

  "Two seconds. You saw. There’s no one around here for miles and miles, no houses. "

  Helen’s gaze was very level. "I’m supposed to be at Mom and Dad’s in two hours. "

  "Two seconds. "

  Finally, she rolled her eyes and sat back in her seat. Shaking her head, she turned back toward the controls.

  "Thank you, Helen," Adam said.

  "Two seconds," she repeated grimly. "If you aren’t done by then, I’m taking off without you. "

  The helicopter landed fifteen feet away from the strange raven’s heart.

  Chapter 23

  As soon as the helicopter had touched down, Gansey leapt from the cabin and strode into the thigh-high grass as if he owned the place, Ronan by his side. Through the open door of the helo, Blue heard him say Noah’s name to the phone before repeating the GPS coordinates for the field. He was energized and powerful, a king in his castle.

  Blue, on the other hand, was a little slower. For a multitude of reasons, her legs felt a little gelled after flying. She wasn’t sure if not telling Gansey the entire truth about St. Mark’s Eve was the right decision, and she was worried about Ronan trying to speak to her again.

  It smelled wonderful in the middle of this field, though — all grass and trees and, somewhere, water, and lots of it. Blue thought she might live here quite happily. Beside her, Adam shielded his eyes. He looked at home here, his hair the same colorless brown as the tips of old grass, and he looked more handsome than Blue remembered. She thought about how Adam had taken her hand earlier, and considered how much she’d like for him to do it again.

  With some surprise, Adam said, "Those lines are pretty invisible from here. " He was right, of course. Though Blue had just seen the raven as they touched down beside it, whatever geographical feature had made the shape was now completely hidden. "I still hate flying. Sorry about Ronan. "

  "The flying part wasn’t bad," Blue said. Actually, aside from Ronan, she had kind of liked it — the sense of floating in a very noisy bubble where all directions were possible. "I thought it would be worse. You sort of have to give up control, don’t you, and then it’s okay. Now, Ronan …"

  "He’s a pit bull," Adam said.

  "I know some really nice pit bulls. " One of the dogs Blue walked each week was a cow-printed pit bull with as nice a smile as you could hope for in a canine.

  "He’s the kind of pit that makes the evening news. Gansey’s trying to retrain him. "

  "How noble. "

  "It makes him feel better about being Gansey. "

  Blue didn’t doubt it. "Sometimes he’s very condescending. "

  Adam looked at the ground. "He doesn’t mean to be. It’s all that blue blood in his veins. "

  He was about to say something else when a shout interrupted him.

  "ARE YOU LISTENING, GLENDOWER? I AM COMING TO FIND YOU!" Gansey’s voice, ebullient and ringing, echoed off the tree-covered slopes around the field. Adam and Blue found him standing in the middle of a clear, pale path, his arms stretched out and his head tilted back as he shouted into the air. Adam’s mouth made the soundless shape of a laugh.

  Gansey grinned at them both. He was hard to resist in this form: glowing with rows and rows of white teeth, a college brochure in the making.

  "Oyster shells," he said, leaning to pick up one of the pale objects that made up the path. The fragment was pure white, the edges blunt and worn. "That’s what makes up the raven. Like they use for roads down in the tidewater area. Oyster shells on bare rock. What do you think of that?"

  "I think that’s a lot of oyster shells to bring from the coast," Adam replied. "I also think Glendower would’ve come from the coast, too. "

  Gansey pointed at Adam by way of a reply.

  Blue put her hands on her hips. "So you think they put Glendower’s body on a boat in Wales, sailed over to Virginia, then brought him up to the mountains. Why?"

  "Energy," Gansey replied. Rummaging in his bag, he removed a small black box that looked a lot like a very small ca
r battery.

  Blue asked, "What’s that? It looks expensive. "

  He twiddled with switches on the side as he explained, "An electromagnetic-frequency meter. It monitors energy levels. Some people use them for ghost hunting. It’s supposed to have a high reading when you’re near a spirit. But it’s also supposed to read high when you’re near an energy source. Like a ley line. "

  She scowled at the gadget. A box to register magic seemed to insult both the box holder and magic. "And of course you have an electromagnorific button thing. Everyone has one of them. "

  Gansey held the meter above his head as if he were calling aliens. "You find it not normal?"

  She could tell that he very much wanted her to say that he wasn’t normal, so she replied, "Oh, I’m sure it’s quite normal in some circles. "

  He looked a little hurt, but most of his attention was on the meter, which showed two faint red lights. He remarked, "I’d like to be in those circles. So, like I said, energy. One of the other names for the ley line is corpse —"

  "Corpse road," Blue interrupted. "I know. "

  He looked pleased and magnanimous, as if she were a prize pupil. "So school me. You probably know better than I. "

  As before, his accent was the broad, glorious old Virginia accent, and Blue’s words felt clumsy beside him.

  "I just know that the dead travel in straight lines," she said. "That they used to carry corpses in straight lines to churches to bury them. Along what you call the ley line. It was supposed to be really bad to take them any other route than the way they’d choose to travel as a spirit. "

  "Right," he said. "So it stands to reason there’s something about the line that fortifies or protects a corpse. The soul. The … animus. The quiddity of it. "

  "Gansey, seriously," Adam interrupted, to Blue’s relief. "Nobody knows what quiddity is. "

  "The whatness, Adam. Whatever it is that makes a person what they are. If they removed Glendower from the corpse road, I think the magic that keeps him asleep would be disrupted. "

  She said, "Basically, you mean he would die for good if he was removed from the line. "

  "Yes," Gansey said. The blinking lights on his machine had begun to flash more heavily, leading them over the raven’s beak and toward the tree line where Ronan already stood. Blue lifted her arms up so the heads of the grass wouldn’t hit the backs of her hands; it was up to her waist in some places.

  She asked, "And why not just leave him in Wales? Isn’t that where they want him to wake up and be a hero?"

  "It was an uprising, and he was a traitor to the English crown," Gansey said. The easy way that he began the story, at once striding through grass and eyeing the EMF reader, let Blue know that he had told it many times before. "Glendower fought the English for years, and it was ugly, all struggle between noble families with mixed allegiances. The Welsh resistance failed. Glendower disappeared. If the English had known where he was, dead or alive, there’s no way they’d treat his body the way the Welsh wanted it treated. Haven’t you heard of being hung, drawn, and quartered?"

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