From "New York Times "bestselling author Marie Lu comes the second book in the exhilarating Young Elites series
"Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all."
Adelina Amouteru s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.
But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?
Bestselling author Marie Lu delivers another heart-pounding adventure in this exhilarating sequel to "The Young Elites. ""
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Marie Lu (www.marielu.org) is the author of the "New York Times "bestselling Legend series. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing "Assassin s Creed," and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis."Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Little Baths of Bethesda turn out to be a set of ruins at the edge of Merroutas.
Early the next morning, as the sun crests the horizon and fishing boats set out into the bay, Violetta and I make our way down the dirt path leading out of the city-state’s main gates and to a smaller cluster of abandoned domed houses, all situated beneath the stone arches of a former aqueduct.
It looks like a place that once bustled with activity. But the bathhouse itself—or what’s left of it—was built on soft ground, which must have sealed its fate. As people abandoned the bathhouse, so must they have abandoned the small settlement of homes around it. Or perhaps the aqueduct delivering its water crumbled first. The once-glorious pillars at its entrance have now collapsed, and the stone foundation has sunk into the marshy soil. Vines crawl up the stone, their flowers vibrant green and yellow. I feel a strong attraction to this place’s ruined beauty.
“He’s here,” Violetta whispers beside me, her brow furrowed in concentration.
“Good.” I adjust my mask across my own ruined face and approach the entrance.
The bathhouse is cool and dark inside, its arched stone ceiling covered with mosses and ivy. Narrow shafts of light cut through the ceiling’s openings, illuminating the pools of water below. We step carefully through the halls of ancient marble colonnades. The air smells wet and musky, the scent of something green and alive. The sound of dripping water echoes all around us.
Finally I stop where the bath pool begins. “Where is he?” I whisper.
Violetta lifts her eyes to the ceiling. She spins in a half circle, then focuses on a dark corner. “There.”
I strain to see into the shadows. “Magiano,” I call out. My voice startles me—it bounces off the walls, over and over, until it finally fades away. I clear my throat, a little embarrassed, and continue in a quieter tone. “We were told we could find you here.”
There is a long silence, so long that I start to wonder whether Violetta might be mistaken.
Then, someone laughs. As the sound echoes from surface to surface, a flurry of leaves rain down from the bathhouse’s mossy banisters. A trail of dark braids flashes in and out of the light. I instinctively extend one of my arms in front of Violetta, as if that might protect her.
“Adelina,” a voice calls playfully. “How nice to see you.”
I try to pinpoint where the voice comes from.
“Are you Magiano, then?” I reply. “Or are you just taunting us?”
“Do you remember a comedy called The Temptation of the Jewel?” he continues after a pause. “The play opened in Kenettra a couple of years ago, to great fanfare, right before the Inquisition banned it.”
I do remember it. The Temptation of the Jewel was about a dull, arrogant knight who continually bragged that he could steal a jewel from an ogre's lair—only to be bested by a cheeky young boy, who snatched the prize first. It was penned by Tristan Chirsley, the same famous scribe who’d written the Stories of the Star Thief collection, and its final performance had happened in Dalia, in a theater overflowing with people.
The Star Thief. I shake my head, trying not to think of Gemma and the others. “Yes, of course I do,” I respond. “How is this relevant? Are you a Chirsley admirer?”
Another laugh sounds through the vast space. Another shuffle of feet and flurry of leaves high above us. This time, we look up and see a dark silhouette crouched on a rotting wooden beam right over our heads. I step aside to look more properly at him. In the shadows, all I can make out are a pair of bright gold eyes, fixed curiously on me.
“It’s relevant,” he replies, “because I was the inspiration for it.”
A laugh escapes my mouth before I can stop it. “You inspired Chirsley’s play?”
He dangles his feet over the beam. I notice that he’s not wearing shoes today. “The Inquisition banned the play because it was about the theft of the queen’s crown jewels.”
I catch Violetta’s skeptical glance. The rumors we’d heard along the way, about how Magiano had stolen Queen Giulietta’s crown, come back to me now. “Did you inspire the clever boy, then, or the arrogant knight?” I tease.
Now I can see his bright white teeth in the darkness. That carefree smile. “You wound me, my love,” he says. He reaches for something in his pockets and tosses it at us. The object falls in a clean line, gleaming as it goes. It splashes into the shallowest part of the pool.
“You forgot your ring last night,” he says.
My ring? I hurry over to the pool, kneel, and peer into the water. The silver ring sparkles in a ray of light, winking at me. It is the ring I’d worn on my fourth finger. I roll up my sleeve, reach for it, and clench it in my fist.
He couldn’t have taken it from me last night. Impossible. He didn’t even touch my hands. He didn’t even come down from the balcony!
The boy laughs before tossing something else down, this time in Violetta’s direction. “Let’s see, what else...” As it floats down, I see that it’s a ribbon of cloth. “A sash from your dress, my lady,” he says to Violetta with a mock bow of his head. “Right as you walked into this bathhouse.”
He throws down more of our things, including a gold pin from my head wrap, and three jewels from Violetta’s sleeves. The hairs on my arms rise. “You two are very forgetful,” he chides as he goes.
Violetta bends down to retrieve her belongings. She shoots a glare at Magiano as she carefully clips the jewels back onto her sleeves. “I see we’ve found an upstanding citizen, Adelina,” she mutters to me.
“Is this supposed to impress us?” I call up to him. “A demonstration of cheap street tricks?”
“Silly girl. I know what you’re really asking.” He hops into the light. “You’re asking how I managed to do it. You have no idea, do you?” He’s the same boy we met yesterday. Thick ropes of braids hang over his shoulders, and he’s wearing a colorful tunic that has everything from patches of silk to enormous brown leaves sewn into it. When I look more closely, I realize that the leaves are actually made out of metal. Of gold.
His smile is the one I remember—feral, sharp in a way that tells me he is observing everything about us. Studying our possessions. Something about his eyes sends a chill through me. A pleasant chill.
The famed Magiano.
“I admit I don’t know how you took our possessions,” I say, with a stiff jerk of my head. “Please. Enlighten us.”
He pulls his lute from behind his back and plucks a few notes. “So, you’re impressed, after all.”
My gaze shifts to the lute. It’s different from the lute he had yesterday. The instrument he has now is an opulent one, encrusted with glittering diamonds and emeralds, the strings painted gold, the knobs on the lute’s neck made out of jewels. The entire thing looks like a gaudy mess.
Magiano holds out the lute for us to admire. It twinkles madly in the light. “Isn’t she amazing? It’s the best lute that a night of gambling can buy.”
So this is how a famous thief spends his winnings. “Where do you even go to buy a monstrosity like that?” I say, before I can stop myself.
Magiano blinks at me in surprise, then gives me a hurt frown. He hugs the lute to his chest. “I think it’s pretty,” he says defensively.
Violetta and I share a look. “What is your power?” I ask him. “All the rumors say that you’re a Young Elite. Is it true, or are you simply a boy with a talent for theft?”
“And what if I’m not an Elite?” he says with a grin. “Would you be disappointed?”
Magiano leans back on the beam, hugs his lute, and regards me in the way that an animal might. He says, “All right. I’ll enlighten you.” He picks at his teeth. “You are a worker of illusions. Yes?”
He gestures at me. “Create something. Anything. Go ahead. Make this broken place beautiful.”
He’s challenging me. I look at Violetta, and she shrugs, as if giving me permission. So I take a deep breath, reach for the threads buried inside me, pull them out into the air, and begin to weave.
All around us, the interior of the bathhouse transforms into a vision of green hills underneath a stormy sky. Steep waterfalls line one side of the landscape, and baliras lift ships from the ocean to the top of the falls, setting them safely on the shallow, elevated seas. Dalia, my birth city. I keep weaving. A warm wind blows past us, and the air fills with the scent of oncoming rain.
Magiano watches the shifting illusion with wide eyes. In this moment, his mischief and bravado vanish—he blinks, as if unable to believe what he’s seeing. When he finally looks back at me, his smile is full of wonder. He takes a deep breath. “Again,” he whispers. “Make something else.”
His admiration of my powers makes me stand a little straighter. I wave away the illusion of Dalia, then plunge us into the twilit depths of a nighttime ocean. We float in the dark water, illuminated only by shafts of dim blue light. The ocean transforms into midnight on a hill overlooking Estenzia, with the three moons hanging huge over the horizon.
Finally, I take the illusions away, bringing back the ruins that surround us. Magiano shakes his head at me, but doesn’t say a word.
“Your turn,” I say, crossing my arms. My body hums with the ache of using energy. “Show us your power.”
Magiano bows his head once. “Fair enough,” he replies.
Violetta takes my hand. At the same time, something invisible shoves against my hold on my dark energy—and the world around us vanishes.
I throw my hands up to shield my eye from the brilliant light. It is searing bright—is this his power? No, that can’t be right. As the light gradually fades, I chance a look around. The bathhouse is still here, still all around us... but, to my shock, it has transformed into its former self. No ivy or moss hangs from broken pillars, no holes in its crumbling dome roof let light paint patterns on the floor. Instead, the rows of pillars are new and polished, and the water in the pool—its surface adorned with floating petals—gives off clouds of steam. Statues of the gods line the pool’s edge. I frown at the sight, then try to blink it away. Beside me, Violetta’s mouth hangs open. She tries to speak.
“It’s not real,” she finally whispers.
It’s not real. Of course it’s not—with those words, I realize that I recognize the energy this place is giving off, the millions of threads holding everything together. The renewed bathhouse is an illusion. Just like something I would have created. In fact, the threads of energy that created this image of the perfect bathhouse feel exactly like my own threads.
Another illusion worker?
I don’t understand. How could he have created something with a power that should belong to me?
The illusion breaks without warning. The brightly lit temple, the steaming water and statues—all disappear in an instant, leaving us back in the dark recesses of the broken bathhouse and its overgrown shell. Spots of light still float across my vision. I have to adjust to the darkness, almost as if I’d been blinded by something real.
Magiano swings his legs idly. “The things I could’ve done,” he muses, “had I known you earlier.”
I clear my throat and try not to look too stunned. “You . . . you have the same power as I do?”
He laughs at the hesitation in my voice. With a grandiose half bow, he jumps onto his feet and spins once on the beam, like he is dancing. It looks effortless. “Don’t be stupid,” he replies. “No two Elites have the exact same power.”
“I imitate,” he continues. “Whenever I encounter another Elite, and she uses her power, I can briefly glimpse the weave of her energy in the air. Then I copy what I see—if only for a moment.” He pauses to give me a grin so large that it appears to split his face in two. “This is how you saved my life, and you didn’t even know it. When you were in the dungeon cell next to mine, I mimicked you. I tricked my way out of my cell by making the soldiers think my cell was empty. They came over to investigate, and I stepped right out when they opened the door.”
Gradually, the realization hits me. “You can mimic any Elite?”
He shrugs. “When I was lost and penniless in the Sunlands, I mimicked an Elite named the Alchemist, and transformed an entire wagon’s worth of silks into gold. When I ran from the Inquisition in Kenettra, I mimicked the Lead Inquisitor’s healing abilities in order to protect myself against the arrows his men launched at me.” He spreads his hands, nearly drops his lute, and grabs it again. “I am the brightly colored fish that pretends to be poisonous. You see?”
A mimic. I look down at my hand and move my fingers, watching my ring glint in the light. I eye the sash Violetta has tied back onto her dress. “When you stole our things,” I say slowly, “you used my power against us.”
Magiano tunes one of the lute’s strings. “Why yes. I replaced your ring with an illusion of it, slipped it off while convincing you that I was just idling on the balcony.”
Of course. It’s something I would have done—something I have done before—when stealing money from noblemen’s purses. I swallow, trying to grasp the sheer extent of his power. My heart beats faster.
Violetta’s mistrust of him has turned to fascination. “That means—around the right people—you can do anything.”
Magiano pretends to have the same realization she does, and his jaw drops, mocking her. “Well, now. I do believe you’re right.” He swings the lute over his back again, skips along the ceiling beam until he reaches a pillar, then hops down to a lower beam so that he now crouches close to us, close enough for me to see the wide array of colorful necklaces hanging around his neck. More jewels. And now I can see what bothered me about his eyes. His pupils look strangely oval-slitted, like a cat’s.
“Now, then,” he says. “We have been introduced to each other and gotten all our pleasantries out of the way. Tell me. What do you want?”
I take a deep breath. “My sister and I are running from the Inquisition,” I say. “We are heading south now, out of their reach, until we can gather enough allies to return to Kenettra and strike back.”
“Ah. You want revenge against the Inquisition.”
“You and the rest of us.” Magiano snorts. “Why? Because they imprisoned you? Because they’re horrible? If that’s the case, then you’re better off leaving them alone. Trust me. You’re free now. Why go back?”
“Have you heard the latest news from Estenzia?” I ask. “About Queen Giulietta? And her brother’s—” I choke on the mention of Enzo’s death. Even now, I cannot bring myself to say it.
“Yes. That news spread rather quickly.” “Have you also heard that Master Teren Santoro is planning to annihilate all malfettos in Kenettra? He is the queen’s pet—she will give him the power to do it.”
Magiano leans against the beam. If this news disturbs him, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he gathers his braids and pulls them over one should...
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